Wednesday, February 3, 2021

The Book Review Club (February 2021)

Welcome to the February 2021 edition of The Book Review Club . . . our first meeting of this new year! Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow yesterday, predicting 6 more weeks of winter and extra reading time! You're in for a marvelous treat as my critique partner, Kelly Hayes, is in charge of the review this month. Take it away, Kelly! And thank you bunches!


by Rumaan Alam (adult, psychological literary fiction)

Leave the World Behind by Rumaan Alam opens with a middle-class white couple, Amanda and Clay, and their two kids leaving New York City behind for a couple of weeks of relaxation in an airbnb in a remote part of East Hampton. But what begins as an ordinary getaway for a fairly ordinary family turns into an accidental journey into the unknown and unknowable.

Things get tense when, on their second night in the charming house, an older black couple knocks on the door claiming to be the homeowners. They explain that there's been a massive blackout in the city, and they've come seeking shelter, unable to return to their high-rise apartment. 

Amanda doesn't believe they are who they say they are, even when they offer proof. This is the first disturbing note in the story. Would she believe them more readily if they were white? Suspicion turns into denial. If they give this couple refuge, then they have to accept that something bad has happened.

But the tension fades to the background in the face of what is happening in the outside world. If only they could find out what actually is happening. No one's cell phone is working, and neither are the TVs. Amanda gets a couple of maddeningly incomplete and uninformative alerts on her phone that soon disappear, leaving them to speculate what catastrophic event might have occurred. They can't be truly scared when they don't know what to be scared of. So they live in a kind of limbo, while unusual things start happening to their bodies, highlighting how vulnerable we are to even the slightest changes in our environment.

Still, they have electricity. They have good food. They have booze. And they have one another. Everyday problems and prejudices give way to shared fears and comforts. Money, social status differences have no meaning for them any longer.    

Then strange things happen around them, things that show them the world is not as it was. And the existential fear sets in.

Alam doesn't spell it out for us, leaving us almost as much in the dark as the characters about what has happened. But he knows how to play on our fears because they are universal. What if the apocalypse sneaks up on us and looks a lot like ordinary life? What if there is nothing to do but wait for it to come? And who will you be when it does?

I won't lie. This is an unsettling book. But it was that very sense of unease that kept me turning the pages. With all that is going on in the world right now, this story doesn't feel all that farfetched. And it is a story I won't soon forget. 

Check out Patti Abbott's Nov. 2020 review of Leave the World Behind, the best book she read in 2020. 

(Dear FCC: Library)

And now....onto the rest of our reviews. Please click through. You won't want to miss a single one!


Phyllis Wheeler: EVERYTHING SAD IS UNTRUE by Daniel Nayeri (MG, "autobiographical" novel)

Jody Feldman: THE NATURALS by Jennifer Lynn Barnes (YA, thriller)

Linda McLaughlin: THE SUN IS ALSO A STAR by Nicola Yoon (YA, multicultural romance)


Lucy Sartain: YOU SHOULD HAVE KNOWN by Jean Hanff Korelitz (psych thriller)

Lucy Sartain: THE PUSH by Ashley Audrain (crime, domestic thriller)

Patti Abbott:  THE BOOK WOMAN OF TROUBLESOME CREEK by Kim Michelle Richardson

Ray Potthoff: THE PRIVATE PATIENT by PD James (crime)

Sarah Laurence: THE FEAST OF THE GOAT by Mario Vargas Llosa (historical/political thriller)

Scott Parker: SPACE TEAM: A FUNNY SCI-FI SPACE ADVENTURE by Barry J. Hutchison (Sci Fi)


Margie Lutz: THE FIFTIES by David Halberstam (historical)

Note to Reviewers: Any errors (broken link, missed review, etc), just shoot me an email or leave a comment. Thank you so much for your reviews!


  1. Oh wow! This review is one of those things that if I was reading this on the back cover of a book, I would HAVE to have it! I'm going to see if my library has it, if not I may have to buy it. Great review! Thanks Kelly! And thanks Barrie for hosting, as always. :)

    1. Right? Kelly writes a compelling review. And such a great premise. I added this book to my TBR pile when Patti Abbott reviewed in Nov.

  2. Thanks Kelly for the great review. Sound like a book I would like, I'll check it out. To you questions, no, I don't think politics were any better. Without so many communication channels I don't think the average citizen knew what was going on behind the scenes. As far as family, for me it was a good time, but I don't think that was true for everyone, especially those experiencing civil rights issues. As I look back for me it was a life of white, middle-class privilege. My thinking did change with the onset of the 60s, especially during college. - Margy

  3. Wow! That's some story. Great review. I might just have to break my read-only-middle-grade policy and check it out.

  4. Great review, Kelly. And thanks to Barrie for once again organizing us.

    1. I know! I love it when Kelly reviews. Also, I read everything she recommends (on the blog or in real life). :) And you're welcome!

  5. Great review, Kelly! That does sound creepy! I hate when authors use race to make a character appear untrustworthy. Thanks for questioning that assumption! Barrie, thanks for hosting!


Comments are always welcome!