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Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands

3.59  ·  Rating Details ·  12,260 Ratings  ·  2,049 Reviews
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 experi
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published July 8th 2014 by Doubleday (first published 2014)
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Popular Answered Questions

Jenny I did not, but that was one of the most powerful moments of the book for me: when that is revealed.
This question contains spoilers… (view spoiler)
Alycia She's quoting Emily Dickinson. I don't think it has anything to do with her parents.

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Jul 17, 2014 Elyse rated it liked it
2.5 to be honest! I like this author 'a lot' --I've enjoyed all of his other books --yet this book just does not feel authentic.

Its not a 'horrible' book....but its 'off'.

I'm not sure that 'anything' I write will be the 'reason' for the 'off-ness' or not. I'm not a writer. (but this book is lacking feeling). A reader can only be 'talked-to' for so long. I felt like I was being 'talked-to' this entire novel --with almost no emotion --it feels borderline rude.

Right from start of this novel we l
Betsy Hetzel
Dec 24, 2014 Betsy Hetzel rated it it was ok
Shelves: popular-fiction
This book has ALL the makings of a gigantic tear-jerker: the teenage, female main character's parents are killed in a nuclear plant explosion, her alcoholic, engineer father is blamed and she, Emily, their only child, is vilified. She winds up in shelters so she has something to eat, in apartments w/ druggies who "force" her into prostitution so she has someplace to stay, and when these fail, she's out on the streets building an igloo w/ leaves held together by ice and pilfering/stealing what s ...more
Pamela Klinger-horn
Emily Shephard will break your heart. In CLOSE YOUR EYES, HOLD HANDS, author Chris Bohjalian has created an amazing portrait of a teen in crisis. After being orphaned by a nuclear disaster for which her father may have been responsible, Emily sets off on the run. She needs a protector, a family, an adult. Instead,she faces a series of catastrophic choices that lead her deeper into danger. Her only support during this time is the poetry of Emily Dickinson, in whom she finds a kindred spirit.
In th
May 24, 2016 Kelli rated it it was ok
Shelves: audio, 2016-fiction
This story did not work for me at all. It seemed like part of a story to me, the middle part mostly, as if someone had ripped out a large chunk of a diary: a little disjointed, a little hard to follow, very difficult to connect to. The bones of a fantastic story were there but the way it was executed left me feeling very little. I was most affected by the explanation of the title, which had little to do with the story yet it shook me to my core. Beyond that, it felt factual and cold. 2 stars.
Stephen Kiernan
Feb 12, 2014 Stephen Kiernan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Eighteen books into his career. Chris Bohjalian has created his wisest and most compelling narrator ever.

Emily Shepherd has survived the meltdown of a nuclear plant in her Vermont hometown, but the accident has left her orphaned, homeless, and on the run from people seeking a scapegoat for the disaster. By the bottom of page two she will have you hooked, and rooting for her, as life gets harder and a 16-year-old's capacity for survival is tested in all directions.

A clear-eyed examination of tee
Jan 28, 2016 ☮Karen rated it liked it
Shelves: audio, read-in-2016
This audiobook was read by Chris Bohjalian's daughter Grace, and I for one think she was superb. At the end the two of them discussed how she helpedhim get the teenage jargon just right; but they both agreed, as do I, that Bohjalian all on his own is amazingly talented atchanneling females in distress. Surprisingly good. He does it all the time. Now we have him perfecting the personality of teenager Emily Shepherd in Vermont after her parentsare presumed killed in a meltdown of the nuclear power ...more
Patrice Hoffman
After a brief hiatus due to personal issues, I tried to get back into Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands but never quite could. It's not to say that Chris Bohjalian's writing isn't good, or that the novel isn't interesting. It just seems that I could never reacquaint myself with the narrator Emily Shepard. I will do my best...

Emily Shepard introduces herself by telling readers of her life in an igloo as a homeless child. One horrific accident, involving her parents caused her to be in that position. Bo
Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands is the first novel I have read by the author Chris Bohjalian. It was not what I expected at all; it's a dark story and I wasn't prepared for the themes it presented. The world building of this dystopian/post-apocalyptic tale is excellent and the character development is well done, so good that parts were hard to read. This story is told narration style by the lead character Emily Shepard. This teenager's world has literally fallen apart. She has nothing but her name, ...more
Sep 13, 2015 Connie rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audible-cd, june-2015
Just finished....not my favorite of to come.

