9 questions to consider after reading 'Leave the World Behind' by Rumaan Alam

Spark a conversation about Jenna's October 2020 pick!
Rumaan Alam's "Leave the World Behind" is a mysterious and poignant story of two sets of strangers.
Rumaan Alam's "Leave the World Behind" is a mysterious and poignant story of two sets of strangers.Courtesy HarperCollins Publishers
/ Source: TODAY

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This October, the Read With Jenna book club has been reading "Leave the World Behind" by Rumaan Alam.

The story begins in New York with Amanda, a type-A working mom, her cigarette-sneaking husband, Clay, and their two teenage children, Rose and Archie. They embark on a picturesque vacation away from their busy Brooklyn-based lives to the Hamptons on Long Island. Everything is going well at the secluded property they rented, until a mysterious knock at the door in the middle of the night disrupts their peace and quiet.

"Leave the World Behind" by Rumaan Alam

The elderly Black couple at the door, G. H. Washington and his wife, Rose, announce they are the owners of the home and explain that a blackout in the city caused them to flee to the countryside. As the strangers get acquainted with each other, a series of unexplainable events flips everything they think they know on its head.

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Within this mystery, Alam includes many important themes for readers to consider. Use the questions below from the publisher to spark a conversation with friends and family.

  1. What were your first impressions of Amanda and Clay? G.H. and Ruth? Did your understanding of them change as the novel progressed or did they uphold your initial expectations?
  2. At the beginning of the novel, Amanda makes a grocery list. How might this list reflect her background and her hopes for the days ahead? Think of a trip or a vacation you’ve taken in recent years, and how you prepared for it. What do you think your approach says about you? How is it similar or different from Amanda’s approach?
  3. "Leave The World Behind" is a work of fiction, written before the COVID-19 outbreak and the societal uprisings that have shaped 2020. If you had read the novel before 2020, do you think you would have had a different response to it? If so, in what way?
  4. For much of the novel, Amanda, Clay, Ruth and G.H. can’t agree on whether or not they are truly in danger. Why do you think they found it so hard to assess their situation? What would you have done if you were in the shoes of Amanda and Clay? G.H. and Ruth?
  5. Ruth and G.H. are separated from their daughter and grandsons for the duration of the crisis, while Amanda and Clay have their kids with them. Do you think that changes their responses to the situation they are facing together?
  6. How do you think the children, Archie and Rose, see the world in comparison to their parents? Do they share a similar vision of it? If not, how so?
  7. In "Leave The World Behind," the families grapple with the sudden loss of communications technology — cell phone, internet and satellite service all fail. What is your relationship to technology? Do you embrace it? Do you wish our society handled its role in our lives differently?
  8. This novel pairs two couples together who are from different demographic backgrounds in terms of race and wealth. How did those qualities impact the way they interact with each other?
  9. What do you think this book says about the role of friends and neighbors? Do you think these characters will have to fend for themselves or is there hope that they will have others to lean on? What do you think happens to these families after the book ends?

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