Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands by Chris Bohjalian
We all have favorite authors that spark a reading “love/hate relationship”. One author that comes to mind, for me, is Chris Bohjalian. Over the years I’ve enjoyed stunners such as Midwives and Before You Know Kindness. Then there were the Sandcastle Girls and Double Bind that were ok. His latest novel falls into the latter category for me.
This is the story of Emily Shepard, a survivor of a nuclear meltdown in Vermont. Her parents were the big shots at the plant and have become the scapegoats of the tragedy. With this horrifying knowledge and sudden orphan status Emily decides to hit the road and forge out on her own, fleeing from designated safety regions. Under the moniker Abby Bliss, she reinvents herself as she moves from location to location. Typical teenage angst and plenty of drama are de rigueur as we travel along with Emily/Abby in her pursuit of …..well, it changes from chapter to chapter. We are strung along as she tries to figure out a plan. At the beginning of the story her distraught behavior is expected but by the end of the book it is simply tiring.
The plot and feel of the novel are eerily similar to the recent Rivers by Michael Farris Smith. It seems Bohjalian is reaching for the YA audience. At the end of the story I just felt sad and maybe a little let down. While I don’t think all stories are required to leave us with a warm and fuzzy feeling I do expect that my time was well spent. Pick this one up and see if you agree.
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