Welcome to the TLC Book Tour for Close Your Eyes
Lauren Mahdian does not remember the details of that horrible summer night in 1986 when she was just eight years old, beyond the fact that she slept in the backyard tree house with her brother, Alex, and had scary dreams involving her parents. The next morning, the police and paramedics arrived, but were no longer in a hurry when they left carrying a stretcher bearing her mother’s body inside a bag that was zipped shut. Her father was convicted of striking her mother with a glass decanter, delivering a fatal blow to her head, and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Lauren and Alex spent the rest of their childhoods with their maternal grandparents and have remained extremely close, despite the one issue that separates them: Alex believes their father is innocent and was wrongly convicted.
Now in their early thirties, Alex is a physician who has joined Doctors Without Borders and is about to be dispatched to Iraq. Lauren is a successful real estate agent in Austin, Texas, where she has lived several years with Gerry, a computer programmer who, after being laid off, has launched a website called “Mr. Cheapskate,” devoted to bargain hunting. He has turned a shed in their backyard into a makeshift studio where he records and uploads podcasts and is developing a following, although he has yet to generate any revenue from the venture. The real estate market is slow and Lauren is not sure how long they can hold out before Gerry will have to get another job, but she is trying to be supportive because she truly loves him, even though she has turned down his marriage proposals numerous times.
The only thing her childhood trauma taught her is that no one can take care of her or make her feel safe. And now Alex, her rock, is leaving town and Lauren is completely adrift. Every time the subject of her mother’s death and its aftermath is broached, she has a panic attack, characterized by a sensation that the room is filling with smoke and she cannot neither see clearly nor breathe easily. Just the thought of Alex being so far away and in danger brings on a new attack.
Lauren has spent her entire life trying to forget that she still has a father whom she once adored. He was a handsome, charming Egyptian poet who called her “Little One,” but she has always destroyed the letters he writes her from Attica without even opening them. She has lived her life with her eyes shut. But circumstances are about to require her to open her eyes wide and face the truth as it is revealed to her, whether she is ready to hear it or not.
In Close Your Eyes, author Amanda Eyre Ward has constructed two different stories of women who appear on the surface to have absolutely nothing in common. The first, Lauren’s tale, is relayed in a first-person narrative, enabling readers to experience Lauren’s emotions and panic attacks along with her. It is an extremely effective literary technique. As a matter of self-preservation, Lauren has engaged in avoidance and denial ever since her life was changed forever on that terrible night when her mother died and her father was taken from her. Her world was shattered, leaving her with only Alex to cling to for love, support, and empathy. But now that she is being forced to examine not only what really happened that night, but also how that event has shaped her personality and life choices, her fear manifests itself in debilitating panic attacks. Lauren attempts to continue escaping by drinking too much and taking sleeping pills, but she must eventually deal with reality. The result is a fascinating study of a woman who has essentially been in unrelenting crisis for more than twenty-five years.
In contrast, Ward tells the story of Sylvia using a third-person narrative. While Lauren was growing up in a luxurious home on the banks of Long Island Sound, Sylvia was raised on the lower East side of Manhattan by a beautiful, glamorous, but poor single mother who eked out a living as a clerk at Tiffany’s. Sylvia attended an excellent Catholic girls’ school, courtesy of her absent father’s financial contribution, and had only one good friend, Victoria, a wild, indulged only child. Sylvia’s mother died when she was just seventeen and she was taken in by Victoria’s parents. Now forty-one and five months pregnant, she is on the run from her alcoholic boyfriend who has forced her to abort two previous pregnancies. En route back to Manhattan, Sylvia hopes that Victoria will give her shelter again. But Victoria’s life is currently unraveling. She is again drinking heavily and failing to properly care for her own two daughters, ages ten and twelve. Her mother, Mae, is wracked with guilt because she knows that Victoria’s problems have been caused, in part, by the dark secret the two of them have been harboring for many years.
I think the uncertainty of [the loss of a loved one] intrigues me; how we go on day-to-day when a mystery lingers in our lives. I guess I like to examine how large events shape us, how we forge on in the aftermath.~ Author Amanda Eyre Ward
Ward deftly weaves the two stories together and the result is an entertaining and deeply moving exploration of the myriad ways in which actions have consequences. The ripple effects of choices made years ago by Lauren’s father and mother, as well as Sylvia’s mother, continue to impact their children more than two decades later. In Lauren’s case, the long-lasting and devastating effects of the loss of both parents at such a young age are examined, as is the impact on Sylvia of having grown up poor and with only one parent. In Sylvia’s case, she closed her eyes — until now — to the lengths to which one might be willing to go in the name of friendship. But both women have been imbued with a strong sense of right and wrong. Will Sylvia’s moral center prevail, despite her own needs and desires? Can unlocking the truth finally bring much-needed peace and acceptance to Lauren?
The characters are believable and both women are highly empathetic and quite memorable. Although both are struggling, neither wallows in self-pity. Their sense of regret, loss, and confusion is authentic. Both strongly desire to stand on their own but are held back by the emotional repercussions of events in their childhoods over which they had no control. But both are struggling to take control of their own lives by escaping the emotional toll that those long-ago events have taken on their lives and choices. Close Your Eyes is a gripping, thought-provoking character study of emotional response to trauma set against the backdrop of a murder mystery. It is an unusual, but highly effective approach to story-telling about women becoming empowered by discovering and embracing their own truths.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one copy of Close Your Eyes free of charge from the author in conjunction with the TLC Book Tours review and virtual book tour program. I was not required to write a positive review in exchange for receipt of the book; rather, the opinions expressed in this review are my own. This disclosure complies with 16 Code of Federal Regulations, Part 255, “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
Enter to Win a Copy of Close Your Eyes
One lucky reader, selected at random, will receive a copy of Close Your Eyes, generously provided by the author.
To enter, simply post a comment! Be sure to include your email address (for notification and delivery purposes). The book can only be shipped to a United States or Canadian address (no P.O. box).
The comment posted by Denise Z. was selected at random so a copy of Close Your Eyes is being sent to Denise!