Author: Colleen Oakley
Close Enough to Touch is the second novel by Colleen Oakley, and the first I’ve read. I remember hearing about her debut, Before I Go, when it released but never quite got that far.
Her second novel is raw, touching and emotional; and uniquely original. We all know that allergies seem to be getting more prevalent and they can be life-threatening but what about the extremely rare allergies. What would happen if someone were actually allergic to people…
Oakley answers the question in Close Enough to Touch with the story of Jubilee Jenkins; diagnosed as a young child Jubilee has suffered debilitating rashes and reactions that ended up with an anaphylactic reaction to her first kiss; resulting in a reclusive life. Her mother remarries and moves away, leaving Jubilee alone in the house to discover all the things she can do from home. She gets to the point where she doesn’t need to leave the house at all, so she doesn’t. Food is delivered, trash is collected from her doorstep instead of the road, shopping is done online and Jubilee is content in her isolation. Her mother calls occasionally and sends money every month. Everything runs smoothly until she receives a phone call with news of her mother’s death, and that there will be no more cheques but the house is now paid for and belongs solely to Jubilee.
Now that Jubilee has to leave the house to find work she discovers that her reclusive life has turned into a severe case of agoraphobia and she can’t leave the house.
Slowly Jubilee works on getting out and on her first trip to the local gas station she runs into one of the popular girls from high school and in a fortuitous coincidence finds herself employed at the local library.
Close Enough to Touch is the story of Jubilee coming back out into the world and learning to live in it again, 9 years is a long time in isolation and it’s a long time in medicine. Jubilee has learned how dangerous a simple touch can be so even if she is covered up and wearing her gloves she flinches when anyone reaches out to her.
We are with Jubilee every step of her journey, as she learns to interact with people again and becomes comfortable in some places and with people.
The story isn’t only Jubilee’s, it is also the story of Eric and his adopted son Aja, they have moved to the area for 6 months while Eric takes over a maternity position for his firm. Eric is the divorced father of a fourteen year old girl who he has alienated to the point she refuses to speak to him; and the adopted father of 10-yr old Aja, whose father was his best friend. Aja is highly intelligent and troubled, he hasn’t grieved the death of his parents and he is disturbingly fixated on the X-men.
A chance meeting at the library sees their paths cross and a friendship slowly grow.
Oakley has drawn on the seriousness of allergies and the risks sufferers live with every day in creating Jubilee’s allergy, for which there is no scientific evidence of its actual existence.
Close Enough to Touch is a story of learning to live again, of grief and of connecting with other people. How many times in our day to day life do we physically touch another person and totally take it for granted, what would happen if that one touch could be life threatening.
I really enjoyed this book and the depth of feeling Oakley evoked in me for her characters. Physical touch is dangerous for Jubilee and it’s something that Aja is uncomfortable with so we explore the other ways that people can touch one another’s life. Eric is trying to reconnect with his daughter, and he is afforded the opportunity to do so through literature.
The story is witty and entertaining, heartwarming and fascinating. It’s a story of connection, of friendship and of love.
Thanks to Allen & Unwin we have TWO copies of Close Enough to Touch to giveaway to our readers. For your chance to win please tell us in the comments below about the most interesting way someone has touched your life.
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