Share This:

Book Review of Leave the World Behind by Rumaan Alam

Leave the World Behind

Neelam Sharma
Author: Rumaan Alam


An apocalyptic read like no other you may have come across, Leave the World Behind by Rumaan Alam, is much more than a post- or pre-disaster scenario kind of read, harping more on the human response and emotional quotient in such a scenario, making it a phenomenal read

Picture this, you guys. Imagine if this blog you are reading right now happens to be one of the last you get to read on the internet right now. Confused? OK, how about if I tell you that in a few minutes from now on, everything that you have in tandem with your means of a virtual connection to the world is going to lapse? The TV you use, the internet, the phones, even the electricity? Imagine a total blackout. What can you fathom in your mind about this? To add more misery and fuel to this fiery scenario, what if you also experience supersonic sounds, the likes of which are unheard, loud enough to literally “knock off” your teeth of their own accord?

Wait, there is more. You have been trying to escape this sudden “catastrophe,” pining away in optimism that all will be well soon. How soon, though, do you know? Without a proper means of communication and technology, what are the chances that you will even correctly decode what is happening? Fear of stepping right into it, of being mugged, mobbed, or worse still, what if it is a war, bio or nuclear, and you are stranded in its midst, waiting to be decimated into oblivion? End of the world, apocalypse, or “judgement day”? What would you say this is?

So, the pandemic of 2020 showed us what I like to address as “matchbox living,” aka living in confinement. And yet, it was nothing compared to the hypothetical scenario I just narrated above, right? I mean, in the pandemic, at least we had all essential services up and running, even in the worst of scenarios, electricity and cyber, in the form of a haven, reassuring us every second that all “will be fine” eventually. And yet, how horrified do we get every time we even think back to that time?

Well, I just finished reading “Leave the World Behind” by Rumaan Alam, and boy, I am speechless! What a dystopian ride it was! A tantalizing reminder of how helpless we are, totally dependent on technology for even the smallest of things, perhaps for the entire sanity of our soul, if truth be told. Unsure, afraid of facing what might be in store, what might be lying out there in the event of uncertainty, this one paints a picture so brusquely clear that it almost felt palpably frightening every few pages to simply be able to just bear a thought of what would possibly happen next, be in store. The undefined “it,” the fear of it akin to that of an unknown monster, an unfathomed, unbearable apocalypse, an unforeseen catastrophe, was raw enough for me to be able to taste like bile rising at the back of my throat every time Clay, Amanda, G.H., and Ruth deciphered something out of the ordinary.  Unprepared and unwilling to believe that something beyond comprehension can ever occur, they are thrown together headlong into an abyss of uncertainty, neither the origin of which is known nor is a plausible and logical explanation or solution discernible.

When Clay and Amanda, along with their children Archie and Rose, go on a luxurious vacation to a palatial house on the outskirts of the country in a “leave all behind” sort of format, little do they expect any disturbance or unpleasant occurrence in the form of 2 presumed strangers, aka G.H. and Ruth, two elderly adults who claim to be the owners of the mansion they have leased out, having “returned” back owing to a “total blackout” in the city. With no means of communication and completely stripped of contact with the outside world, Amanda and Clay have no choice but to believe them. However, their worries are far from over; this is simply the start of the crumbling of the very foundation of their human chain of reasoning and comprehension, as they see it. Can they prepare themselves for what lies out there, waiting to perhaps swallow them all, unbecoming and evolving at the same time, like the end-world apocalypse? Or is it simply a well-planned trick—heinous and humane? Time will tell.

To begin with, I have to admit this is the sort of read that can well push even the thickest of us (hey, not literally, I mean, infallible, faithful readers here, you peeps!) out of decade-old reading slumps with the kind of thrill it contains. Simply yet tastefully written, there was this sensuously raw feeling of pure dread, which I cannot put into words here, that seemed to ooze through every few pages, keeping me on tenterhooks. So comfortable are we, so tethered to our lives amidst technological dependence, that we simply have forgotten how it feels to even look at the trees or marvel at nature outside our windows. In this kind of scenario, naturally, should the entire machinery of technology, which has so painstakingly been erected by mankind himself for our ease and comfort, collapse, we would be more than befuddled. And that is what Rumaan has put across so brilliantly through this one, coyly discerning not only an apocalyptic scenario like this but also our trigger responses to it, as well as decoding, blow by blow, the essence of the futility of humanity as a species in the face of crisis. Yes, we are not as strong as we think, I’d say, and when catastrophe befalls, it only goes to show how disconnected we are from nature to mundanely turn towards technology and man-made gibberish innovations for support.

Coming back to this one, all characters, be it Clay, Amanda, G.H., Ruth, or even the children Archie and Rose, have been created with a purpose. To depict and affect the essence of us humans in a coy yet resonating manner. Clay is the metrosexual male who, in an emergency, loses all cool and calm, bearing down under the weight of fear and guilt of not being able to protect his family of his own accord. There is Amanda, smart yet gullible enough in the face of a crisis to perhaps lose it all. There is G.H., one of my favourite characters, who is the perfect example of what cool blue-blooded businessmen think and operate like, even in the face of a crisis like this. Rose, one of the most optimistic characters I’d say, not only surprised me, but her total response to the scenario and her stance, especially towards the end, gave me an iota of hope to look at a generation that is relentless in a manner.

The best thing about Rumaan’s writing for me in this has been his ability to keep me wrapped between the pages to find out what it was that caused it all. It was more important to find out how the people I was alongside in this scenario would react to it, moving forward towards the unknown. It felt almost spiritual, personally. I must admit a sort of penance to all those godly powers I have been praying to for years, to be able to come in a full circle of sorts, only to realize that yes, we all, as much as we may believe ourselves powerful, are ultimately just a small atom, less than zilch in this humongous universe of an expanse of wonderment created by a power who is beyond any of our comprehension. It made me also bow down to the effect of simple human traits like kindness over logical reasoning in the face of crisis, which makes us human—a species equipped with intelligence and emotional quotient. A quality that is the only distinctive one that sets us apart from all other beings. Let us be more accommodative, humane, and mindful of everything around us, including nature, before it gets irreversible. I could almost paint this message in my mind when I finished with this one. This one gave me a sleepless, thought-provoking night. This is a brilliant piece of writing.

So, I hope you guys liked my thoughts on this one. Stay tuned with us right here at Booxoul for the best in the fields of entertainment, lifestyle, travel, food, finance, fun, fashion, education, tech, gadgets, and all things bookish.

Adios Amigos!

Share This: