Contemporary U.S. Literature, Drama

Leave the World Behind

April 19, 2021

I took this novel’s advice and left my world behind one recent weekend. My family and I enjoyed a long weekend at a friend’s beach house. The long drive there and back, plus lots of beach-sitting, enabled me to finish reading the book over the trip, to the utter neglect of the teaching and university service labor I would probably otherwise have been doing while on a family vacation.

Alam’s novel is about a white family on vacation in someone else’s house, somewhere near the Hamptons, when the end of the world commences. Their family vacation is interrupted by the return of the black home owners who have escaped NYC to hunker down in their country home. Alam is so concerned to explore the tensions arising from the collision of race (liberal white family) and economic privilege (wealthy black couple) that the plot gets back-burnered. It’s never clear what the end of the world looks like or is caused by–we just get these kind of tantalizing/horrifying things like escaped flamingoes in the pool and people’s teeth falling out. It’s easier, then, to focus on the relentless hyper-sexualization of the white characters and the depiction of their race-related micro-aggressions rather than any external peril.

The book stays with you, but not because the end of the world is scary.

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