Book is slated to released tomorrow- July 8, 2014.
Ever since first reading dozens of pictures books about the Mount Vesuvius eruption and consequent destruction of Pompeii during grade school, I have had this ineradicable love and even morbid curiosity in diaster stories. Just last night, the Stephen Spielberg adaptation of War of the Worlds was airing, and I dropped everything I was doing to watch with undeterred fascination at the fictional, tense alien invasion or insurrection playing out in the film’s apocalyptic playground of sorts. So, it was only natural that I knew almost immediately, upon perusing the synopsis of the book, that I was no doubt going to enjoy Chris Bojalian’s newest book Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands, a tense, poignant tale of one poetic, though deeply troubled girl’s story about survival and questionable endurance in the face of a nuclear meltdown in the Northeast Kingdom, or northeastern rural corridor of the state of Vermont.
Rather than focus the story on a myriad number of one-dimensional characters, Chris Bojalian takes the approach of allowing the story to focus only on Emily’s perspective of the events. Emily happens to be the poetic, troubled girl of the story, and Chris Bojalian does an excellent job developing her voice,and effectively hiding away his authorial identity deep with the deeply interwoven layers of depth in this very layered tale of survival, the search for identity, the questionable notion of consciousness, the eerie tale of human survival in the face of a natural disaster, and the resonating psychological tale of loss, grief, dissonance, estrangement, community, etc. It is hard to find one strand of the story that completely encapsulates Emily’s own tale, as it unfolds in fragmentary fashion throughout the novel. At times, the nuclear disaster, at the plant both her mother and father worked in, acts more as a definitive background for the overall thematic mood of the story, or really as a different type of metaphor for the significant fatalistic undercurrent of the story of teen identity and its confusing maelstrom of melodramatic emotions and events that can easily drown the most unsuspecting, bright teen in a sea of meaninglessness.
In a sense, the nuclear disaster in this story, as such, is the perfect way to present a revolutionary. new type of Catcher in the Rye narrative for the post-modern era. Close your Eyes, Hold Hands is really a very versatile tale, but it is Emily’s own psychological landscape that is the true medium, for where this whole narrative of a Vermont community, being besieged by nuclear disaster, occurs. Much like a Virginia Woolf novel, the concept of time is never formatted in a predictable, chronological fashion, but it is very much fragmentary, as Emily appears to telling the tale from a future time, but we are never sure which future is the real future. This has always been Chris Bojalian’s greatest strength as a writer, which is to construct a very subtle tale that never quite fully reveals itself to the reader, unless you the scrupulous reader are able to put the various isolated pieces together, and thus make greater sense of the deeper mechanics of this very exciting, even dangerously suspenseful tale.
So, if you are in the mood for an atypical disaster story, which is really an ingenious new way to describe one poetic girl’s psychological tale of self-discovery and identity, you should be sure to not just close your eyes,but to close your door, and hold your book or e-reader tightly,as you race through this frenetically paced, dramatic, wonderfully written apocalyptic tale that succeeds on more artistic levels than just being a wonderful disaster story on the surface. In a much deeper way, it is really our own perpetual narrative of the always enervating search for our identity and place in this wild, unpredictable universe.