Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands by Chris Bohjalian

July 7th, 2014 kimbacaffeinate Review 80 Comments

7th Jul
Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands by Chris Bohjalian
Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands
by Chris Bohjalian
Published by: Random House
Genres: Literary Fiction
Source: Publisher
Purchase: Amazon
Goodreads
Rating: One StarOne StarOne StarOne StarHalf a Star

A heartbreaking, wildly inventive, and moving novel narrated by a teenage runaway, from the bestselling author of Midwives and The Sandcastle Girls. Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands is the story of Emily Shepard, a homeless girl living in an igloo made of garbage bags in Burlington. Nearly a year ago, a power plant in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont had a 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 leave 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 house, inventing a new identity for herself, and befriending a young homeless kid named Cameron. But Emily 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.

I first discovered Chris Bohjalian in 2011 when I read and loved his suspense thriller, The Night Strangers. Since then I have read two of his historical fictions The Sandcastle Girls and The Light in the Ruins. Each story is vastly different, beautiful, captivating and memorable. It seems no matter what story Bohjalian tells it is destined to entwine itself into my memory.

I am not going to lie; when I saw this title on NetGalley, I requested it without even reading the synopsis. It did not matter it was Chris Bohjalian!! When I began reading I was pleasantly surprised and a little shocked to hear the voice of sixteen-year-old Emily Shepard.

The tale begins in Burlington Vermont; Emily is homeless, living in a garbage bag igloo. It has been a year since the power plant her parents worked at had a nuclear meltdown and the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont evacuated and quarantined. The press and the people blame the meltdown on her father.

Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands is beautifully written and told entirely through the voice of our protagonist Emily Shepard. It is raw; at times, her voice bounces from thought to thought. She adores the poet Emily Dickinson and references her. Emily is wise beyond her years and at other times her age rings through. She takes us through the day of the meltdown, and offers flashbacks of life before the disaster. She does not hold back about her life after the accident. Life on the streets and the dark side to her suffering pour forth as she shares her story. It is genuine and at times hard to swallow. We learn about her fears, the friendships she makes and her journey back from this dark place.

Bohjalian is brilliant. Emily’s voice is authentic, and he impressed me with her voice. From her language to feelings, Bohjalian gave her life making her one of the most memorable and fleshed out characters I have ever encountered. Secondary characters were interesting, and influenced my emotions but it was Emily herself that held me captive. Her voice had me lost within the pages of Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands.

Readers will need to acclimate themselves as Emily speaks directly to the reader. Picture if you will sitting across from a young girl. She is fidgety, and from time to time, she stares off as if lost in her own thought. Then her gaze clears, and she refocuses on you. She begins telling you are story; she is animated, and often injects poems, thoughts and ideas. It is all fascinating and at times, it makes you squirm or want to hug her. Instinctively you know she will not like that. The hours tick away, and you become lost in her story. It sometimes seems surreal, but Emily has this raw honesty and somehow you know she has kept nothing back. Occasionally a memory manifests and she takes a break to share that tale with you.

Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands is adult literary fiction, but the protagonist will introduce Bohjalian to older young adults. He is brilliant, and I am on a personal mission to read all of his novels. Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands was gripping, raw and authentic. Emily Shepard is a character who will mark herself in your memory and Bohjalian is an author whose books you will reach for repeatedly.

About Chris Bohjalian

Chris Bohjalian

Lincoln, Vermont’s Chris Bohjalian is the author of 18 books, most of which were New York Times bestsellers.  His work has been translated into over 30 languages and three times become movies. Chris graduated Phi Beta Kappa and Summa Cum Laude from Amherst College, and lives in Vermont with his wife, the photographer Victoria Blewer. Their daughter, Grace Experience, is a young actor in New York City. Among the audiobooks she has narrated is Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands.

Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

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About Kimberly
Kimberly is a coffee loving book addict who reads everything fiction in YA, NA, and Adult. She's a self-professed Whovian, Supernatural, and Sherlock Holmes junkie, She enjoys sharing books, tips, recipes and hosting the Sunday Post. The coffee is always on and she is ready to chat... Twitter | Facebook | Instagram

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80 Responses to “Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands by Chris Bohjalian”

    • kimbacaffeinate

      This was quite good Jeann and had a dystopian feel

  1. Christy

    Oh wow … I just remembered that I read Midwives when I saw it mentioned up there. I totally forgot about that book. I remember reading not too long after graduating high school and really liking it. Crazy. Now I DEFINITELY want to read this book.
    Christy recently posted…The Strain by Guillermo del Toro & Chuck HoganMy Profile

    • kimbacaffeinate

      I think you would like it Christy, I need to read Midwives.

    • kimbacaffeinate

      If you like dystopian novels I think this would easily draw you in Jennifer.

  2. Melliane

    I don’t think I’ve ever read a book by the author but I’m glad you love the books. And I totally relate about asking books without looking at the synopsis, I can easily do that as well, for the author or for the cover I confess. Well I just look if it’s part of a series or not.
    Melliane recently posted…When a Man Loves a Weapon by Toni McGee CauseyMy Profile

    • kimbacaffeinate

      Thanks Melliane, there are a handful of authors whose books I will by without reading the synopsis.

  3. Faye D'Social Potato

    Wow, your review was very heartfelt, Kimberly. It made me want to read this one so much, although I have a feeling Emily’s story will be breaking my heart to tiny little pieces. I can’t wait to read this one for myself! Hopefully it will touch me as much as it has touched you!
    Faye D’Social Potato recently posted…ARC Review: Midnight Thief by Livia BlackburneMy Profile

    • kimbacaffeinate

      At times it is heartbreaking, but I couldn’t set it down.

    • kimbacaffeinate

      I enjoy every journey he takes me on Silvia.

    • kimbacaffeinate

      Thanks Franny, if you like dystopian novels you may be surprised.

    • kimbacaffeinate

      So glad you enjoyed this one too Sarah. I was so impressed by how authentic he made Emily’s voice.

  4. Mary

    I’m not usually a literary girl (unless forced…) but I do like when a book strikes a chord and makes you think. The perspective alone would make me a bit twitchy, though it’s definitely intriguing how the story’s told.
    Mary recently posted…Moving to WordPress…soon!My Profile

    • kimbacaffeinate

      This has a dystopian vibe and could easily be labeled YA. I thought the perspective would make me twitchy, but I soon got caught up in the story.

  5. Jenny

    Hehe. I’ve absolutely requested a book from a beloved author without reading the synopsis before too Kim! Sometimes you just know you want to read something even if you don’t necessarily know what it’s about:) I haven’t read many books where the narrator is speaking directly to me, so I think that would be kind of different and interesting:) Thanks for putting yet another book on my radar!!!!

    • kimbacaffeinate

      I am not alone..LOL This was brilly and I hope you get a chance to read it.

  6. Nick

    That’s interesting that this is an adult literary fiction novel but has a YA protagonist. I’m definitely curious. It also seems like the author captured the feelings of the MC very authentically. It’s always a great feeling when an author you love releases a book that you end up loving as well.
    Lovely review, Kim! 🙂
    Nick recently posted…Review : Deeper by Robin YorkMy Profile

    • kimbacaffeinate

      Yes Nick, and it has a dystopian feel to it.

  7. Ginny

    I usually try to refrain from just saying great review but sweetie this time I just can’t help it. Your review is LOVELY. You did an amazing job with it. Big hand clap to you!

    • kimbacaffeinate

      Awe, you made me blush and to be honest I don’t feel like I did it justice. 🙂

    • kimbacaffeinate

      I love both his domestic and historical novels Tanya

    • kimbacaffeinate

      They did a cover change after arcs went out,. I am not sure which I prefer but the tale was wonderful.

    • kimbacaffeinate

      I enjoyed that one Christa. The others I mentioned are historical.

    • kimbacaffeinate

      This has a dystopian vibe to it, and is well paced. I think you will enjoy it.

  8. Katherine

    This sounds like quite a book. I normally don’t love when a character speaks directly to the reader but that’s only because it’s generally badly done. When it’s done right like it sounds like it was in this case it can be extremely powerful. It’s so lovely when a favorite author lives up to being a favorite author. I’ll have to read this one as well though I may wait until I have a chunk of time and am wanting a more serious book.
    Katherine recently posted…The Awakening of Miss Prim – ReviewMy Profile

    • kimbacaffeinate

      Agreed, but when it is done right and feels honest it is brilly.

    • kimbacaffeinate

      It did tug at your heart strings, but you also are uplifted by how fearless she is despite being terrified.

    • kimbacaffeinate

      This would be a good one to try Candace since it has both the young protagonist and a dystopian vibe to it.

    • kimbacaffeinate

      I loved that aspect and felt it worked for the tale. It was a departure from his other works, but I thought Emily’s voice was authentic.

    • kimbacaffeinate

      This was Greg, and I loved the dystopian vibe it had.

    • kimbacaffeinate

      While parts evoke sadness, it also has moments were you find yourself in awe of her survival skills and sheer determination. Thanks Sophia.

    • kimbacaffeinate

      This would be a good one, since it has a young protagonist and slight dystopian vibe to it Kris.

    • kimbacaffeinate

      hahaha..I got ya. He writes suspense, mystery, domestic and historical fiction and it is wonderful.

    • kimbacaffeinate

      I have that but haven’t read it yet. I love how he weaves a tale.

  9. Rita_h

    I wrote a review on this a week ago, and hesitated to use the word dystopian because in a way, it kind of, sort of isn’t. There is an isolated pocket of dystopia {online dictionary definition: “society characterized by human misery, as squalor, oppression, disease, and overcrowding”}. I was afraid that some folks would be turned off by that, or think it is YA (it isn’t), and miss the point that this also reads like literary fiction.

    In a nutshell: this book was hard to classify, but highly recommended for a read. I’ve read several by him and truly enjoy his style. Thanks Krista, for an awesome review! You did it justice with your enthusiasm.
    Rita_h recently posted…Foodies Read 2014 ChallengeMy Profile

    • kimbacaffeinate

      I know exactly what you mean Rita, and while the protagonist is YA, this is an adult novel. I agree about not adding the dystopian..because while it has that kind of vibe, it is really more about Emily.

    • kimbacaffeinate

      Yep, it has elements of dystopian, coming of age and more.

    • kimbacaffeinate

      LOL I take it you are a fan of Chris as well? Enjoy.

  10. Lily

    Hmm i don’t think i’ve ever actually sat down to read literary fiction but this one seems like such a raw read. I can’t imagine what it would be like to live on the streets and i feel like this book would be intense
    Lily recently posted…The Truth About Alice:ReviewMy Profile

    • kimbacaffeinate

      It is raw, but it is also uplifting as you cannot help but be in awe of Emily’s strength.

    • kimbacaffeinate

      He is awesome, and so friendly with his fans.:)

    • kimbacaffeinate

      Thanks Lauren, this was unique and I loved the protagonist voice.

  11. Steph from fangswandsandfairydust.com

    Chris is a great author, and a really nice person (I used to moderate his forum with a couple of other readers and met him in person a few times). And, I am sad I have gotten a way from reading his stories because of blogging since moderating the forum is what got me blogging. I thought SKELETONS AT THE FEAST was amazing and I do want to read this. I did not, unfortunately, see it on NetGalley.
    Steph from fangswandsandfairydust.com recently posted…Triple Tuesday: True Blood, Upstairs Downstairs and The Grand Budapest HotelMy Profile

    • kimbacaffeinate

      He is wonderful, very fan friendly. I need to read Skeletons at the Feast for sure then.

    • kimbacaffeinate

      Enjoy Stephanie 🙂 I haven’t read one I did not enjoy

  12. Lark

    Wow, Kimba! What a great review! I’ve yet to read any of Bohjalian’s books but he’s definitely going on the TBR list. The way-too-overflowing TBR list. Stop writing such tempting reviews, Kimba, you’re undermining my resolution to reduce my TBR list! (LOL just kidding – keep writing your marvelous reviews!)
    Lark recently posted…TOUR: The White Magic Five and DimeMy Profile

    • kimbacaffeinate

      *grins evilly * sorry 🙁 I cannot help it.

    • kimbacaffeinate

      I hope you read it Melissa. It is different from his previous books…but a fantastic read.