FICTION

Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands

Doubleday. Jul. 2014. 288p. ISBN 9780385534833. $25.95; ebk. ISBN 9780385534840. F
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Even before catastrophe strikes the Cape Abenaki nuclear power plant that her father manages, 16-year-old Emily Shepard's world is less than ideal. As the child of alcoholics she's seen more drama than most people twice her age, but the ordinary insanity of life pales beside the reactor meltdown that turns Vermont's Northeast Kingdom into a wasteland. After losing her parents, home, and dog to the disaster that her father is suspected of causing, Emily is left homeless and alone except for the similarly dispossessed nine-year-old boy that she's taken under her wing. Before long, Emily is cutting herself to relieve her grief, isolation, and overwhelming fear of what she's supposed to do with the rest of her life.
VERDICT No stranger to tough issues, Bohjalian tackles nuclear power, homelessness, and self-mutilation with his trademark sensitivity, careful research, and elegant prose. These are heavy subjects to read about—Emily's story is both heartbreaking and frightening, and even the final denouement is afflicted with sorrow. Nevertheless, the book rings with poetry and truth. Neither Bohjalian's fans nor book clubs will be disappointed. [See Prepub Alert, 1/10/14.]
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