Do Not Become Alarmed!

The title of the novel by Mailie Meloy my book club discussed last night is ironic!  The book is called Do Not Become Alarmed and tells the story of two American families on a holiday cruise in Central America.  During a shore excursion their children are swimming at a secluded beach and are swept away by a strong current.   Although their parents are reassured by police and embassy officials that the kids will be found, the plot thickens at every turn, and along with the parents, the reader becomes very alarmed indeed! 

do not become alarmedEveryone in my book club agreed Do Not Become Alarmed was the kind of novel  they could hardly put down.  Meloy ratchets up the tension at every turn. Just when you think things will be resolved something else happens and you need to keep reading to find out what comes next.  The book played on the fears of all parents- that heart stopping moment when you think you have lost your child in a crowd or when you get a phone call from their school they’ve been hurt. 

Author Meloy juxtapositions the lives of the wealthy first world American families in the novel with the lives of local Central American people and some of the cruise ship staff who come from less developed countries. By doing this she forces us to look at some deeper questions.  

My book club discussed the whole idea of rich North Americans using poverty-ridden countries as their playgrounds for holidays.  Should we be doing that? While our tourist dollars might provide an economic opportunity for poorer countries what does our presence there do to people’s pride, their way of life, their culture, the natural environment? Do local people really benefit from our presence or are they taken advantage of by large corporations from other countries who own cruise ships and resorts? 

Not every one in my book club liked the novel’s ending. It did make us realize that the lives of the families involved and their relationships with one another had been forever changed by their alarming experience and it was alarming to think that what had happened to the families in the book could really happen to anyone.  Perhaps the title of the book should have been Become Very Alarmed!

Other posts about my book club’s books………

The Stranger in the Woods

The Architect’s Apprentice

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