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Publisher's Summary

A Read with Jenna Today Show Book Club Pick!

Finalist for the 2020 National Book Award (Fiction)

A Best Book of the Year from:

  • The Washington Post
  • Time
  • NPR
  • Elle
  • Esquire
  • Kirkus
  • Library Journal
  • The Chicago Public Library
  • The New York Public Library
  • BookPage
  • The Globe and Mail
  • EW.com
  • The LA Times
  • USA Today
  • InStyle 
  • The New Yorker
  • AARP 
  • Publisher's Lunch 
  • LitHub 
  • Book Marks 
  • Electric Literature 
  • Brooklyn Based 

A magnetic novel about two families, strangers to each other, who are forced together on a long weekend gone terribly wrong.

From the best-selling author of Rich and Pretty comes a suspenseful and provocative novel keenly attuned to the complexities of parenthood, race, and class. Leave the World Behind explores how our closest bonds are reshaped - and unexpected new ones are forged - in moments of crisis.

Amanda and Clay head out to a remote corner of Long Island expecting a vacation: a quiet reprieve from life in New York City, quality time with their teenage son and daughter, and a taste of the good life in the luxurious home they’ve rented for the week. But a late-night knock on the door breaks the spell. 

Ruth and G. H. are an older couple - it’s their house, and they’ve arrived in a panic. They bring the news that a sudden blackout has swept the city. But in this rural area - with the TV and internet now down, and no cell phone service - it’s hard to know what to believe. Should Amanda and Clay trust this couple - and vice versa? What happened back in New York? Is the vacation home, isolated from civilization, a truly safe place for their families? And are they safe from one other?

©2020 Rumaan Alam (P)2020 Harper Audio

Featured Article: The Best Audiobooks Under 8 Hours


Looking to listen to amazing stories and expert narration in less time than it takes to binge-watch your favorite TV series? Some of the best audiobooks aren’t terribly long: you can listen to them in one shot on a long road trip or in just a few sittings, meaning you're not left trying to remember what happened five chapters ago. Shorter audiobooks are also great for commutes and for doing tasks around the house because you can get lost in a listen without getting left on a cliffhanger. If you're looking for your next listen, we've rounded up some of the best audiobooks under eight hours across different genres.

Editor's Pick

Apocalypse now
I was a bit reluctant to add Leave the World Behind to my library. The premise was eerily familiar—a world seemingly in chaos and the uncertainty and isolation that ensue. But it wasn’t easy to ignore the buzz for Rumaan Alam’s third novel, and when I heard that Denzel Washington and Julia Roberts had optioned it for a Netflix film (hello, The Pelican Brief!) I immediately hit “Add to cart.” Brooklynites Clay and Amanda have rented an Airbnb in the Hamptons for a summer vacation with their two teens. Less than 24 hours into their getaway, there’s a knock at the door. The owners of the house, a well-heeled older Black couple, are seeking refuge from a mysterious power outage that has left New York City in the dark. Cue the herd of deer stampeding through the woods and flock of flamingos splashing in the pool (I’m not kidding), all while the Wi-Fi is down and the TV conveniently stops working. Beloved narrator Marin Ireland is a wonder, seamlessly stepping into the head space of each character. Weaving in the characters’ private thoughts and fears around race, class, and privilege, the brisk chapters tick toward an ominous final act. You might want to listen with the lights on. —Margaret H., Audible Editor

What listeners say about Leave the World Behind

Average Customer Ratings
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Reviews - Please select the tabs below to change the source of reviews.

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

I knew people wouldn’t like it

I just finished this incredible book, and came to the reviews right away because I just knew that although I loved the book, many people would hate it. I have found that most books need a bit more context in a review than the typical, “oh this is so amazing, a must-read.” It might be better if a review would tell you the kind of person that would and would not like it. So perhaps if I tell you about what I like in a story, you can determine if this kind of story would entertain you.

