Thanks so much for coming along on our Read With Us adventure!
A week ago, we hosted the book discussion for our latest selection, Leave the World Behind by Rumaan Alam, on our blogs and then with a lively Zoom meet-up. The discussions were interesting and engaging, and I think it's safe to say . . . people had strong feelings about this book! (Which is truly the hallmark of a great book group selection in my estimation. Discussable books always make the best book group picks.)
After reading the blog book discussion comments, and then being part of the Zoom discussion, I think it's safe to say that readers were in agreement with three things:
- The book was, indeed, creepy. The scenario as laid out in the book was just a little bit too believable. Or, maybe if not exactly believable . . . certainly imagine-able. While the details didn't always add up (we're looking at you, vacation house rental website . . . ), we could all picture just what it might be like to lose internet, cable, and cell connections . . . and how that would translate to the ways we get our news, communicate with our families, and navigate our days.
- The characters weren't particularly consistent . . . or even likeable. Most of us had a hard time relating to the parent-child dynamics going on in the book, especially given the bizarre and unexplained "weirdness" that was happening in the world. (Just sending your kids out to "play"? We thought not. . . )
- The writing was very good, which kept us all turning the pages of this compelling story. Even if the story didn't actually wrap up with a nice, tidy explanation (and a bow on top, thankyouverymuch).
And there, really, was the main complaint with this book for many Read With Us readers. It was frustrating . . . to be fed so many partial details and possible clues without ever finding out what happened. Really, author???? And that, apparently, was by design! I read and listened to several interviews with the author in preparation for our discussions, and he claims that even he didn't know what happened! In one interview he states that the book presents about 13 different questions, and it only answers 7 of them. (And we weren't sure that he even answered 7, actually.)
Some of us didn't mind the ambiguity, and just enjoyed the ride. But at least an equal number of us DID mind that ambiguity, and felt the book suffered for those loose ends. And we all decided that if you couldn't suspend your disbelief while reading (about certain facts like the "AirBnB hosting situation," for example), the book would probably not be as enjoyable for you. At least one of us actually changed her feelings about the book following our discussion -- declaring that while she had kinda liked the book coming into the Zoom, she had downgraded her assessment to "not so much" by the end of the call.
Yeah. It was that kind of book.
All in all, it was an interesting book which led to a very good discussion. (I told you it was going to be . . . chewy!) I thank you all for joining in to . . . Read With Us.
(And stay tuned. We'll be announcing our next book group selection soon.)