- Written by: Colleen Oakly
- Published by: Gallery Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, March 7, 2017
- Length: 310 pages
- Source: Advance Reader copy sent to me from the author, in exchange for an honest review
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…
Close Enough to Touch is an evocative, poignant, and heartrending exploration of the power and possibilities of the human heart. (publisher)
We meet Jubilee when she is at her lowest point, lowest point in a life filled with shame, embarrassment, and hiding herself away. When her mother dies and leaves her with zero income she eventually faces the hard fact that she cannot continue to live isolated and locked up in her house. Surrounded by her books and TV, her groceries are delivered and brought into her home by the dark of night, living her very small life, Jubilee must now leave the house, and look for work. What kind of work can she possibly do? Her love of books lead her to the library, and a chance meeting with Eric Keegan, and his young charge, Aja. An accident has her thrust into the life of Aja, she is fearless even as she fears for her life. She recognizes something in Aja she can relate to. How can a woman allergic to human touch mend her life, and learn to love?
Close Enough to Touch is filled with book references and trivia that makes it so fun and relatable. Throughout the book there are snippets of a New York Times article that was written about Jubilee. While completely made up this allergy is so well plotted and detailed the reader begins to imagine it true, and the empathy for Jubilee builds. Imagine not being able to have your mother soothe you when you were ill, or bullied. She can’t experience simple gestures of affection.
The way this story builds and we learn about Jubilee, Eric and Aja is so easy and comfortable. We see their lives in utter turmoil and then a leveling out, a bond being formed, and then conflict, of course. They all grow, their other friendships and Eric’s family ties heal and deepen. You will find yourself rooting for each of them to find happiness.
Colleen Oakley writes with such passion and force, you feel intimate with the characters. I loved this book so very much, I didn’t want it to end. I read her first book, Before I Go, and loved it as well. Clearly this is any author you don’t want to miss. Thank you again Colleen for sending me an early copy, and thank you for your friendship.
I had the pleasure of meeting Colleen at The Writer’s Block Bookstore. It is a tiny little pleasure in Winter Park FL I was thrilled to learn a former BN co-worker of mine is now their manager for business development. Great things have been happening there, and I look forward to visiting more often.