I like moody stories with a sense of impending doom. I don’t care particularly if I ever learn all the details of said doom, but I love to watch how characters build and interact to a situation. The characters in this story are flawed, which I find fascinating. I am more interested in a meandering story and allowing time for subtext (in this case, class and race, fragility of modern life, to name a few), than I am with a strong story line. I am ok with filling in a story line on my own.

If this describes you, then I believe you will enjoy this book. I was both enthralled and chilled. That being said, my partner would hate this book and say it was very boring and pointless. To each his own!

107 people found this helpful

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    1 out of 5 stars
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Ok to leave this one on the shelf

My husband and I listened to this book on a long drive. Jenna’s book club from the Today show highly recommended and said to “read with the light on.” I agree that the author is a good writer, however, this story bored us to tears. No suspense, just curiosity about what was going on. Nothing remotely intense. Additionally, many parts of the story dragged on - the writer would describe a scene multiple times using different analogies which didn’t add to the story just made it longer.

29 people found this helpful

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This book left me cursing!!

This book builds and builds and builds leaving you with question after question. Then just like that ends and gives you nothing!!

25 people found this helpful

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Leave the climax behind

2020-10-07 Audio book review.

I would like to give it more stars, but this really felt like a vol 1 of a series rather than a complete storyline.

A pre-release NPR review said genre defining walls dissolve as the story goes on. I liked that; didn't realize the story's focus would also dissolve.

The writing was vibrant and erudite, however it just left me looking for the last chapter.

Maybe missed something. I'm sure I did.

23 people found this helpful

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Wait what?

This book baffled me. It went on and on and on and never really got anywhere.
I was so disappointed (and bored).

19 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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Well-written gut wrencher

It’s not a nice or pretty story, and it won’t soothe anyone unnerved by the current political, social, and public health upheaval. The characters are all flawed humans struggling along through a cataclysm where the most immediate stressor is uncertainty. Two families are thrown into coexistence in a sudden media blackout. For people accustomed to constant digital connection to news, information, and social links, the sudden absence thereof is a fearsome shock.

I was intrigued by the excerpt from this book included in its review I heard on NPR this week (7 Oct 2020) and wanted to read more. The tale is well created, but it’s left me shaken.

19 people found this helpful

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The First 48

This exceptionally well-written "sllice of life" by Rumaan Alam depicts two families experiencing the first 48 hours of an apparent apocalyptic event. Both families who meet as strangers are given the gift of time due to the remote location of their vacation home outside of New York City. There is a loss of communication with the outside world. Plot progression marches in time with character development, group dynamics, and their increasing fear that something terrible has happened in the world.

In this novel there is no initial chaos or hoarding, and no Zombies to fight. The story instead focuses on an initial widespread power outage that remarkably doesn't include their home. Curiosity turns to fear, and they begin basic planning and preparation for assuring they have food and water. Soon they are forced to face changes that can not be ignored. Two adolescent children play a front and center role in this novel... not as victims, but as critical thinkers who are not afraid to use the knowledge they possess and take courageous actions to get to their own resolution.

This novel is gritty and real. There is no issue with suspending reality, and the author gets " up and in your face." It is more about finding who you are in the world than figuring out what happened to it. Narration is excellent.






16 people found this helpful

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Disappointing

This is a strange book. I've never encountered this style of writing and it frustrated me. The writer goes into minute and mostly useless detail of every thought and move that the characters make. I kept waiting for it to improve, the story to gel, but it left me empty. The ending, although foreshadowed in a few instances, happens suddenly and leaves all to the reader. Maybe that is the objective but it was a very unsatisfactory reading experience for me.

15 people found this helpful

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Tried hard

I tried hard to get into this book but I really couldn’t. Did not grab my attention nor did it keep it. Still don’t know what the story is about.

9 people found this helpful

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I tried so hard to like this book

I made every effort to give this book a chance, and I really wish I hadn’t. Although the narration was superb, a meandering storyline combined with unlikeable characters and an inexplicable amount of plot holes made this a very painful book to get through. I found my self wanting it to end well before it did. Overall a very disappointing experience.

7 people found this helpful