Close Enough to Touch by Colleen Oakley
Publisher: Gallery Books
Publication Date: March 7, 2017
Genres: Contemporary, Fiction, Women’s Fiction
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.
I loved this story. It is everything I want in a book; funny, poignant, sweet, thoughtful, lovely, smart, and real. I was rooting for the characters from the get-go. Their struggles were real and relatable.
Jubilee was born allergic to humans. A single touch causes rashes and welts, and can even be more severe. Like the time she was in high school and a boy kissed her, she almost died. After her almost death, she became a recluse. Her fear of being touched morphed and grew into a fear that controls her. She fears leaving her house, as well as seeing or speaking to other people. But when her mother passes away, it is the catalyst that forces Jubilee out of her comfort zone, as she must leave the house and get a job in order to support herself.
Eric married his high school girlfriend after she fell pregnant shortly after their graduation. Now divorced, estranged from his daughter, and the adopted father of his best friend’s troubled son, Eric is struggling. He doesn’t know if he is making the right decisions, and he knows he’s made so many mistakes as a father.
One fateful day, Jubilee and Eric meet. Through each other, they learn to believe in themselves, and grow to overcome their fears.
I think most of us can relate to Jubilee. At one time or another, we’ve been scared of doing something. It may have even caused some of us not to do it. Most of these things were just scary, not life threatening. Jubilee’s condition, if managed correctly, doesn’t mean she can’t interact with people. But after her severe reaction to being kissed almost killed her, she allowed her fear to dictate her life.
I love dual POV books, and I was so glad this was told in dual POV. I love the ability to see two sides of the same story. To know what the other person is thinking. I think that would be my superpower if I could have one. One of the reasons why I particularly loved the dual POV in this book, is because I loved Eric! He was flawed, and had made mistakes, lots, but that is what made him so real. He was a normal guy. Someone I could actually imagine meeting in real life.
His heart and love for his daughter, and especially for his adoptive son, was touching. Through his mistakes, he still did his best to show his kids he loved and cared for them. And his interactions with Jubilee! They’re just so sweet and real. I wish the two of them had been more open with each other earlier on, but being vulnerable is difficult; as I’m sure everyone knows. But the two of them just made my heart so happy.
I really liked Jubilee’s friendship with Madison. I wish we could have seen more of her. She was so supportive of Jubilee, and helped lovingly push her outside her comfort zones. Eric’s son, Aja, was such a wonderfully complex character. My heart broke for him, but then his uniqueness and sense of humor would make me laugh out loud.
My one complaint, if I had to choose one, was the ending. I needed more! MORE MORE MORE! I know I sound like a three year old, but I don’t care. The ending built so much up, and left me with so many questions. I’m going to have to draw my own conclusions to satisfy me, but I would not be opposed to an extended epilogue.
I loved how Oakley weaved together a complex story with beautiful prose one minute, and then a hilarious statement the next. This book made me feel all the emotions: happy, sad, surprised, concerned, anxious, and elated. You’ll be crying one minute, and laughing the next.
Oakley built deep, multi-layered characters that were as real as the person sitting next to me. I never wanted this story to end. In summary, GO BUY THIS BOOK! I’m going to be buying one for my shelf, so I can reread it a thousand times because it was just that good.
I received an eARC in exchange for an honest review.