There is a section on New York Public Library's website where librarians recommend some of their favorite books. I have been known to trawl through looking for ideas about what to read next (because I'm clearly lacking in books lol) and that's where I came across Close Enough to Touch by Colleen Oakley. Our main character, Jubilee Jenkins, is a small-town librarian with a big secret...she's allergic to human touch. And I do mean deathly allergic. Let me back up a bit because the book doesn't open with her working in the library and fretting about whether or not anyone has figured out she can't touch them. Instead we meet Jubilee in her home where she has been sequestered away for several years after a bad allergy attack which nearly killed her. She decides the best way to keep herself safe is to not come into any kind of contact with the outside world which of course results in her becoming absolutely petrified to leave her house for any reason. (She even comes up with a system for getting her trash to the curb without going outside.) I had originally been intrigued by this book because it gave me slight Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore vibes but once I got into it I realized that the main difference here is that she's not trying to solve a mystery. Jubilee just wants to live.
This book's narrative could have been tightened up extensively. There's the exploration of mental illness but there's also a burgeoning romance. AND there was a second subplot involving her romantic interest and his relationship with his adopted son. I think by splitting the focus, none of these were explored satisfactorily. The ending was somewhat confusing and left me disappointed that I had spent the time reading the book at all. And honestly I didn't care for Jubilee. She was extremely wishy-washy and many times I found myself frustrated with her. The initial concept was interesting but the execution and the muddied plot turned this into a low rated read for me: 4/10.
Check out the different interpretations of the story via the book cover:
|Source: The eBook Hunter|
|Source: Simon & Schuster|
What's Up Next: Deep Dark Fears & The Creeps by Fran Krause
What I'm Currently Reading: Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman
A girl who has a rare allergy - people. A man who is trying to be a father. When two lost souls met in a library, you will expect some thing magical to happen. Here's what I like about this book and there is nothing magical that will happen - its real romance that puts two people in a situation that you just loved them because they are flawed but you can't help it because people like them do exist (apart from the allergy of human touch) and you just can't help it even more to believe it but its true in every single page that is written inside.
Close Enough To Touch is a romantic novel that is poignant and yet beautiful romance novel that is truly touching. When we fall in love, we want to touch and kiss the ones we love. Jubilee can't have any of that. Once, she was kissed by a boy in middle-grade school and it almost killed her. Life as we know it, she grew up without a hug or even holding her mother's hand. Because of that incident, she isolate herself from the world... until her mother passed away. When she met her old schoolmate along the way, she was offered a job to work in a community library. That's where she met Eric, a divorced father with an adopted son from his best friend and a daughter that doesn't want to speak to him at all as to how clueless he is on parenting, on Halloween. When they meet, Eric knew there is some thing about her he can't take his eyes off her. When Jubilee meets Eric, it took one quote from her favorite poet and every thing falls into place.
This is life - its complicated, its flawed and its not what we always want. Written with real world problems, what I love about it is how real this feels. The dialogue is natural and its well exchanged. The characters are memorable and more importantly its the execution. There isn't what I would call it a magical happy ending that ends like a fairy tale. This is real as it gets - the kind that reality sets in one people with indecisive actions, where characters just do not open up and allow their egos set in place until its too late. Where clueless dad's who has a chance to fix things, able to. I love this kind of hope and the ending is just enough to tell me, I don't need a fairy tale ending but I do need an ending that works and this works.
As the book is told in two different perspective of the main characters, its how the exchange of thoughts make its work. Men and women can never understand each other's thinking and to be able to read what they truly think evokes a lot of feelings how relationships can be so difficult to be embraced as one but many people in reality is one-sided in a relationship but this... this is workable. I love how Colleen Oakley has written them and the premise, its just a good way of telling a reader that writing is just a form not to getaway into our own introvert world but in a way, we can be part of a society to understand them why we function the way we are that is written in books. For that, this is truly a better book than her first (although I still love her first book).
If you haven't read any of her books, please pick up Close Enough To Touch first and then read Before I Go. Its light reading (for me anyway) and its a light reading that is worth picking up.
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.
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.
Read More Atlanta Magazine
One time a boy kissed me and I almost died...
And so begins the story of Jubilee Jenkins, a young woman with a rare and debilitating medical condition: she’s allergic to other humans. After a humiliating near-death experience in high school, Jubilee has become a recluse, living the past nine years in the confines of the small town New Jersey house her unaffectionate mother left to her when she ran off with a Long Island businessman. But now, her mother is dead, and without her financial support, Jubilee is forced to leave home and face the world—and the people in it—that she’s been hiding from.
One of those people is Eric Keegan, a man who just moved into town for work. With a daughter from his failed marriage who is no longer speaking to him, and a brilliant, if psychologically troubled, adopted son, Eric’s struggling to figure out how his life got so off-course, and how to be the dad—and man—he wants so desperately to be. Then, one day, he meets a mysterious woman named Jubilee, with a unique condition...
An evocative, poignant, and heartrending exploration of the power and possibilities of the human heart.
Though strange, this was a sweet book with an ending I adored that kept me engaged.
The concept of a woman who is allergic to people was quite fascinating, and I was impressed by the amount of research the author must have done in order to gain an understanding of the topic. It felt well researched and the challenges seemed quite realistic. I wasn't quite as skeptical of everything as I thought I would be.
I expected that there would be more to learn from this book than there was. Jubilee adjusted surprisingly well to society, and where I thought there would be more conflict, quite a few things went well for her. The biggest conflict was indeed the romance which seemed like a bit of a lost opportunity.
Eric's son was probably my favourite character of the book--though a middle school aged boy, he was an absolute delight and I was amused by his interactions with various characters. I think there was a lot to be gained by seeing his relationships with the adults and how they interacted with him. I also loved Jubilee's friend and the way their acquaintance evolved.
The ending of this was superbly written. Unlike other romances, I was never quite sure exactly how it would end, but it did a lovely job of wrapping up previous aspects of the story and bringing them together.
I recommend this to those looking for a chick-flick read with a little more depth.
I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.