I love Bohjalian and think he is a masterful storyteller, but for whatever reason I just did not connect to this book. I didn't emotionally connect to Emily/Abby, nor to very many of the other characters. The journal style of narrative did not especially grab me either. I felt this bounced around way too much that I just never really cared about what was coming next. (view spoiler)
Feb 03, 2014 Pam rated it it was amazing
Emily is telling her story in only a way that a seventeen year old girl can tell. It is, at times, a bit random and very Double Bind (ish). The title of the book, too, seems a bit random and confusing until it is revealed. And, boy oh boy, when it was revealed, it took my breath away. A quote from the book (w/o giving anything away), "It seems to me that if you didn't know the context of those words, they were kind of pretty."

I had the opportunity to meet Chris this past summer at a book readin
Feb 09, 2015 Lori rated it liked it
This was so different from the two Bohjalian novels that I've read but I really liked it!!! I really enjoyed the journal type format... felt that it added authenticity to Emily's story!!! Which was raw... emotionally gripping and believable!!! Her character was easy to get behind and root for!!! The explanation behind the title was very well placed and could not have had the same significance if it had been done any other way... that was masterfully done!!! Strong 4 stars...
Po Po
Nov 22, 2014 Po Po rated it it was ok
Not horrific, but not good either. Just meh. Inauthentic troubled teen girl voice. Felt seriously contrived.

One disaster follows a clusterfuck follows a fiasco follows a colossal mess. I suppose if you like daytime TV, you might like this.
Jul 04, 2014 Nicky rated it it was ok
I received this book from a first reads giveaway. I was looking forward to it because I had read "Midwives" years ago and really enjoyed it. Unfortunately, this book was somewhat of a disappointment.
The story is told by teenage Emily, who has been orphaned by a nuclear reactor disaster. Both her parents were employees at the facility, and it appears her father, perhaps in a drunken state, is responsible for the meltdown.
The story follows Emily's journey for the next year or so, as she makes one
Aug 11, 2014 Kathryn rated it it was ok
I just can't get into this story. I so thought it would be something unique and different and captivating. It just didn't do it for me and I have no desire to finish it....darn it anyway....
Mar 17, 2016 Wendy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mar-16
Another great book! I love his writing!
Disclosure: I got this book as a prepub at ALA, but ended up not reading the print version. Instead, I listened to the audio book from my library. Spoilers throughout!

So, I admit that I grabbed this one on the basis of a quick skim of its back matter, and that I made some mistaken assumptions about its nature overall. The blurb leads with Emily, a teenaged girl who lives in an igloo made of garbage bags, in the aftermath of a nuclear reactor meltdown in the Northeast Kingdom in Vermont. Sounds s
Branwen Sedai *of the White Ajah*
I once read a short story about these four guys who've survived a shipwreck and are now in this open boat, and they can see the shore and people on the shore can see them, but the people on the shore don't realize these four dudes are exhausted and in serious trouble because they can't reach the beach. The guys in the boat are in danger of drowning, and the morons on the beach are waving at them because they have no idea. That's sort of how I feel most of the time: I was out at sea in this littl ...more
A Book Vacation
Aug 12, 2014 A Book Vacation rated it it was amazing
To see my full review:

This is an amazing, poignant story that delves deep into the world of teen homelessness. Emily Shepherd promises to tell the whole truth; she doesn’t sugarcoat it for readers, and she sometimes strays from the topic of hand, but the novel flows beautifully and I was enamored from the very beginning.

Life hasn’t been easy for Emily, and as the final remnants of her world fall apart with the meltdown of the nuclear power plant her parent
Book Concierge
Book on CD narrated by Grace Blewer.

Emily Shepard is a troubled teen. Totally understandable, given that she’s been orphaned by a nuclear plant disaster where both her parents worked, she’s homeless, and she’s one of the most reviled people in Vermont, if not all of America. This is her story.

The novel is told as a series of journal entries, or writings encouraged by a therapist to help the writer (Emily) understand how she came to this point in her life. Opening line: I built an igloo aga
Aug 06, 2014 Laurielib rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorites, bookclub
Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands was hard to put down. Bohjalian's writing and characters are so impeccably crafted. Emily Shepard is a new teen heroine identified as the "Queen of Underachievers" and suffering from "impulse control". An the only child of two unhappy, yet loving, parents who work at a Vermont nuclear power plant, Emily struggles with growing up and fitting in. Bohaljian captures all the pain, angst and emotional immaturity associated with the teen years. When the plant suffers a melt ...more
Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands by Chris Bohjalian is beyond my meager words to describe. I found it to be provoking, poignant, unpredictable (which is to be expected with a teenager as a main character) and unforgettable. I think we often forget how much teenagers feel and how things can be so over the top with them.

