‘Leave The World Behind’ Is A Signature Novel For This Blasted Year
Rumaan Alam ‘s Leave the World Behind is a slippery and ambidextrous wonder of a novel. When, deep into the nox, a vacationing couple hears a knock at the door of their distant Airbnb rental in the Hamptons, as a subscriber you think, “ Oh, this is a suspense fib. ” then, when that match, who are white, opens the door to a couple outside who are Black and colloquial awkwardness ensues, you think, “ Oh, this is a drollery of manners about slipstream, a kind of edgy flick on Guess Who ‘s Coming to Dinner. ”
Both impressions are correct : Leave the World Behind simultaneously continues to be a thriller and a deft drollery of manners ; but, very lento a unlike kind of narrative creeps in and takes over. We readers, like that vacationing couple, dismiss the signs at first : We ‘re lulled by that pool and hot tub and those burgers on the grill. ultimately, though, the evidence ca n’t be denied : rather of a literary “ beach novel ” we ‘ve landed in an up-to-the-minute interpretation of On The Beach, Nevil Shute ‘s 1957 novel that used to be required high school reading about a loom apocalypse .
As thus many novels do, Leave the World Behind begins with a journey : Our vacationers, Amanda and Clay, are on the Long Island Expressway driving out to the Hamptons with their two adolescent kids in tow. Clay is a tenured professor of media studies ( evening Amanda acknowledges at one point that she does n’t in truth know what “ media studies ” signifies ). Amanda is an account director, a job which, she confesses, largely means the daily “ transport of emails assessing the job itself. ” They ‘re a securely in-between class, white, liberal couple, which means they ‘re the quintessential soft aim for sarcasm and Alam happily proceeds to peel away their self-delusions in this open section of the novel.
His wag takes on an explicitly socially conscious dimension when that Black copulate in their 60s knocks at the door deep on the second base nox of the syndicate ‘s vacation stay. Alam describes George, who goes by his initials G.H., standing, holding “ up his hands in a gesture that was either conciliatory or said Do n’t shoot. By his old age, black men were adept at this gesture. ” Ruth, G.H. ‘s wife, “ looked like the kind of woman you ‘d see in a television receiver ad for an osteoporosis medicine. ” however, Amanda, in particular, is leery about the couple ‘s title of being the owners of the house and to be seeking protection because of a massive amnesia that ‘s blanketed the Northeast. Cell phones and satellite television service are out, so there ‘s no way to check their story.
Amanda lowered her voice calm more. “ What if he ‘s the handyman ? What if she ‘s the maid ? What if this is barely a victimize, and the amnesia or whatever is just a coincidence ? ” She was at least appropriately ashamed by her speculate. But those people did n’t look like the sort to own such a beautiful house. They might, though, clean and jerk it.
Readers are slyly encouraged by Alam to parcel Amanda ‘s hesitations : even to themselves, G.H. and Ruth sometimes seem to be performing their parts. At a late luff in the novel, G.H. chuckles at something Clay says and G.H. thinks to himself : “ It was hard not to assume the function of affable situation comedy neighbor. television created the context, and blacken people had to play along. ” If you ‘re a white lector, however, who ‘s wondering whether this Black couple are who they say they are, you ultimately realize this novel has lured you into confronting your own racist biases. The rising panicky discouragement that floods the earth of Alam ‘s novel is something readers should experience for themselves in real time, so I ‘ll stop talking about the storyline. But, I do want to emphasize Alam ‘s rare accomplishment as a writer. Most novels are fairly easy to categorize : They start off following the rules of a especial genre — domestic fiction, hardboiled mystery, dystopian fantasy, whatever — and they pretty a lot wind along adhering to or sometimes subverting those conventions. What Alam does in this fresh, this finical house of fabrication, is to softly remove the retain walls he ‘s erected in the first third of the story, so that by the end readers step forbidden into the terror of empty space without understanding how that happened. Leave the World Behind is atmospheric and prescient : Its rhythm of comedy alternating with shock and despair mimic so much of the rhythm of life sentence justly now. That ‘s more than adequate to make it a touch novel for this blast year .