Book Review and Giveaway: Close Enough to Touch

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Author: Colleen Oakley
ISBN: 978-1-76029-400-7
RRP: $29.99

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.

Colleen Oakley can be found on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and her Website.

Close Enough to Touch is published by Allen & Unwin and available March 15th from Angus & Robertson Bookworld, Booktopia and where all good books are sold.

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.

Competition closes 20/03/16 midnight AEST. You must be subscribed to the Beauty and Lace newsletter OR a Facebook fan to enter. Make sure you use a valid email address so we can contact you if you are a lucky winner

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23 thoughts on “Book Review and Giveaway: Close Enough to Touch

  1. Whilst in America and thinking of getting a tattoo, I asked one of the customers at Burger King if he minded if I asked him about his tattoos. He was sitting on his own at one of the booths. He couldn’t advise who was best in town. It turns out he had only been a few weeks out of a Texan prison after a 10 year stint, but had moved to Kansas to escape the bad influences. He had received all his tattoos in prison. They were all gang related and he was covered from head to toe – yes scalp and all.

    He was the nicest fellow and progressed to tell me all about his life and his hopes for the future. I sat there enthralled for a good hour. He told a fascinating story. At the end he thanked me profusely, stating “You know people won’t talk to me. They’re scared because of the way I look”. It made me feel great that I looked beyond his image and got to know him for that hour.

    Happily he got himself a job making pizzas in a local shop and had remained in that job six months later when we left. He was always so thrilled to see me when I went past in the shopping centre and we’d have a quick chat.

    Just goes to show, even the hardest living people who have done and experienced the worst in society still have the power to turn their lives around for the better.

    (Oh and yes I got my tattoo – 3 in fact)

  2. OK, this may sound weird but a total stranger saved my life once when he seemed to come from no where and started talking to me, slowed me down to chat while I was in a hurry to go to work, I missed the crossing light but the other person walking the other side of me had got half way across and got hit by a car! I turned to talk to the stranger and see if they had witnessed what I has seen and he was gone, no where to be seen! True story, freaked me out but I never got to thank my stranger and he made me become a lot more aware and open to opportunities!

  3. I’m not entering, as I’ve already been lucky enough to read this. I just wanted to endorse Michelle’s review – I really enjoyed this book, including the way Oakley balanced humor and some very serious issues. I strongly recommend her first novel too. Very powerful.

  4. My recently deceased granddad showed me that nothing else other than family matter in his last few months of life. When everyone bands together and all arguements disappear and all that matters is that love and making quality of life fun and relaxing.

  5. My father died several years ago. For the last 10 or so years of his life he suffered from Alzheimers. One of the ways my mother helped him to remember was to have his name embroidered on his bath towels.

    When my father died my mother said it was too sorrowful to use the towels, for visitors etc. Just seeing his name as she hung the towels out would have been too much.

    She gave the towels to me. We use them on a daily basis. We love using them. They are a tangible connection to my father. More a point of holding onto precious memories than painful thoughts.

  6. The most interesting way someone has touched my life: My middle daughter, Brooke, is the most quiet person I’ve ever known. She was an incredibly easy baby – sleeping ‘through’ every single night since birth. (My first daughter was the complete opposite!) Brooke doesn’t even say much – she’s not talkative, not even to this day. Yet, throughout the years of her growing up, when she has spoken up on something it would be clear. She has always been very clear on her desires – little things and some other things that were a bit bigger. For example she would express her desire to have a pond with a fountain and fish – that was nice we thought, so we made one for out the front of our home. Brooke also declared her desire for a nice front gate – so we got one – and it looks great! Brooke has mentioned how she had wanted chickens – so we have a gorgeous free-range chook area. Brooke has desired a ‘dog’ (yes, that’s a common one for kids I know, but the other two girls never desired this and our Brooke did), so we now have a beautiful dog. Brooke told us for a while that she had wanted a pool – so now we have a relaxing Magna Pool – it’s aboveground but it’s a great size and it’s fun, cooling, relaxing and a really great addition to our yard.

    My point is that whenever our quiet Brooke did speak up, she’s mentioned some lovely things, we’ve considered them and taken them on board and then attained, obtained, achieved or built them. They’ve always ended up being lovely fantastic ideas which probably expressed my own deep desires for our family. Brooke has been like a little mirror of my own desires I suppose! My peaceful, calm and quiet Brooke has been touching my life in her gentle, special quiet own way ever since she was born and my life is full of wonderful ‘things’ that I love too.

    Brooke has helped all my ‘little’ but very much desired dreams come true.

