Posts Tagged Close Your Eyes

book review: Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands


Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands by Chris Bohjalian. Publisher: Doubleday (July 2014). Contemporary fiction. Hardcover. 288 pages. ISBN13: 9780385534833.

In Chris Bohjalian’s 17th novel, there’s been a disaster at a nuclear power plant in Vermont. Sixteen-year-old Emily lost both parents who worked there. Her father as an engineer. Her mother the public relations manager. She’s now homeless and fending for herself in Burlington, Vermont. She’s cutting, taking drugs, stealing and working as a prostitute. Told in first-person, the novel jumps from present to past as Emily contemplates her situation. Choppy sentence structure, cadence. It didn’t flow. Some novels do and some don’t.

I like Chris Bohjalian. He’s a nice guy. He’s a good writer. I cried at the end of my favorite of his novels, Skeletons at the Feast. I also truly enjoyed The Sandcastle Girls, Midwives and Secrets of Eden. He adores Mad Men. He likes cats. I follow him on twitter. I’d hoped to like his latest novel, his 18th. Unfortunately it fell flat for me.

Almost stopped reading with the early use of the word beater on page 58 to describe an article of clothing. I saw it used again on another page. Was shocked. For someone who has written about a lot of female characters and particularly battered women and abusive relationships doesn’t Bohjalian realize that by using beater instead of tank top or some other descriptive (he IS a fiction writer) he’s propagating rape culture and violence against women. “Beater” and “wife beater” need to be removed from our collective vocabulary.

Confused that character says of Emily Blunt: “Like Watson, she’s great at women about to go mental.” I’ve seen most Blunt films and can’t think of one example. I asked Bohjalian about this via twitter and he told me that Emily was thinking of The Devil Wears Prada. Yeah, don’t think so. In comparison to Emily Watson’s characters? No. I adore Emily Blunt and Emily Watson. Guess I want their work accurately represented. I realize this is a fictional teenager’s interpretation but still.

I did not care about Emily and that’s unfortunate. Not enough character development. By the end of the novel I should have been invested in this girl. I felt I knew very little about her except for surface things. She likes Emily Dickinson. She keeps journals. She cuts herself. But who is this girl. I felt there wasn’t enough depth or connection for Emily.

RATING: ***/5

–review by Amy Steele

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for review from Doubleday.

purchase at Amazon: Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands: A Novel

, , , ,

Leave a comment

Close Your Eyes: book review

Close Your Eyes , by Amanda Eyre Ward. Publisher: Random House (July 26, 2011). Literary fiction. Hardcover: 272 pg.

After my mother’s stone setting, I had been told to stop mourning. So I did stop—I was a good girl. But if you don’t let yourself feel sadness, you don’t feel any other emotions, either: hunger, happiness, love.

A captivating mystery/thriller, Close Your Eyes is also the story of self-discovery and family. The focus is on Lauren, a 32-year-old realtor in Austin, Texas who still tries to cope with what she thinks happened when she was eight. Her mother was murdered and her father got convicted for the crime. He’s incarcerated. She has panic attacks, nightmares. Lauren feels alone and isolated despite her loving relationship with her long-term boyfriend Gerry. How could anyone possibly understand how she feels and what kind of loss she’s suffered? Her brother Alex relates to her and provides her with protection and companionship. Alex thinks their father is innocent and has worked to clear his name for years. Perhaps his scientific mind [he’s a doctor] allowed him to come to that conclusion.

But I had loved him so fully, a girl’s love, and he had betrayed us all. I felt a familiar rush of anger and need; they were bound together for me. So as not to be subsumed, I shoved the surging back.

When Alex goes missing when he’s abroad with Doctors without Borders, Lauren begins to re-examine everything she’s believed. Lauren just wasn’t sure. Now with Alex missing, Lauren feels adrift and continuing Alex’s research might help her focus and ground her. Author Amanda Eyre Ward’s vivid descriptions allow you to feel you’re sweating out a sticky Austin summer. She also based this provocative thriller on a real-life case that took place near her hometown in New York in the 80s. Layered characters, questionable recall and a nuanced tone all make Close Your Eyes a complete page-turner with unexpected moments.

Shop Indie Bookstores


Leave a comment

Some Summer Reading Suggestions

Close Your Eyes by Amanda Eyre Ward

Devoured this mystery/thriller and story about self-discovery and an amazing brother-sister relationship. It’s a complete page turner. [longer review soon]

The Pursuit of Alice Thrift by Elinor Lipman

In this engaging story, Lipman delves into an honest and amusing portrayal that follows a late-bloomer in her journey toward self-confidence and contentment. Alice Thrift, an unhappy and socially backward surgical resident in Boston brings her head up and out of her shell through a series of odd events—a mistake in surgery, participation in a birth and the central focus of the book: her doomed relationship with an unsuitable salesman. Lipman creates genuinely warm and hilariously zany characters just like those you might pass in your daily life.

Feminista by Erica Kennedy

Erica Kennedy turned out a feverish bitch lit novel with an astounding eye for the often ridiculousness aspects of social-climbing, societal expectations and prosperity. The central figure 33-year-old Sydney Zamora is outspoken, hard-working and independent and rocks the combat boots. She’s also a bit pissed off at everything. She literally says whatever is on her mind with little editing. This lovely, sassy biracial Manhattan celebrity journalist earns a fantastic salary for glossy magazine Cachet and works very few hours per week. But is she truly happy? Why can’t women have both great careers and great personal lives? Will powerful female executives with families ever NOT be asked how they manage to “balance” it all? Will single women over 30 ever stop being asked if they have plans to “settle down?” Will society stop looking at single women over 35 as anomalies or freaks? In FEMINISTA, Kennedy manages to delve into such multi-faceted issues with adept style, wit and an innate knowledge of what motivates and infuriates today’s women.

BEAT by Amy Boaz

As Beat opens, an American and her 7-year-old daughter explore the Louvre. Days pass and the duo wander the streets of Paris from café to museum to bistro to park. Once it has been established that this is not a vacation for Frances and her daughter Cathy but an escape from the New York suburbs, the reader starts to wonder why this mother moves from one seedy hotel to another with one eye over her shoulder during this excursion. Through flashbacks that piece together a fiery romance, author Amy Boaz methodically reveals the reasons. Through dazzling, smart, dynamic writing, Boaz spins an enigmatic, unique story about dissatisfaction, passionate love, and the value of individual character. Boaz writes vividly and thoughtfully. Beautifully written, Beat often read likes poetry.

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake stands out from other novels with its delightful and richly woven central character Rose. In tasting any homemade food, she has the innate and unusual ability to discover the feelings and secrets of the person who prepared it. When she’s nine, her mom serves her lemon cake and it’s quite upsetting for the young girl. But soon she grows into her special gift. She finds ways to embrace it or avoid it. Rose’s gift and its impact on her life– both positive and negative– slowly unfolds in a quiet yet riveting fashion that overflows with emotion. Rose’s special gift changes her relationships with her mother, father, unusual brother [who also has a strange secret], as well her societal interactions. Aimee Bender writes exquisitely. The fairy-tale magic realism propelling The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake is charming and irresistible.

The Swimming Pool by Holly LeCraw

The Swimming Pool contains far too many secrets that could have devastating effects on all involved. The setting: Cape Cod. Siblings Jed and Callie take some time off to stay at the family’s house on the Cape. Jed leaves his job in Atlanta and Callie leaves her husband back in Greenwich, Conn. The story involves intricate family secrets that connect two families in rather unexpected ways. Both Callie and Jed have many questions and unresolved feelings toward the deaths of their parents. LeCraw deftly unravels the past and mixes it with the present through a riveting narrative style.

Tethered by Amy McKinnon

Amy MacKinnon’s an exquisite writer who arranges sentences with precision and care. TETHERED delves into the absolutely necessary, though some might feel morbid field of undertaking. MacKinnon provides the pertinent details and visuals. In Clara Marsh, TETHERED has the ideal detached heroine who left her own painful childhood behind to pursue this unusual profession at a funeral home in Brockton, Mass. [her mother died in a car accident leaving her to be raised by an abusive grandmother]. She leads a quiet and solitary life and prefers it that way. She gardens and even has her own perfect secret garden that few people know about. Gardening is her escape. When a young girl, Trecie, begins hanging around the funeral home and then shows up in child pornography, Clara is reluctantly drawn into a case along with Detective Mike Sullivan. The case is also connected to an unidentified child [nicknamed Precious Doe] who died three years prior. The funeral home gave her a service and buried her. Signs lead to the Reverend and then even to Clara’s own boss who treats her as his daughter. Who really is the mastermind behind this child pornography ring and will it be too late to save Trecie from the same fate as poor Precious Doe? TETHERED is a clever thriller that keeps you turning pages and guessing to the end.

Dead Light District by Jill Edmondson

In Dead Light District, Author Jill Edmondson has added exactly the right amount of research to this novel to provide background information and advance the plot but not bog the reader down in details. Private Investigator Sasha Jackson learns about sex trafficking, sex trade and prostitution—probably more than she’d ever expected. It disgusts and scares Sasha to think about the mistreatment and exploitation of women throughout the world. This provides her with a moral dilemma at times in searching for the missing Mexican call girl, Mary Carmen. Did Mary Carmen leave on her own accord or was she kidnapped or did a former pimp find her? When a pimp is found murdered, for Sasha, all signs point to Mary Carmen and she’s not so sure that’s all that bad a thing. Couldn’t Mary Carmen have acted in self-defense? Edmondson has created the ideal character in Jackson—liberal morals, ex-drummer/singer turned PI, single woman over 35 who’s sassy and fun.

The Social Climber’s Handbook by Molly Jong-Fast

Through acerbic wit and a ruthless plot, author Molly Jong-Fast highlights greed, excess and selfishness in the quick moving The Social Climber’s Handbook. It’s an amusing and sometimes disturbing novel about moneyed and powerful Manhattanites. The clever Jong-Fast provides a diabolical twist making The Social Climber’s Handbook an even juicier read. Dick and Daisy Greenbaum, an unhappy couple with two disaffected young daughters, possess affluence and status but lack an affinity for each other or anything of real importance. What happens when their protected world collapses around them? Jong-Fast applies a critical eye to marriage and family amidst the standards of “the wacky world of wealth.” Some parts are cringe-inducing and others laugh-out-loud.

The Singular Exploits of Wonder Mom & Party Girl by Marc Schuster

This is a refreshing novel about a woman facing the realities of getting older and losing her comfort zones through divorce. Using wit, situational humor and deft observations, author Marc Schuster constructs a fast-paced story with various twists and turns.
One night when she’s out with a co-worker, she tries cocaine and soon finds she really likes it. Audrey’s Wonder Mom by day and Party Girl at night. Soon the lines blur and she’s a real mess. Audrey can no longer keep her dark secret. While becoming a drug addict may be extreme, author Marc Schuster uses it as a metaphor for many quick fixes that Americans use to solve their issues. The Singular Exploits of Wonder Mom & Party Girl hovers between amusing and tragic but doesn’t cross the line too much in either direction.

, , , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a comment

%d bloggers like this: