Close Enough to Touch is Colleen Oakley's newest novel.
Our protagonist is Jubilee Jenkins who suffers from a rare condition - she is deathly allergic to other people. Being touched by them specifically. Understandably, Jubilee has retreated from the world. But when her mother dies, financial straits drive her out into the world.
I quite liked the character of Jubilee - she's quirky with a great sense of humour. But what clinched the deal was her love of books. She manages to secure a job as a library assistant. Here, Oakley had me nodding uh huh and laughing out loud. You see, I work in a public library as well. Warning someone about viewing questionable material (okay let's just say it - porn) in a public space, amorous patrons in the stacks, toilet paper thievery and more. I loved this (very true) line: " The job is really only about sixty percent books. The other forty percent is community service. Mostly mental health."
Okay, I digress. Now that she's managed to get out in the world, Jubilee is of course going to be in contact with people. Not necessarily physical. She meets Eric and his son Aja at the library. Eric and Aja both are 'wounded' as well. Eric is divorced and his daughter won't speak to him. Aja's birth parents are dead and he and Eric are still trying to figure things out.
I enjoyed Jubilee's rediscovery of the world, her forays into friendship and her hopes for what might be. Aja was also a favourite. His view of the world and his coping mechanisms were heart-breaking. It's no wonder that he and Jubilee bond. But here's where I had a hard time. I just didn't like Eric. I found him insensitive, self-centered and self serving. Yes, he is trying to reconnect with his daughter - through texts as she won't speak to him, but he isn't really seeing the child in front of him. And even after he learns of Jubilee's condition, he still wants to reach out and touch her. I just couldn't buy the 'so enamoured I can't help myself.'
Close Enough to Touch is one of those books that you can't predict where its going to go. And as the end drew near, I grew quite happy with the turn things took. And then Oakley changed the direction of the ending. Abruptly. And this reader didn't like it. In an effort to remain spoiler free, I won't go into details. But if you've read the book, I'd love to know what you thought about the ending. Read an excerpt of Close Enough to Touch.