Do Not Become Alarmed
By Maile Meloy
Published by Viking (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.
Do Not Become Alarmed is well written literary fiction, focusing on parents' reactions to the disappearance of their children on an excursion trip during a two week cruise. The book highlights corruption, drugs and murder within Central America, so has some dark underlying themes.
The events are told from the perspectives of the parents and the children. I enjoyed the children's version of the events far more than the parents', finding it difficult to sympathise with, and warm to, the adults. I didn't find the book particularly emotional. However, I was intrigued enough to keep reading to find out what happened to the children and families by the end.
The families involved are all wealthy and successful. One key message from the plot seemed to be that wealth can't buy you commonsense, happiness or breeding, judging from the parents' behaviour. I wasn't totally sure why one particular thread was there, other than to show the rich-poor divide.
This book is marketed as a 'heart-racing' story, but I didn't find this to be the case. Instead, I found it to be a slow burner, focusing on family dynamics and changing friendships when dealing with every parent's worst nightmare. It took me a few chapters to get into the story, possibly because I was expecting something else - but once I realised this wasn't going to be a fast-paced read with lots of twists and turns, I focused on the vivid descriptions and atmospheric setting.
I suspect that readers who love fast-paced thrillers may be disappointed. And I also suspect that this could be a marmite book for the summer season - people may either love it or hate it, depending on their expectations.
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