CLOSE YOUR EYES, HOLD HANDS

Chris Bohjalian

A Washington Post, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, and

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Best Book of the Year

In a voice that shifts from anguished to sarcastic,

heartbroken to hopeful, sixteen-year-old Emily

Shepard recounts her solitary odyssey after the

meltdown of a nuclear power plant near her home

in northern Vermont. Both her parents worked at

the plant: her father as chief engineer, her mother

as head of public relations. Her father had a reputation as a heavy drinker,

more …

A Washington Post, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, and

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Best Book of the Year

In a voice that shifts from anguished to sarcastic,

heartbroken to hopeful, sixteen-year-old Emily

Shepard recounts her solitary odyssey after the

meltdown of a nuclear power plant near her home

in northern Vermont. Both her parents worked at

the plant: her father as chief engineer, her mother

as head of public relations. Her father had a reputation as a heavy drinker,

and in the media furor that follows the accident he becomes the scapegoat.

Evacuated to Burlington with her classmates, Emily realizes her very name

puts her in jeopardy. She assumes a new identity as Abby Bliss—the name

of the best friend of her idol, the poet Emily Dickinson—and enters the

tumultuous world of life on the streets. She briefly finds haven at a shelter

for runaways, then moves on to a seedy apartment where she and other

teens are forced into drug dealing and prostitution. Escaping to the streets,

Emily meets a nine-year-old boy who has run away from an abusive foster

home. They form an intense and caring bond until another crisis tears

them apart. Alone again, Emily makes one final risky choice, hoping to

make peace with her past at last.

The Washington Post called Emily “the most memorable teenage protagonist in recent fiction.” As you journey with her, you will be captivated, appalled, and deeply moved by her extraordinary tale.

less …
  • Vintage
  • Paperback
  • May 2015
  • 288 Pages
  • 9780307743930

Buy the Book

$15.95

indies Bookstore indies Bookstore

About Chris Bohjalian

Chris Bohjalian is the author of seventeen books,

including the New York Times bestsellers The Light in the Ruins, The

Sandcastle Girls, Skeletons at the Feast, and The Double Bind. His novel

Midwives was a number one New York Times bestseller and a selection

of Oprah’s Book Club. Three of his books have been made into movies.

Bohjalian lives in Vermont with his wife and daughter.

Praise

“A compelling tale of loss, resilience, and transformation.”—The Boston

Globe, “Pick of the Week”

“Chris Bohjalian is a master . . . Emily Shepard is his greatest accomplishment.”—Los Angeles Times

Discussion Questions

Emily says, “Obviously I made some bad choices. I’m

still here, however, so I made some okay ones, too”

(p. 41). How much does her fate depend on her own

decisions, wise or unwise? What role do events beyond

her control—in particular, the public’s unrelenting

hostility toward her father—play in these decisions (pp. 41, 53)?

In telling her story, Emily moves back and forth in time. How does her

narrative reveal her state of mind and the ways in which she perceives

or filters her experiences? Do the language and the style accurately

reflect the voice of a teenage girl? What passages ring particularly true

to you? What is the significance of her noting, “Sometimes when I

reread what I’ve written, I find myself creeped out by what’s between

the lines. What I haven’t written” (p.48)?

Why does Emily divide her story into B.C., “Before Cameron,” and

A.C., “After Cameron”? Does the division represent something more

than mere chronology?

How would you characterize Emily’s decision to return to the Northeast

Kingdom? Is she acting foolishly or is her decision understandable, a

necessary, essential conclusion to all that has gone before?

Many of the stories we read about teens in crisis explore the lives of

those raised in crime-ridden, poverty-stricken areas. Emily comes

from an educated, upper-middle-class family, and lives in a “meadow

mansion.” What does she share with troubled teens from less

fortunate backgrounds? In what instances do Emily’s reactions to her

circumstances embody the positive aspects of her upbringing?

How would you describe the overall mood and tone of the novel? How

does Bohjalian balance the darkness at the heart of the story with an

engaging, often humorous portrait of its protagonist? Would you call

Emily a heroine? Why or why not?

Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands deals with some of the most difficult issues

of our times: the possibility of nuclear catastrophe, homelessness,

drug dealing, prostitution, and child abuse. In what ways does it offer

insights that news reports and official studies cannot duplicate?