All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Review: Close Enough To Touch by Colleen Oakley

on March 15, 2017

Close Enough To Touch
Colleen Oakley
Allen & Unwin
2017, 306p
Copy courtesy of the publisher

Blurb {from the publisher/}:

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 within the confines of the house her unaffectionate mother left her when she ran off to remarry. 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 is struggling to figure out how his life got so off-course. Then one day, he meets a mysterious woman named Jubilee, with a unique condition….

I loved the sound of this book when it arrived – the author has given the protagonist, Jubilee, an anaphylactic allergy to humans. It’s fictional, but based very much on the way that people are allergic to say nuts. Even contact with another human can send Jubilee out in huge welts. A kiss can trigger the anaphylaxis and so for the past nine years since her mother married, Jubilee has lived alone in the house. She never leaves – she’s arranged for the garbage to be collected without having to put the bins out, she has her groceries delivered. Her mother sends her money to live on but when her mother passes away, the money dries up. Jubilee must face her agoraphobia and leave the home to find work in order to pay the bills.

I loved Jubilee – there are some days when a quiet existence filled with books and zero human interaction sounds like heaven and that is without someone else potentially killing you. I can’t imagine what it would be like to be so on guard around people so that you don’t even accidentally brush against them. Meeting new people would be terribly awkward, as sometimes people want to kiss you in greeting. She has to wear gloves to prevent accidental touches or be able to shake hands etc but there are so many other brief touches. Sometimes people brush something away from your face etc. It’d be easy to hide yourself away where you didn’t have to worry about that, but I suppose the more you live that life, the more frightening the outside world might seem. Given that Jubilee had not really left her yard in nine years, I expected a bit more of an exploration of how loud or intrusive and scary going out might be. There are a few moments but she does seem to adjust rather well and basically has a job fall into her lap which meant that she didn’t have to really go out and search and interact with different people in an effort to find a job.

I also really liked the character of Eric – he had made some mistakes, including one catastrophic one with his daughter but he was also making great sacrifices too. His adopting of Aja was beautifully selfless and it wasn’t at all a smooth road for either of them. I felt sorry for Eric a lot of the time – he had a lot on and at times it felt like a lot of people were working against him rather than with him. He gets frustrated sure but I felt that he was entitled to. Aja isn’t an easy child and he’s been through a trauma. Both of them have. But Eric keeps trying, he keeps doing his best. When they meet Jubilee, it’s almost like this awkwardly perfect situation. Jubilee is in a position to help both Eric and Aja and because Aja is….slightly unusual, he’s able to embrace and respect her boundaries and difficulties. He is also slightly deluded about them but in a way that makes perfect sense when it all comes out.

Because Eric and Jubilee can’t really touch or kiss, even when they are both attracted to each other, their relationship must evolve in a very different way. It’s not all smooth sailing, there are plenty of awkward and ugly moments but also a lot of beautiful ones too. I think that’s why I felt so disappointed in the ending of this one…. I sort of understand why it had to go to the way it did but it made me feel very unsatisfied to turn the page and realise that the story had skipped ahead. There were a lot of things that felt very rushed and “magic cure!” and not having been there for the process made it seem a bit fanciful. It was very anti-climactic in a way and the interaction at the end wasn’t really the satisfying moment I was after.

This was an enjoyable novel but I just felt like it got a bit sloppy right at the end, like there was a word count that the author had reached and she had to wrap everything up in a really short amount of time – a few pages. For some the mystery of it might work but I just wanted more.


Book #44 of 2017


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