Book Review: The Gate to Women's Country by Sheri S. Tepper
Thoughts on Hiking Together

Book Review: Do Not Become Alarmed by Maile Meloy

Sometimes weird things draw me to different writers. I've read a few books by Maile Meloy, and the first one I read (her debut short story collection, Half in Love) I seriously picked up because I think her first name is pretty.

 

Luckily her writing is also pretty good, because that is a small thing to base my writerly affection on!

 

Do not become alarmedI finally, this summer, read her newest book, Do Not Become Alarmed. It tells the story of two families who are intertwined through long friendship, take a cruise along the coast of South America after Nora's mother dies. On an outing they take, their children (each family has two) are lost. Kidnapped? Murdered? Drowned? The parents don't know, but the reader does, as we experience the children's fate and the parents' experiences in switching narratives.

 

In a sense, this might be billed as a perfect beach read (except you'd clearly keep glancing up from your book to make sure your kids are still safe): a cruise, lost children, a subtle mystery, some marital strife. But really, it wasn't a fluffy read. Aside from a spot at the beginning, when the story lags a bit while they're all on the ship (it reads like watching someone else's travel videos), the plotline manages the tension of "what will happen?" perfectly, and that marital strife. Actually, it's not only marital, but also how friendships can splinter. More than anything it is a book about how fragile it is, that this child exists when, if any choices had been different, he or she would be replaced by someone different. And how terrifying it is to be a parent ("the woozy fear of losing them") and the way we numb ourselves to that terror, and how absolutely unbelievable it is when the terror proves true and something awful really does happen.

 

I'm being vague on the story details because really: you just have to read it. I still think Meloy's short stories are my favorite things she writes, and perhaps my only negative complaint about this one is that Nora was a character whose choices really pissed me off, but it was a good summer read for me. 

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