Can you miss something you never had?
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.
A “heart-wrenching and humorous” (Publishers Weekly) love story for anyone who’s ever wanted something—or someone—just out of reach, Colleen Oakley’s Close Enough to Touch will delight fans of Jojo Moyes’s One Plus One and Graeme Simsion’s The Rosie Project.
Heart wrenching and humorous, Oakley (Before I Go) delivers an out-of-the-ordinary love story with steady quips and endearing characters. Jubilee Jenkins has a rare malady she's allergic to human touch. After a kiss leaves her near death in anaphylaxis, Jubilee retreats to her home and doesn't leave for nine years. When her mother dies, Jubilee's only source of income dies with her, and she is forced to face her fears head-on. In her new position at the library, she meets handsome Eric and his troubled young son, Aja. Immediately taken with Jubilee, Eric longs to get closer to her, emotionally and physically, but Jubilee keeps him at arm's length. She's attracted to him, but she also knows her condition would make a romantic relationship impossible. Jubilee struggles with new opportunities, possibilities, and chances for an ordinary, allergy-controlled existence, and her journey from recluse to recovery is fascinating, aided by supportive and supporting characters.
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An unexpected but wholly fitting ending wraps up the story nicely
Jubilee Jenkins has always been different: quiet and reserved, her worst fear is human touch, for she could have an allergic reaction so severe as to cause death. And, just before her high school graduation, she did almost die from her first kiss. So, it’s not as if her fears are unfounded. But, for the intervening 9 years, she retreated to live only within the walls of her home, supported by her mother and having little to no interactions with the outside world. When her mother remarries and leaves the house, there is little change for Jubilee, except for the loneliness: as her mother continued to support her financially. And then, one telephone call changed her life. Her stepfather informs her that her mother is dead, and the financial assistance will stop. Immediately.
Thus Jubilee is thrust into the outside world, anxious and afraid, to find a job and reframe her life in a new way. Finding a position at the library – books are safe and familiar friends, Jubilee is just getting accustomed to her new way of existing when she meets Eric and his newly adopted son Aja. A tentative friendship begins as these two start to bond together in spite of their own reservations and insecurities, as they are both still grieving their losses.
Oakley does much very well in this story: the anxieties and overwhelming emotions felt by both Eric and Jubilee are clear, and the missteps are easy to understand and comprehend. The determination of Jubilee to make a place in the world for herself, even if she requires a bit more personal space than many, is intriguing: she’s still afraid of many things but moves forward despite that anxiety, never letting a mistaken approach or path delay her for long. For Eric, his grief in the death of his friend, while trying to help Aja through that process was truly gorgeous. He’s clueless and hurting, but wants only to make those around him happier, even if only for a moment. While I found the relationship between Jubilee and Eric was perhaps unneeded, and that friends was a perfect step, the changes and growth that both experienced through their friendship brought them both growth and a new outlook on their lives. An unexpected but wholly fitting ending wraps up the story nicely, leaving readers with plenty to think about long after the last page is read.
I received an eArc copy of the title from the publisher via NetGalley for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility