“A very contemporary and controversial subject helps make this novel scarily real. The narrator is Emily, the 14-year-old daughter of parents who both work at a nuclear power plant in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont. The plant melts down, both parents are killed, and there are questions about their responsibility for the disaster. Experiencing guilt by association, Emily goes on the run and ends up homeless in Burlington. She befriends a nine-year-old boy who is also on the run along with other loners looking to survive. Fast-paced, gritty, and believable, this is a novel perfect for book club discussions.”
— Liza Bernard, Norwich Bookstore, Norwich, VT
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 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.
Praise for Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands:
"Emily's story is both heartbreaking and frightening...The book rings with poetry and truth." – Jeanne Bogino, Library Journal
"I have a new favorite Chris Bohjalian novel. Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands is a book I wish I'd been smart enough to write: a masterpiece of narrative voice, of emotion, and of how – as Emily Dickinson might say – the sparest of words can hold a wealth of pain. If you need any proof that fiction can scare us, move us, and break our hearts simultaneously – look no further." – Jodi Picoult