REVIEW: CLOSE YOUR EYES, HOLD HANDS, BY CHRIS BOHJALIAN

 

Emily Shepard is on the run; the nuclear plant where her father worked has suffered a cataclysmic meltdown, and all fingers point to him. Now, orphaned, homeless, and certain that she’s a pariah, Emily’s taken to hiding out on the frigid streets of Burlington, Vermont, creating a new identity inspired by her favorite poet, Emily Dickinson.

Then she meets Cameron. Nine years old and with a string of foster families behind him, he sparks something in Emily, and she protects him with a fierceness she didn’t know she possessed. But when an emergency threatens the fledgling home she’s created, Emily realizes that she can’t hide forever.

My Thoughts: Emily’s first person narrative takes the reader back and forth in time, revealing bits of her life before the meltdown, and then shows us what life in shelters and on the street looked like.

At times she was part of a posse, while at other periods of her time on the streets, she struggled to stay out of sight. She learned right away not to use her real identity, as the news commentators had made the name “Shepard” something to vilify.

I liked how Emily shared her experiences and was open about her flaws and bad choices. She revealed a nurturing side when she took 9-year-old Cameron under her wing. But then, the habit of hiding, along with the fear of being caught, led to a disastrous error in judgment that put Cameron at risk.

Because of the non-linear storytelling, I was never quite sure where we were headed, but I was always interested and engaged.

By the end of Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands, I could look back on what had happened in the nine months after the meltdown, and then look ahead at what would eventually come to pass for Emily; by then, I was close to tears at times, and I was definitely invested in what would happen to her. 4.5 stars.

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