Emily’s parents work in the local nuclear reactor. She is an only child who has been lashing out at her parents for their attention and about their drinking. Her favorite companion is M
Casey Hampton
Jun 23, 2014 Casey Hampton rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: young-adult
TUF: Tedious. Uneventful. Frustrating.

I was interested to learn what was happening with the dog, but that's about it. This story is about a young girl trying to survive a nuclear meltdown, and I didn't give a damn, not one little damn. I wanted to care about the characters, what they were facing, how they were overcoming, but in the end... I just didn't. Sure, the situation is interesting enough, but it's the characters we either root for, or against. We need to see growth of some sort, for the
Jul 14, 2014 Kimberly rated it really liked it
I first discovered Chris Bohjalian in 2011 when I read and loved his suspense thriller, The Night Strangers. Since then I have read two of his historical fictions The Sandcastle Girls and The Light in the Ruins. Each story is vastly different, beautiful, captivating and memorable. It seems no matter what story Bohjalian tells it is destined to entwine itself into my memory.

I am not going to lie; when I saw this title on NetGalley, I requested it without even reading the synopsis. It did not matt
Apr 02, 2014 Tara rated it it was amazing
I won a copy of this book in a First Reads giveaway. Here is Amazon's description of the book:

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
Harry Brake
Oct 03, 2014 Harry Brake rated it it was amazing
I breezed through this in about 4 days and the 271 pages honestly, were not long enough. A gift from a an author, this was more than a gift. Heartbreaking, realistic, yet letting us in to the plight of many individuals, life situations, and the scary potential of technology and its aftermath, this novel on relationships bring you aboard this roller coaster of emotion from the very beginning. Raw in the absolute right places, the ongoing relationships of Emily, the fallout and shadow of how her p ...more
Nov 17, 2014 Sheri rated it liked it
I almost put this on my young adult shelf. In fact, if the trucker sex was a bit less graphic, I probably would not only have put it on my YA shelf, but suggested it as suitable reading for my 12 year old (and I don't censor much). It reminded me a bit of Age of Miracles and was in general very YA in tone.

The concept of a nuclear meltdown in Vermont (on American soil!) is a great one and I felt could have been much better done. Emily is not a bad narrator and she has a few good insights (my favo
Jul 23, 2014 Olga rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I love Bohjalian, have read all, follow him on FB, have great respect for his interest in really tough issues. My favorite is "Before You Know Kindness".
I was so excited to be the first one at my library to check out the CD book "Close your eyes, hold hands". Great narrator - both the character and the performer, Chris's daughter Grace Experience. Tough issues, as always. But...
This time I did not loose sleep over the book. Enjoyed it, was interested but did not loose sleep. Not having been (fo
Jun 08, 2015 Barbara rated it did not like it
There was an interesting article/ review in today's Boston Sunday Globe, (6/29/14) with Chris Bohjalian. It was revealing to discover how he attacks each writing project. I especially noted his statement, " I've written some really terrible books...The books that are tree-killing mediocrities are those that I begin without a clear vision."
I can think of one or two which I would agree are what he also calls "clunkers". I wonder if he would agree. I'll have to wait for this one to arrive from the
Jul 26, 2014 Julie rated it it was ok
I really wanted to like this book, because I've really loved many of Chris Bohjalian's other books. But I never really warmed up to it. I finished it because I wanted to see where Emily finally ended up, but honestly, I didn't really care about her as much as I expected to. Her voice felt kind of contrived, and she showed much less emotion than I expected a teenage girl to show, given the circumstances. She also seemed much too "tough," adapting to neatly impossible situations with much more gra ...more
Berna Schell
Oct 01, 2014 Berna Schell rated it it was ok
I hold this author in such high regard that it pains me to rate this book so low. However, I do believe this rating is accurate. This was a rambling, stream of consciousness book that never solidified into a story for me. There were plot lines that were unresolved threads that could have been lifted from the book and never affected the plot line (Emily's cutting). All in all, it was a disappointment that is not worth your time. Not giving up on this author - he has done some fantastic work. Movi ...more
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Chris is the author of 19 books, most of which were New York Times bestsellers. His work has been translated into over 30 languages and three times become movies.

His new novel, "The Sleepwalker," a story of a mother of two with a very rare form of parasomnia who disappear
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“I don’t know, maybe I just wanted to be alone. Maybe I just didn’t want to be social because antisocial people have a whole lot less to lose.” 13 likes
“Welcomes seclusion. Not precisely antisocial, but reclusive.” 3 likes
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