When an accident at a Vermont nuclear power plant causes a meltdown, and forces people who live nearby to abandon their homes, everyone blames Emily’s parents. Her father was an engineer, and her mother was a spokeswoman for the plant, and both were known as big drinkers. Whether drinking played a part in the accident or not, 16-year-old Emily can’t handle the accusations and scorn of people who’ve lost their homes – on top of the pain of losing her parents. So she runs away in the hope of putting distance, and memory, far behind her. She buries her feelings and fears in drugs and other seedy behavior, until she meets a 9-year-old boy who fled a rough foster home. The boy gives her new responsibility, new hope, and eventually heartbreak so big that she risks going back to her radioactive home near the plant to await her fate.
Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands by Chris Bohjalian has a happy ending, but readers must first endure the pain and fear that Emily goes through. Despite the tragedy, or perhaps because of it, Emily finds a courage and resilience she didn’t know she had. I think many of us can relate to the sadness, confusion and fear that Emily goes through, as well as the bravery she shows, even though each of us has our own unique troubles and challenges.