Predictability in an author is a good thing, but so is the unknown. I enjoy knowing what I’m in for when I read a new selection by a favorite writer. But it’s so much better when an author delivers something different yet equally amazing with each new novel. Chris Bohjalian is just such an author. With this latest work, he once again has gone off course in a delightful way for me.
Emily Shepard doesn’t have a picture perfect life. Her parents drink and argue too much and are miserable with their lives in Vermont. Emily “fails to live up to her potential” according to counselors at her school. She’s always right on the edge of things, flirting around with major trouble. Still, she lives in a nice home, loves writing in her journals, and adores her dog Maggie. Then it all begins to fall apart in a matter of hours. The nuclear power plant where both of her parents work has a meltdown, killing her parents and scores of other people. Her town is declared radioactive, and to make matters worse everyone blames her father for the devastating accident. So Emily does the only thing she knows to do. She flees her small town and heads to Burlington where she joins the ranks of homeless teenagers trying to survive. Hooking, stealing, using drugs, cutting…Emily experiences it all during the few short months she’s on the streets. If not for the love of a lost little boy she might have stayed there. But one tragic event leads to another and she eventually finds herself back on the road to home, to confront her emotional demons as well as whatever physical ones might remain.
This book started off well, pulling me in very early on. It proceeded nicely if somewhat uneventfully for about the first half. Then the story built to a crescendo, ending on a high note. Especially memorable for me is the moment when the reader finds out the meaning behind the title. If anything was missing for me, it would be that I was left with a few questions about some of the major characters. But still, sometimes it’s better to be left wondering than to be given an ending that you don’t like.
Buy it Now: Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands: A Novel