The blurb on the front of this heart-thumping novel is by Ann Patchett, and it sure lured me in. But it was the amazingly compelling story and the writing that kept me reading until the last page was turned.
“Do Not Become Alarmed” by Maile Meloy
is more than the usual psychological thriller. It’s more than a great beach read. Although, it’s both of those and then some.
When cousins Liv and Nora book a cruise through the Panama Canal during Christmas break after Nora’s mom’s passing, little do they realize how life-altering it will be for both families.
Nora is married to a pretty high -profile black actor and they have two young children. Liv is married with two children of her own. Her young son is a type I diabetic and is hooked up to an insulin pump. The four kids have been close forever. They are having a blast on the cruise. Everyone is letting their guard down.
The first port of call is Acapulco. The women immediately decide there will be no going ashore. Too many unsafe things happening. But by the time they arrive at the next port the husbands have met an Argentinian family and the men go play golf. So the women sign up for a zip-line tour. It’s certainly all above board since the tour is promoted by the cruise line. The Argentine mom and her two teenage kids come along. But, as things often happen, this goes far from right. The van they’re traveling through the jungle in pops a tire and is hit by another car. They all survive unscathed however, as Pedro the tour guide attests, all the cabs in the area are booked for hours with the cruise ship in port. So they must wait. He drags several large inner tubes out of the back of the disabled van and off they go to the very safe beach nearby to keep cool and swim. Once again we are lured in to a sense of safety. And the women are otherwise engaged while the tide changes and the children, all six of them, are swept down river. In the jungle. In this third world country.
With heightened awareness my senses began tingling on overload. Anytime children are involved in potential peril I am on alert. And this is not a quick fix. Meloy drags you through the search and brings sharply into focus the Central American people involved in the process. These are all people we get to know.
People will be murdered. Well, it’s a third world country. And, yes, drugs are a big problem here. People are trying to get out of the country any way they can. And these six children from well-to-do families are getting a chance to experience real life in an up front and very personal way. While their parents are losing their minds we are kept abreast through the voices of the children and are privy to all that is going on.
Nowadays parents take extra special pains to make sure their children are safe. They believe that by teaching them that obedience is important they are instilling good values. For the most part this is true. But what of the child who is fearful to step out of the box even if it means the difference between life and death? This story is complicated. It deals with many moral issues. Families, marriage, strength and weakness.
This is a great story coming out just in time for you to toss in your tote bag or beach bag. Just do it!
I received my review copy from Riverhead Books. I loved this one!
Riverhead Books. June 6, 2017. 342 pages. Be prepared to stay up all night:)