Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands by Chris Bohjalian
Release Date - July 8, 2014
Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth
Chris Bohjalian is a well-known name in Vermont, and he gained national attention when Oprah Winfrey chose his novel Midwives as an Oprah book selection. For Vermonters, Chris had been writing for far longer, as a columnist for the Burlington Free Press. His daughter Grace was born not too long after my first child, and I enjoyed and found myself empathizing with his experiences as a new parent. When it comes to his fiction, some I haven't liked, while others I've loved, and Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands is a definite love it!
A nuclear reactor melt down in the Northeast Kingdom greatly changes 16-year-old Emily Shepard's life. Both her mom and dad worked at the nuclear plant and both are now dead. With the Northeast Kingdom evacuated, Emily ends up on the streets fending for herself and eventually a 9-year-old boy she comes across. She's suddenly forced to make tough decisions, all while knowing people blame her father, allegedly an alcoholic, for the meltdown and also make it clear in one confrontation that the blame will carry to Emily since she's the only surviving family member.
Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands starts in the present and then goes back and works up to Emily's life before the meltdown and after the meltdown. While it does jump around a bit, it is always clear what time frame she's in. She's a tough kid, though she may act impulsively from time to time (what teen doesn't?), and her struggles are often heartrending. The topic of the nuclear plant is a touchy one in Vermont, and I snickered at comments made by Emily about how she wondered what the anti-wind turbine people thought of wind power now.
I believe Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands is being marketed as general fiction, but I am certain that teens around Emily's age will love this story, too. Therefore, I recommend it also as teen fiction.