Could I Live Out My Days on Box Cake and Canned Tomatoes: Leave the World Behind by Rumaan Alam

So, obviously, I fell off my book reading pace. Twitter kept me busy for a few weeks there.

I am indeed one of those horrible people who just could not stop scrolling, waiting for any news on the election. Anything. ANYTHING. And then, mercifully when PA was called, I could return kinda sorta full attention to reading again.

And honestly, it’s a good thing I didn’t try to read Rumaan Alam’s “Leave the World Behind” while waiting on election results because this is most certainly NOT an escapist read. Nope.

It is, hmmmm …. delightfully, terrifyingly whack. As in, “Wow, I am not going to get this out of my head for quite some time,” while at the same time, “WTF just happened there?”

“Leave the World Behind” throws its readers in the car with Amanda and Clay and their children, teenaged Archie and Rose, as they head out to vacation at the end of summer on Long Island, in a VRBO-style setup, a faraway rented home-with-a-pool that’s so nicely appointed as to make you feel maybe you are living up for a few days but not so much you become uncomfortable in your surroundings.

Amanda, the advertising exec that prides herself on her work ethic but really just wants to feel needed, and Clay, a university prof that just wants to write, are well into the complacent stage in their marriage. They settle into the rhythms of their vacation (“Yay! There’s a Starbucks! Civilization!”) and their idyllic rental, when the calm is shook one night by the appearance of the home’s owners, G.H. and Ruth Washington.

An NYC blackout drove the Washingtons, a well-to-do Black couple, out to their home rather back to their 14th floor apartment in the city. Safer, they thought. Well.

Alam speaks to the calamities taking place in a vague, unsettling manner that lends itself to an almost supernatural genre. Animals in droves, unexplained loss of communication with the outside world and, well, I don’t want to give it away ā€” let’s just say bizarre “events,” alongside casual mentions of what has or will happen back in the city, makes one wonder just what the hell is happening.

And while that sets the table for the story, at the end of the day, it’s about couples, families, how society’s rules can change on a dime and how people view the world through that uncertain “WTF is happening?” lens. There’s so much delicious weirdness here. Pink flamingos, strange illnesses, naked hot tubbing, a contractor preparing for end of times, that feeling of dread some of us feel every time we get lost, box cake … it’s just kinda nutty.

And now, really ā€” damn! I’m left wondering what the hell is the connection between that horrible awful XXXXX and people’s XXXXX falling out? I’m not sure if Alam would take this as a compliment or not, but it’s got a crazy great Stephen King vibe, and I am going to wonder wonder wonder now for days.

It might drive me a little crazy, but it’s a welcome respite from Twitter.

If your anxiety can take it, I highly recommend it.

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