Friday, June 19, 2020

Colleen Oakley - Close Enough to Touch

Jubilee Jenkins is no ordinary librarian. With a rare allergy to human touch, any skin-to-skin contact could literally kill her. But after retreating into solitude for nearly ten years, Jubilee’s decided to brave the world again, despite the risks. Armed with a pair of gloves, long sleeves, and her trusty bicycle, she finally ventures out the front door—and into her future.
Eric Keegan has troubles of his own. With his daughter from a failed marriage no longer speaking to him, and his brilliant, if psychologically troubled, adopted son attempting telekinesis, 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. So when an encounter over the check-out desk at the local library entangles his life with that of a beautiful—albeit eccentric—woman, he finds himself wanting nothing more than to be near her.

Comment: I got interested in this book back in 2017 but only this month did I have the chance to start it. I had recommended it to my friend H., since the blurb seemed to promise an original story so we had a buddy read over it.

In this book we meet Jubilee Jenkins, a young woman who suffers from a rare condition, an allergy to other's skin cells, which is to say, she is allergic to humans. She can't touch others with her own skin that her body reacts and even goes through anaphylactic shock. 
This means Jubilee has had a very isolated and lonely life, especially since her mother married again and moved out.
Now her mother is dead and her stepfather won't continue to pay her bills. Jubilee needs a job but she sis scared to go outside and look for it, she thinks she might be agoraphobic after years locked inside the house. Getting everything she needs through the internet doesn't help to ease up her fears.
Then one day she forces herself to go out and she randomly meets an old school mate, who mentions the possibility of a job at the library. Can this be a turning point for Jubilee?

Looking at the blurb, the cute cover and the fact this is labeled both romance and woman's fiction, one could easily create the expectation this would be a sweet but emotional story to follow.
I liked reading this but I confess it was not as much for these things. My favorite element in the whole story was how Jubilee loved reading and discussed some books with the male protagonist. There's something really special for any reader when a book features characters that not only like reading too but mention titles and their opinions on them.

The story is rather original. Jubilee has a rare condition (according to the author's notes, something she made up) and that has influenced her life. It can be easy to compare with real life cases of people who suffered the stigma of their illness or conditions, though, so I did feel compassion for Jubilee and what she endured and why she was somewhat depressed and lacking belief she could have a better lot in life.

Jubilee is the central character of this story btu her interactions with others allow us not only to understand her but other key characters, such as Eric and Aja, a single dad and his adopted godson, two people who have their own issues to go through, as well as some of Jubilee's co-workers, although these more in a secondary fashion.
Jubilee took a chance because she had to but of course, it's obvious enough that the simple step of going to work makes her see and live through possibilities she didn't think she could be part of.

I think the story is very sweet, there are passages I really liked and, as I've said, all the book talk was a huge plus.
Jubilee's relationship with Eric is very slow, they become good friends but there are some issues besides Jubilee's condition that seem realistic to prevent them into jumping into a romance. This makes their interactions feel a little extra special too, I think. 
It was also emotional how they both help Aja go through his grief over having lost his parents.

All the elements in the story seem to be connected in very thin but clear lines. I liked the story although it also felt that the depth and emotional connection to some situations could have been done better. There are some issues I feel were a little rushed, not in how they were developed but in how they were dealt with. I guess I can say that despite the emotion of what was happening, there was still a certain distancing that prevented me from really being immersed in these characters' lives.

I thought this would be a cute story, the romance was more a suggestion than a full set element but that was OK too and then, the epilogue.
I figured the author would have found a better way to end the novel but the epilogue, which happens seven years later! (Years, not months. 7, not just 1 or 2), was completely out there. It seemed that the author had no idea what to do with it, only that the book had to end and she rushed to write down something in the last few minutes possible and...that end happened.
No matter what I feel about the reliability of it, it just doesn't seem adequate to what transpired through the whole novel. It really felt like a bad add-on that just popped into the author's head.

Therefore, a book that was a solid four stars had to be downgraded one whole star for me. *sigh*
Grade: 6/10

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