By: Colleen Oakley
Publisher: Gallery Books
Publication Date: 3/7/2017
My Rating: 5 Stars
Talented storyteller, Colleen Oakley returns following her smashing debut, Before I Go (2015) with her latest poignant love story, CLOSE ENOUGH TO TOUCH – full of emotion, readers will laugh and cry and fall in love with the memorable characters.
“ . . . Love is messy. It doesn’t come to us in a perfect box all wrapped up in a bow. It’s more like a gift from a child, crayon-scrawled and crumpled. Imperfect. But always a gift just the same.”
Jubilee Jenkins did not wake up one morning and think she was going to become a recluse. She is allergic to other people.
Born in 1989 to a single mother, she was the typical infant, and it wasn’t until she was three the issues began. Starting with hives and welts to hospital emergency room visits, and advancing to an EpiPen and anaphylaxis. The physicians were perplexed.
When she was six years old, she was diagnosed with type IV contact dermatitis to foreign human skin cells. She is allergic to other people. The only one of a handful of people in the history of the world with the same condition. Rare.
She explodes in welts and hives when someone else’s skin touches hers. Anaphylaxis if she came into oral contact with another human (kissing). She almost died. A boy kissed her. The tongue swelled and throat closed.
Then three months later her mom married Lenny a gas station owner, packed a bag, and left. Sending checks, Jubilee has not left her home in nine years. She felt like a freak. Making do with ordering her food and receiving her education sitting at home online.
Her worst nightmare. Her mom dies, now she is forced to leave her home in order, to support herself. She is terrified. She needs money. She must find a job. How will she leave her home and remain safe?
She finds work at the library and meets Eric Keegan. Eric is divorced and having a problem communicating with his children. An estranged teenage daughter, Ellie and adopted son Aja.
Jubilee will soon become connected with this family in so many ways, on so many levels. Will she ever be able to have a normal human contact relationship? An experimental cure? Would it be too much to hope for? Can she fall in love for the first time at age 28?
What a delightful story and what a fabulous front cover! Can you imagine a life without touch? Three wounded souls connect in unexpected ways.
From Oakley’s debut and her background before becoming a novelist — a health journalist, having written a few articles about allergies, among many other topics, I love her insights and interest in the medical field, which is always intriguing to me since I read everything I can get my hands on and continued research when it comes to allergies.
She integrates newsworthy topics into modern contemporary family lives, allowing her characters to come alive on the pages. Interesting, absorbing, and compelling. Plus enjoy her writing style. For fans of Jodi Picoult, Liane Moriarty, Lisa Genova, Catherine Ryan Hyde, Diane Chamberlain, and Jo Jo Moyes.
As Oakley mentions in her recent interview with Atlanta Magazine:
“The burden of responsibility as a parent is already really high, but when your kids have food allergies, it is a constant 24/7 level of vigilance. It’s already terrifying to let your kids out into the world, but knowing that something as little as a peanut or an egg could end their life, and you’re the sole person responsible for that, is really heavy.”
All too true, sadly enough, most people are not educated as to the life-threatening consequences of one single ingredient in a food.
On a side note:
What a timely topic and one I am well versed on. Allergies are quite the mystery. Their triggers can change without rhyme or reason. From welts, hives, and Anaphylaxis numerous times, over foods, additives, chemicals, environmental toxins, and especially, medications of any sort. One drop of cream on your skin, and it can happen. Equipped with Benadryl and an EpiPen, at all times.
I can only imagine how difficult this may be for parents with children they have to protect. When they are at school or at friend’s homes, away from their controlled environment. Many times it is frustrating, as people do not take allergies serious (especially restaurant staff, friends, and the overall hospitality, and medical industry) unless you have been through the nightmare yourself or someone close to you.
I do love my Atlanta authors! Highly recommend both books- an author to follow.
A special thank you to Gallery Books and NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Allergic to human touch? Colleen Oakley’s latest novel explores the idea
We chatted with the metro Atlanta author about her inspiration for the novel about an intriguing imaginary medical condition
March 2017Jennifer Rainey Marquez
PHOTOGRAPH BY JIM HANCOCK
Try to imagine your life without touch. No hugs or kisses (or sex), but also no brushing hands with the cashier as you pay for your deli sandwich, no handshakes at business meetings, no shoulder rubs with strangers in a packed MARTA train. In her new book, Close Enough to Touch, metro Atlanta novelist Colleen Oakley considers the practical and emotional ramifications of such a life. We recently chatted with Oakley about her inspiration for the book.
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