Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands is the first book I have read by Chris Bohjalian. It was not what I expected at all. This is a dark story with some pretty intense themes, but written very well. I really enjoyed the world building and the Emily Dickinson poetry that was painted into the writing. It has been a while since I read a dystopian/post-apocalyptic book and I was extremely satisfied with this one.
This book is a narration by the lead character Emily Shepard. Her entire world has fallen apart and she must survive in a world completely different than the one she had known her whole life. Emily changes her name through the book to keep herself out of danger from the fallout created by her parents. Emily is attempting to survive in the best way that she knows how and in turn realizes that the way that she knows how to live might be the reason why she struggles so much. She is a tough character with a loving heart, but makes some pretty poor choices. Her voice is authentic and at times heartbreakingly raw as she tells of her life. I found myself quite frequently wanting to scream at Emily while she recounted her story. As I said, she made bad choices and even though she realized after the fact that it wasn’t a good choice, she never once took the time to think about the repercussions of her actions. It wasn’t until Cameron came along that she seemed to want to change her course of direction.
The book is told in two separate parts. Before Cameron and After Cameron. Cameron is a little boy who she befriended and became responsible for. Their story is nothing but sad and made my heart hurt. The other side characters were interesting, yet despicable.
While I enjoyed this book, there were some hard themes to deal with while reading. Drug use was a constant through this book, which wasn’t as bad to read about as the cutting. She didn’t want to start cutting, but did anyways and up until the very end of the book, kept doing it. She let her “friends” talk her into a lot of bad stuff, cutting being one of them. She let them drag her into prostitution, stealing, and drug abuse. Emily found herself multiple times homeless, which was hard to read about, especially when she was living in an igloo made out of trash bags and frozen leaves with 9-year-old Cameron.
Overall, I enjoyed this book because it was a completely interesting concept. It kept me on my toes waiting to find out what new mess Emily could get herself into. I liked how it was told by Emily in a way that made me feel like we were sitting across the table from each other sharing our life stories. I liked how the author tied in the title to the story and how everything seemed to round out by the end of the book. I liked that most of the issues Emily faced were resolved by the end of the novel. I especially liked how I loved and hated Emily and the mess that her world became. I just really liked this book.