Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Julie's Review: Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands

Author: Chris Bohjalian
Series: None
Publication Date: July 8, 2014
Publisher: Doubleday Books
Pages: 288
Obtained: Vine
Genre:  Contemporary
Rating: 4.5/5
Bottom Line: A heartbreaking and harrowing story about a young girl who is lost in more than one way.
Grab, Just get it at the library, or Remove from your TBR list? Grab!
Summary: Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands is the story of Emily Shepard, a homeless teen living in an igloo made of ice and trash bags filled with frozen leaves. Half a year earlier, a nuclear plant in Vermont's Northeast Kingdom had experienced a cataclysmic meltdown, and both of Emily's parents were killed. Devastatingly, her father was in charge of the plant, and the meltdown may have been his fault. Was he drunk when it happened? Thousands of people are forced to flee their homes in the Kingdom; rivers and forests are destroyed; and Emily feels certain that as the daughter of the most hated man in America, she is in danger. So instead of following the social workers and her classmates after the meltdown, Emily takes off on her own for Burlington, where she survives by stealing, sleeping on the floor of a drug dealer's apartment, and inventing a new identity for herself — an identity inspired by her favorite poet, Emily Dickinson. When Emily befriends a young homeless boy named Cameron, she protects him with a ferocity she didn't know she had. But she still can't outrun her past, can't escape her grief, can't hide forever—and so she comes up with the only plan that she can. A story of loss, adventure, and the search for friendship in the wake of catastrophe, Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands is one of Chris Bohjalian’s finest novels to date—breathtaking, wise, and utterly transporting. ~powells.com

Review: Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands is a wonderful novel about what it takes to survive after a catastrophe and how one event can change the course of your life. Our narrator, Emily is a little unstable and for me that made her seemingly honest, but I have been tricked brilliantly before by Mr. Bohjalian, so I was cautious. There are so many nuances about this novel that I loved. I kept waiting for another shoe to drop, another hint to what was ahead for Emily. Normally a scattered timeline would drive me nuts but it worked so well with this story. It highlighted Emily's issues and perhaps maybe was supposed to give us some hints into the direction of the novel. Emily's situation breaks your heart about 50x over. Sure it breaks for the other people of the Northeast Kingdom but Emily's story is our focus.

Emily wasn't the perfect kid, she was a troublemaker, she was a slacker and not living up to her potential. It was obvious that she was trying but failing to not only get her parents attention but to perhaps try to save them. It is Emily's attachment to Cameron that will break your heart. It is her need to love someone and to be loved that is so essential to all of us. No matter how crappy her parents were at times, she knew she was loved by them and yes she loved them. Clinging to Cameron was her way of trying to restore herself.

Mr. Bohjalian is never one to shy away from social issues and in this one he tackles a few of them: mental illness, nuclear power and homelessness. Each one of these was meticulously researched and woven into the story seamlessly. I never felt that he was pushing his views on me as a reader.

I rarely say this but Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands is the perfect book club novel. It is layered, it is just the right amount of complex and it makes you think. Truly think about how you would react in a catastrophe. Could you handle it mentally? Physically? Emotionally?

I have been a huge fan of Mr. Bohjalian since reading The Double Bind and he doesn't disappoint this loyal fan with his latest.



Anonymous ,  July 8, 2014 at 11:17 AM  

This sounds like a book that I would thoroughly enjoy. I don't remember seeing it before. Thanks for the great review.
-Flirting with Fiction

Unknown July 10, 2014 at 12:53 AM  

I loved this book and I'm happy to see you enjoyed it too!! Nice review Julie.

Jeanine ,  July 16, 2014 at 11:32 PM  

I really enjoyed this novel as well. I think it also gives a telling glimpse into our news media and our short memories in terms of disasters. We think about natural and man made disasters for a bit until some other news story comes along. We forget about the people who were truly effected, in the middle of the tragedy, who must live on with the results. This novel reminds us of those left behind. I really appreciated that message, along with so many others in Mr. Bohjalian's book.

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