Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands (Vintage Contemporaries) (Paperback)
Vintage, 9780307743930, 288pp.
Publication Date: May 26, 2015
July 2014 Indie Next List
— Liza Bernard, Norwich Bookstore, Norwich, VT
View the List
A heartbreaking, wildly inventive, and moving novel narrated by a teenage runaway, from the bestselling author of Midwives and The Sandcastle Girls.
A Washington Post, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, and Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Best Book of the Year
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.
About the Author
Praise For Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands (Vintage Contemporaries)…
“Suspenseful, provocative, often terrifying yet compassionate. . . . One of the most memorable teenage protagonists in recent fiction.” —The Washington Post
“Heartbreaking. . . . This is an adult novel . . . but readers of any age who love John Green’s novels might find [Emily]’s story, sobering as it is, an awesome one.” —Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
"Stirring, sensitive. . . . One of the most authentic and distinctive voices since Emma Donoghue's [Room].” —San Francisco Chronicle
“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.” —Jodi Picoult
“Chris Bohjalian is a master. . . . Emily Shepard is his greatest accomplishment.” —Los Angeles Times
“A chilling and heartbreaking suspense novel.” —USA Today
“Enthralling and indelible.” —People
“Intelligent, rich in detail, filled with full-blooded characters…. Bohjalian at his finest.” —The Seattle Times
“A ‘must read’ book.” —St. Louis Post Dispatch
“Haunting and resonant.” —The Miami Herald
“Emily’s character is written so well and her story so absorbing (this is very much a read-in-one-or-two-sittings type of book) that it is easy to forget you’re actually reading . . . Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands reminds us of our innate need for connection.” —Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
“A masterful storyteller . . . Bohjalian hits every note. His characters have depth, his story sings.” —The Advocate (Baton Rouge, LA)
“Bohjalian delivers a thoroughly engrossing and poignant coming-of-age story set against a nightmarish backdrop as real as yesterday’s headlines from Fukushima and Chernobyl. And in Emily he's created a remarkable and complicated teenager . . . [with] a wry, honest voice as distinctive as Holden Caulfield's.” —Associated Press
“Dazzling. . . . A novel for the ages. . . . This is pure beauty in book form.” —The Free-Lance Star (Fredericksburg, VA)
“A potent story of loss, hope, and the overpowering yearning for home.” —The Armenian Weekly
“Rings with poetry and truth.” —Library Journal
“A dystopian nightmare entwined with a wrenching personal crisis . . . The notion of ‘just a life I left’ grows more intense for somebody like Emily Shepard who can’t return and is unsure about how to go forward.” —Burlington Free Press
“[A] brave saga.” —Booklist
“Impressive. . . . [Emily’s] admiration for kindred spirit Emily Dickinson serves to humanize her plight, as does an epiphany in the book’s bittersweet conclusion.” —Publishers Weekly
“Bohjalian once again reveals an uncanny talent for crafting a young female protagonist who is fatally flawed, but nevertheless immensely likable. . . . Resonates with a message of hope, truth and the fragility of life.” —BookPage
“Emily’s voice is a compelling one… and hers is a journey readers will avidly follow.” —Kirkus Reviews
Conversation Starters from ReadingGroupChoices.com
Emily says, “Obviously I made some bad choices. I’m
still here, however, so I made some okay ones, too”
(p. 41). How much does her fate depend on her own
decisions, wise or unwise? What role do events beyond
her control—in particular, the public’s unrelenting
hostility toward her father—play in these decisions (pp. 41, 53)?
In telling her story, Emily moves back and forth in time. How does her
narrative reveal her state of mind and the ways in which she perceives
or filters her experiences? Do the language and the style accurately
reflect the voice of a teenage girl? What passages ring particularly true
to you? What is the significance of her noting, “Sometimes when I
reread what I’ve written, I find myself creeped out by what’s between
the lines. What I haven’t written” (p.48)?
Why does Emily divide her story into B.C., “Before Cameron,” and
A.C., “After Cameron”? Does the division represent something more
than mere chronology?
How would you characterize Emily’s decision to return to the Northeast
Kingdom? Is she acting foolishly or is her decision understandable, a
necessary, essential conclusion to all that has gone before?
Many of the stories we read about teens in crisis explore the lives of
those raised in crime-ridden, poverty-stricken areas. Emily comes
from an educated, upper-middle-class family, and lives in a “meadow
mansion.” What does she share with troubled teens from less
fortunate backgrounds? In what instances do Emily’s reactions to her
circumstances embody the positive aspects of her upbringing?
How would you describe the overall mood and tone of the novel? How
does Bohjalian balance the darkness at the heart of the story with an
engaging, often humorous portrait of its protagonist? Would you call
Emily a heroine? Why or why not?
Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands deals with some of the most difficult issues
of our times: the possibility of nuclear catastrophe, homelessness,
drug dealing, prostitution, and child abuse. In what ways does it offer
insights that news reports and official studies cannot duplicate?