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by Chris Bohjalian
read by Grace Blewer
©2014 Random House Audio
8 hours 15 minutes unabridged
Genres: young adult, general fiction
Filed in: Audiobook Reviews
5 out of 5 halos
PUBLISHER’S SUMMARY: A heartbreaking, wildly inventive, and moving novel narrated by a teenage runaway, from the best-selling 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.
©2014 Chris Bohjalian (P)2014 Random House Audio
AUDIOBOOK REVIEW: It’s just an ordinary day at school for 16-year-old Emily Shepard and her friends when the day is broken by emergency sirens. The sirens are coming from the nearby nuclear power plant. For these kids it is just about the worst sound in the world. Cape Abenaki is centered around the power plant. The houses are where the plant employees live and the exclusive private school is where their kids attend classes. This horrible day is just the beginning for poor Emily.
Emily doesn’t have just one parent in the plant, but both. In fact her father is chief engineer at the plant. Soon rumors begin circulating that Emily’s father may have been drunk at work and the meltdown was his fault. All those people dead, all those families evacuated from their homes, and Emily’s father may be to blame. How can she ever face her friends again? Will she be forced to testify against her father at a trial?
Unable to bear the shame Emily runs away and lives on the streets and it seems she is headed for a bad ending until she meets 9-year-old Cameron. Cameron has just escaped from an abusive foster home. He needs someone to take care of him and Emily takes on the job. The two survive, barely, living on the streets and in shelters until Cameron gets sick. Emily knows he needs to go to a hospital but that would almost certainly mean turning herself in and facing the horror of the power plant all over again.
Close Your Eyes Hold Hands is a sad story of how a young girl can so quickly lose everything she knew and end up on the streets. What makes it so sad is that even though it is a fictional story, I know things like this happen to kids all the time. Emily bounces from shelter to shelter, falls in with a drug dealer who prostitutes her and other girls, and eventually just lives on the street in a shelter made of leaf-filled trash bags. Her story is a sad one, but also compelling. You can’t help but root for her as she survives one day at a time. It’s a hard time for her but also a time of growth and for coming-of-age if you’ll pardon the cliché. I’m not exactly sure if the ending was a happy one or not, but it was appropriate. Give it a listen and let me know what you think.
Narrator Grace Blewer was a good match for Close Your Eyes Hold Hands. She handled the character of Emily Shepard perfectly in my opinion. A drama major at New York University, Blewer also happens to be the daughter of author Chris Bohjalian, which created an interesting dynamic in the reading. At the end of the audiobook there is a short interview with Bohjalian and Blewer together discussing the experience. Of his daughter’s reading, Bohjalian said, “I love the way Grace brought Emily Shepard to life, and the way she gets Emily’s sense of humor — and what the character describes as her ‘brain chemistry issues.’ It’s a poignant and powerful and authentic reading.”
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Special thanks to Random House Audio for this review copy. Audiobook review by Steven Brandt. This audiobook review is based on the unabridged audiobook. Come back soon for more audiobook reviews from Audiobook-Heaven.