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Do Not Become Alarmed by Maile Meloy

Do Not Become Alarmed

by Maile Meloy

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Really enjoyed the book. Kept my interest from the first page! ( )
  gail616 | Aug 15, 2018 |
I really just do not know what to write about this top-notch book which I suspect will haunt me for quite a while. The writing is absolutely phenomenal, the suspense unbearable, the characters unforgettable (though, more times than not, also unlikable). Because there is kidnapping and children and unspeakable things involved I often felt sick to my stomach and incredibly tense as I read and I had to put this down several times. If this is ever made into a movie (which maybe it should not be), well, I think I would feel just like I do when I watch an episode of Law and Order: SVU with young children involved: uneasy and alarmed and not sure at all it is alright that child actors are involved. While I could never ever read this book again I have to say that it is one of the most raw and honest fiction reads I have ever experienced. ( )
  booksandcats4ever | Jul 30, 2018 |
Poorly written, poor character development, not worth the time ( )
  allenkl | Jul 16, 2018 |
Do Not Become Alarmed was like a thrilling roller coaster ride! It starts with the families enjoying a relaxing vacation on a cruise ship...but things take a turn for the worse quick. I devoured this fast-paced, and exciting novel in 2 days but could have done it in one sitting. Yeah, it's that good. Meloy is a talented writer and I want more! Fortunately, she has a few previous books so do not become alarmed. One thing I appreciated was Meloy accurately incorporates Spanish phrases and other isms from different Latin American countries (you go girl!). Curiously, it is never revealed which Central American country they visit while ashore (Costa Rica?). The chapters are alternated so you get the perspectives of both the adults and children. You also know what's happening to the kids at all times, so no need to guess. Do Not Become Alarmed makes for a great, easy summer read -- add it to your list today!

Thanks to Edelweiss and Riverhead Books for graciously providing me an ARC in exchange for an honest review. ( )
  debbiesbooknook | Apr 27, 2018 |
This novel focuses on three families taking a two-week cruise over Christmas from Los Angeles down the coast of Mexico and Central America. Two of the families are American: adults Liv and Nora are close cousins, and Liv proposed the trip to help Nora get over the recent death of her mother. Their children are close as well: Liv and Benjamin are the parents of Sebastian, 8, and Penny, 11. Nora is married to Raymond, and their children are June, 6, and Marcus, aged 11. On board ship, both parents and adults befriend an Argentinean family, the parents Gunter and Camila, and kids Hector, 15, and Isabel, 14. The kids are all close enough in age that they hang out together.

Very early into the story, the families go on an excursion - the three men golfing, and the three women and six kids on a zipline adventure. But the van for the zipline trip breaks down, and the kids ends up swimming in a nearby river instead. It happens that the mothers are not paying attention, however, when the kids get swept away by a change in the tide.

The parents enlist local authorities as well as their embassy representatives to try to find their children. There is added pressure to find them fast (if indeed they are still alive) because Sebastian has diabetes: he can’t survive for long without his insulin, which of course he left behind to go in the water.

Liv, the primary narrator, is convinced she has been cursed by fate:

“The karmic bus had mowed her down. She was being punished for living in a false world, spongy and insulated from the reality around her. For living in a house with an alarm system, in a neighborhood where the only Latinos were gardeners and day laborers. For sending her kids to a private school that was almost entirely white in a city that wasn’t.”

In alternate chapters we learn about what is happening with the kids, who fall into the hands of drug dealers after they witness something they should not have. The children are now in graver peril than they had been in the water, and their situation goes downhill fast.

Meanwhile, all the parents are turning on each other, displacing guilt, blame, anger, and frustration. Some nationalist resentment plays a role as well, with Gunther musing:

“He had come to despise the American parents, who thought nothing terrible could happen to them, even in these days of debt and war and warming seas, much of it visited on the world by their own rich, childish country.”

And in fact, Gunther has a point in a meta sense as well. There is an uncomfortable amount of negative stereotyping by the author about the people and events encountered in Latin America by the North American families. Moreover, the North Americans are spared from the worst repercussions of what happened, unlike the South Americans.

As the hours pass, the tension level picks up, and we don’t know until close to the very end who will make it, and who will not, and in what condition if they do survive.

