I’m delighted to be sharing with you my review of Do Not Become Alarmed by Maile Meloy as part of the blog tour organised by Penguin Random House.
Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: Penguin (6 July 2017)
When Liv and Nora decide to take their husbands and children on a holiday cruise, everyone is thrilled. The ship’s comforts and possibilities seem infinite. But when they all go ashore in beautiful Central America, a series of minor mishaps lead the families further from the ship’s safety.
One minute the children are there, and the next they’re gone.
What follows is a heart-racing story told from the perspectives of the adults and the children, as the distraught parents – now turning on one another and blaming themselves – try to recover their children and their shattered lives.
After a false alarm on the cruise ship when June and Sebastian go missing, I was just waiting for the next thing to happen and with the families split for their first day on shore (the men off to play golf and the woman and children on their way to a zip wire excursion) you know this is it. One thing after another leads to the woman and children being separated and although I knew the separation was coming, I wasn’t prepared for the harshness or the depravity of what follows instigated by one person, Raul. I trusted his brother George from the beginning and housekeeper Maria. Through all the tense moments I was hoping they would come through!
Being an ’emotional’ reader it was so easy to get caught up in this story. The psychology of the characters is laid bare and I felt those tangle of emotions alongside the characters. Relationships can be so fragile when we hide behind what we’re truly feeling and I think Maile Meloy weaves this into the story with grace. We’re shown rather than told about the characters so through dialogue and thoughts I could piece together the dynamics and conflicts. When 10 year old Noemi is introduced I thought it was to highlight what happens in a country where child kidnapping and illegal activity is part of the norm but she has another part to play which has such an impact. It highlights the mental state of one of the characters and pulls you in half. I questioned myself … would I have done the same?
I think the hardest thing for me was the lack of control for both parents and children. The utter fear and helplessness. The blaming of themselves, of each other and the reasoning – such a tangle of feelings.
Do Not Become Alarmed is a heart-breaking read. For me it was a page turner. I was disappointed in the final pages but it does reflect how frail our thoughts make us. A keeper for me.
Maile Meloy is the author of the novels Liars and Saints and A Family Daughter and the story collections Half in Love and Both Ways Is the Only Way I Want It, which was named one of the Ten Best Books of the Year by the New York Times Book Review and one of the best books of the year by the Los Angeles Times and Amazon.com. She has also written a trilogy for young readers, beginning with The Apothecary, which was a New York Times bestseller and won the 2012 E.B. White Award. Meloy’s short stories have been published in The New Yorker, The Paris Review, Granta, and Best American Short Stories 2015, and she has received The Paris Review’s Aga Khan Prize for Fiction, the PEN/Malamud Award for Excellence in the Short Story, the Rosenthal Foundation Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, two California Book Awards, and a Guggenheim Fellowship. In 2007, she was chosen as one of Granta’s 21 Best Young American Novelists. Her essays have appeared in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, The New Yorker, Slate, Sunset, and O.