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Jenna Bush Hager has chosen "Leave the World Behind" by Rumaan Alam for the Read With Jenna book club to read this October.
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 and 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.
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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.
"It is a suspense at its core, but to call it only a thriller discredits the incredible detail and intimacy with which the author writes about and understands family dynamics and race," said Jenna.
The author explained that the idea for the story came to him while he was reminiscing about his summer vacation.
"I was daydreaming about the summer. I was in New York City. I was on the Upper West Side and it was very cold. It was only a few months after we had taken this vacation to this beautiful home in Long Island and I just found myself wistfully remembering that place and how nice it had been to be warm," Alam told TODAY.
He shared that the process of writing the book began in a very unique way.
"I realized that tweeting is actually just another form of writing," said Alam, "So I made a second Twitter account which was private, locked, no one could follow it, and I started writing the book there."
For Alam, releasing his book into readers' hands is his favorite part of the writing process.
"I think there are multiple perspectives on the book and the thing I’m most excited about is sort of hearing what perspectives those are, what readers find there," said Alam.
The multidimensional book has many angles from which readers can think about the novel. What begins as a relaxing beach read, quickly becomes a thrilling suspense novel sprinkled with social commentary on race relations and technological additions.
"It’s chilling and mysterious but also poignant and at times funny, a book about family, race, ambition and class. My only advice — read it with the lights on," Jenna says.
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For more book recommendations, check out:
- 5 books to read if you loved 'Transcendent Kingdom' by Yaa Gyasi
- Harlan Coben shares 6 books you'll want to cozy up on the couch with this fall
- Jane Fonda discusses the books she credits with 'major transitions' in her life