Amanda, Clay, and their teen/tween children have rented a secluded home for the week in what seems to be the North Fork of Long Island. They’re ready to forget the stresses of work and school and indulge a bit – buy groceries without analyzing the price, have sex without a schedule. The first day is everything they needed. They’re connecting as a family and turning off their brains the way you should on vacation. But just as they’ve fully relaxed their defenses, they are jerked into a new reality. Ruth and G.H. have arrived claiming to be the home’s owners. The city, they explain, is in the middle of a blackout and they’re hoping for shelter. Clay and Amanda have electricity, but the TVs no longer work and the home is so remote they can forget about cell service. They are entirely cut off. For the next day and a half, we watch the two families dance around each other. We gauge their comfort levels. We follow their panic. See, there was no storm to explain the blackout. And as strange things begin to happen, we wonder what, exactly, is happening in the world.
Rumaan Alam’s latest book is a National Book Award finalist and I can see why. It’s hard to put into words what made this short novel so impactful, but I think it’s because it made me feel things. All sorts of things. Alam knows how to morph his writing style to completely shift the tone of the book to evoke whatever feeling he’s going after. I was his puppet. The first quarter of the story is almost lyrical. I could feel myself physically relaxing as Amanda checked her work emails with less frequency. I felt the half-dry pool water on my skin and slitty eyes of someone drunk on summertime with with no responsibilities. But as the book progressed, so did my anxiety. Things were getting tense. The lazy days of summer transitioned to The Quiet Place. My shoulders crept up to my ears and my eyes darted around my apartment as I sought a way out, trying to remain a step ahead.
While this book takes place in the summer, it is IDEAL for October. By the end, the tone is downright eerie and perfect for Spooky Season. It’s not scary…but it’s not sweet. It is psychological…and bewitching.
5 out of 5 stars.
Pair with: Cognac and cake made from a box mix