Discussion: In reading this book I was reminded of the complaints in reviews one often sees that pose the question, why is it that primarily people of color or gays or other minorities suffer the worse consequences in movies, tv shows, and books? Along those lines, in this book there were also two side characters- illegal migrants - who mainly seemed to be there not only to add to the "red herring" element but also to hit the rest of the South American stereotype buttons.

The scenes involving the children and drug dealers did not seem to me to be well-written. The dialogue was a bit caricatured (as were the bad guys) and the laconic reactions of the children didn’t seem all that realistic.

In fact, none of the characters were all that fleshed out. We didn’t really know who the American parents were, besides that they were shallow and overly concerned with their self-images. The Argentinean parents were so underdrawn it was almost astounding. In fact, in the critical moment of the book, when the kids go missing, we are only told why the two American moms didn’t see the kids disappear. The Argentinean mom was with them, but what about her? She wasn’t worth talking about, it seems.

Even the bad things that happened are taken more seriously as they applied to the Americans. Benjamin’s self-centered regrets about the trip show no awareness of, or compassion about, the suffering of the Argentineans, who continue to be mostly ignored by the author. Benjamin, feeling unjustly burdened, muses:

“So now they would all have to reenter their life, carrying this beast they’d picked up on vacation: a hulking creature of reproach, grief, fear, guilt, and untoward luck, shaggily cloaked in the world’s lurid interest.”

Overall, to the extent that we got a glimpse into who the characters were, few of them were likable. Who were they before this? We don’t really know, and we aren’t inspired to want to know. The plot and the people in the story mostly seemed to validate the observation of Liv’s mother, a lawyer:

“Civilization, her mother had told her since was small, was a series of agreements about what was good for everyone, enforced by law. And civilization was only a thin veneer over the savagery and greed that were the human default.”

Evaluation: In spite of the parts I disliked about this book, it definitely is a page-turner, and would make a great choice for book clubs, where members would no doubt have lively discussions dissecting the parents’ reactions. ( )
  nbmars | Nov 29, 2017 |
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Book description
When Liv and Nora decide to take their husbands and children on a holiday cruise, everyone is thrilled. The adults are lulled by the ship's comfort and ease. The four children — ages six to eleven — love the nonstop buffet and their newfound independence. But when they all go ashore for an adventure in Central America, a series of minor misfortunes and miscalculations leads the families farther from the safety of the ship. One minute the children are there, and the next they're gone.

The disintegration of the world that the families knew — told from the perspectives of both the adults and the children — is riveting and revealing. The parents, accustomed to security and control, turn on one another and blame themselves, while the seemingly helpless children discover resources they never knew they possessed.

Do Not Become Alarmed is a story about the protective force of innocence and the limits of parental power, and an insightful look at privileged illusions of safety. Celebrated for her spare and moving fiction, Maile Meloy has written a gripping novel about how quickly what we count on can fall away, and how a crisis shifts our perceptions of what matters most.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0735216525, Hardcover)

From a beloved, award-winning writer, the much-anticipated novel about what happens when two families go on a tropical vacation—and the children go missing.

When Liv and Nora decide to take their families on a holiday cruise, everyone is thrilled. The ship's comforts and possibilities seem infinite. The children—two eleven-year-olds, an eight-year-old, and a six-year-old—love the nonstop buffet and the independence they have at the Kids' Club. But when they all go ashore in beautiful Central America, a series of minor misfortunes leads the families farther and farther from the ship's safety. One minute the children are there, and the next they're gone.

What follows is a riveting, revealing story told from the perspectives of the adults and the children, as the once-happy parents—now turning on one another and blaming themselves—try to recover their children and their lives.

Celebrated for her ability to write vivid, spare, moving fiction, Maile Meloy shows how quickly the life we count on can fall away, and how a crisis changes everyone's priorities. The fast-paced, gripping plot of Do Not Become Alarmed carries with it an insightful, provocative examination of privilege, race, guilt, envy, the dilemmas of modern parenthood, and the challenge of living up to our own expectations.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 06 Feb 2017 11:36:19 -0500)

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A "novel about what happens when two families go on a tropical vacation--and the children go missing"--

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