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.
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Her admiration for kindred spirit Emily Dickinson serves to humanize her plight, as does an epiphany in the books' bittersweet conclusion." Publishers Weekly
"In his sixteenth novel, the versatile Bohjalian has Emily tell her harrowing, tragic story retrospectively... [A] brave saga." Booklist
"Wrenching... Emily's voice is a compelling one and hers is a journey readers will avidly follow." Kirkus
"Emily's story is both heartbreaking and frightening... The book rings with poetry and truth." Library Journal
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Chris Bohjalian and his wife decided to leave New York City in 1986 for
"pastoral" Vermont after a wild and terrifying 45-minute cab ride that
ultimately dropped them at a crack house being stormed by police.
Fans of Mr. Bohjalian are probably very pleased that he did not take the advice given him in college by the writer-in-residence when he applied for a writing seminar. After reading the short story required for admittance, the writer/instructor "slid my short story across the expanse of the desk as if it were a piece of profoundly disagreeable road kill. 'I have three words for you, she said. Be a banker'."
Instead he had the courage to follow his dream and take his own advice which he now doles out to new writers wanting to be discovered. ...
Chris Bohjalian: bo-jail-yen (first syllable pronounced like to tie a bow)
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