**DISCLAIMER*** I am not a professional book reviewer. I don’t claim to have any expertise in this matter, or have any delusion that I will be able to write you an eloquent summary on par with people who do this for a living. What I aim to do is tell you about the book in the same way I would tell a friend, in my own voice, and featuring the things that were most important to me.
A few years ago, I read The Double Bind by Chris Bohjalian and was completely blown away. It is the kind of book that you read and immediately try to convince all your other friends to follow suit so that you can talk to them about it. I don’t say “one of the best books I have ever read” about many, but this truly fits the bill.
Anyway… since I loved that book so much, I have read the majority of his other books as well, and while many were good (a few bordered on “oh hell no” territory – The Night Strangers, I’m looking at you) nothing has really grabbed me in the way that The Double Bind did. Yet, I keep reading them all the same.
When I heard the premise of his latest novel Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands I was a bit dubious, mostly because I was worried it would be yet another dystopian novel and frankly, I have had it up to my eyeballs with that. The book centers around Emily Shephard, a teenage girl, who is left homeless after she is evacuated after her local nuclear power plant meltsdown. Her parents were both employed there, and her father is being blamed for the tragedy.
The story is at times gritty – let’s be honest, when you’re a homeless teen, you’re options for making money are pretty limited. But the voice feels so authentic, it’s surprising that it was written by a middle aged man. I was sucked into Emily’s story, and felt myself rooting for her, and wanting to shake her for some of her choices along the way.
As far as being worried about the “dystopian” aspect – I need not have worried. The meltdown itself, while a major component of the book, does little to affect society at large, and is mainly the device that sets Emily’s story (in “normal” society) into play.
This is a great read, and a good choice for someone looking for a captivating novel, with a bit more substance than a beach read.