  7. My daughter has inspired me to once again believe that we can do anything we set our minds to. This year after dreaming of moving to America on an volleyball scholarship since she was 9, she did it at the age of 17. I cannot believe her strength her character her determination to achieve a goal and that dreams can come true if we set our minds to it. While I do not regret anything I have done in my life, that of getting married and having two of the most wonderful children a person could ask for, I did set aside my dreams and my daughter has shown me and encouraged me that it s not to late to start to dream again and that it is achievable.

  8. very good friends of ours John and Jill Farnham who was there to help me through the hard times of loose my dad in November and then my partner in January the following year, with out John and Jill’s help i don’t think i could have pulled through.

  9. While trying on a dress, I was ready to take it off again thinking it made me look too big. My youngest boy started to tell me that I looked beautiful and I thought to myself that it wasn’t true but smiled and said thank-you.
    I was brought up with constant put downs and never shown much love so I thought I was nothing and meant nothing to anyone.
    It just goes to show the kindness my kids have in them and wish a lot of people could see through their eyes.
    I am learning to like myself a little bit more and to keep working on keeping positive so my kids grow up to be a next generation of positive complimentry adults that treat others with kindness.
    After all we all have feelings and we all are responsible for our own choices.

  10. 4 weeks ago I had both my breasts removed. The 2 breast care specialist nurses at the hospital were amazing. They listened to me talk about my fears, handed me tissues when I cried,re-assured me each and every day that I was doing fantastic. They not only did this with me, but with over 1,000 women who go through the breast cancer ward in that hospital each and every year, and many of them, they are there through every step of their journey,some until they pass away.
    Very special ladies indeed whom I am so grateful to have on my journey.

  11. I am touched daily by the many elderly Patients that are on the Ward where I work in the local Hospital. A small smile from one of them, a Thank You or even a Please makes my day.
    Many of the Patients have Dementia and are scared and don’t know where they are are what is happening to them,
    I feel honored to have met most of them as they have such amazing stories about their lives.

  12. About 15 years ago a friend of mine owned a failing business in Swanston Street, Melbourne. It was putting him in debt so he advertised it for sale. A well-dressed gentleman walked in off the street, inquired about it and watched the business in action all afternoon. He left only to return later with a suitcase saying he wanted to purchase the business. He opened the case asking if $50,000 cash was enough to leave as a deposit. Of course my friend said “Sure is!” The gentleman then left and returned with a stereo system he had purchased at Myer saying the place needed some music. He then left saying he would come back in a few days to finalise the sale. He returned in a couple of days to see how things were going and we got to know him a little better. It turned out that he was a philanthropist who had helped many people. After this we never saw him again, he never returned to finalise the sale of the business and he never even asked for a receipt for the $50,000. He also left no address or contact details. A few months later we were talking to the owner of the bookshop situated a few doors down who had a similar story to tell. The same man had been in their shop and purchased $2,500 worth of books, left no details and never returned! To this day my friend still doesn’t know who he was or why he did it but it certainly helped my friend out of the possibility of having to go bankrupt or worst!

  13. Just by listening and then surprising you later when they recall something that lights up your day it show they really care

  14. Sitting and talking to a homeless person and getting there story of how they came to be that way, some stories just touch your heart so bad knowing they once had everything and now one have anything

  15. Authors have captivated and touched my heart over the years with artistic literary expressionism that encapsulates life, love and friendships while exploring paths near/dear or those we are yet to see.

  16. I’ve been reading everyone’s honest and touching comments, many have made me teary, and also thankful. I want to thank you all for sharing your personal stories here.

  17. My best friend, we have been friends for nearly 40 years, she is always there for me and is like the sister I never had.

  18. The elderly gentleman next door, riddled with aches, pains, illnesses and ailments, poor old thing barely able to walk most days, somehow managed to mow my nature-strip for me, as he saw I had a mere, meager little cold. He has a heart of gold, and this immense gesture on his part touched me in ways I didn’t imagine possible, showing me that there really is still so much goodness in this big, bad world of ours. I just wish he’d have mentioned his intentions to me, so I could get out there and mow mine, along with his, so he didn’t get to do it, and hurt his aching bones even more.

  19. My father has recently entered a nursing home and I love speaking to the residents. They have lots of stories to tell to people who care and willing to listen.

  20. Phobia’s can take hold of our lives and are very hard to overcome. Congratulations to all that have beaten their demons.

  21. My best friend is raising 5 children, her eldest had duchannes muscular dystrophy and died 4 years ago aged 13. Throughout her grieving she has always put every one before herself, sometimes using this as a excuse not to grieve herself. Next week would have been her sons 17 birthday and she wanted to check on how I was coping. She is amazing, my chosen sister in life, the kids picked me to be their aunty and I love them as my own. She is a true testament to a mothers love for her children. Her escapism…to read.

  22. when a total stranger stop to help us out when our car broke down, then a few months later we stopped to help some after they broke down it turned out to be the same person we helped and we have now been friends for many years

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