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Ten Thousand Saints: A Novel Hardcover – Deckle Edge, June 7, 2011

3.6 out of 5 stars 102 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Amazon Best Books of the Month, June 2011: Mostly set in the Lower East Side of 1980s New York City, Ten Thousand Saints is that rare book that paints scenes so vividly you can imagine the movie in your head. I wanted to live inside its pages, where I could imagine not just the scenes themselves, but the cameras, the lights, the actors reading their lines off to the sides of the set. Main character Jude Keffy-Horn--named after a Beatles song by his adoptive hippy parents--spends his high school days in small town Vermont getting high with his best friend Teddy, waiting to turn 16, when he can legally drop out. When Teddy dies of an overdose on the last day of 1987, Jude is sent to live with his pot-dealer father in New York City. Jude soon falls in with a group of straight edge Hari Krishnas, where his commitment to abstinence in all forms--drugs, sex, meat--becomes an addiction itself. Jude struggles to create an identity amongst the extreme movements taking root downtown, while his parents struggle to understand their son’s rejection of their free love culture. Author Eleanor Henderson's meticulous research into the straight edge movement in the late 1980s has opened a door to a piece of history handled with love, care, and incredibly unforgettable characters. --Alexandra Foster

From Publishers Weekly

Henderson debuts with a coming-of-age story set in the 1980s that departs from the genre's familiar tropes to find a panoramic view of how the imperfect escape from our parents' mistakes makes (equally imperfect) adults of us. Jude Keffy-Horn and Teddy McNicholas are drug-addled adolescents stuck in suburban Vermont and dreaming of an escape to New York City. But after Teddy dies of an overdose, Jude makes good on their dream and forms a de facto family with Teddy's straight-edge brother, Johnny; Jude's estranged pot-farmer father, Lester; and the troubled Eliza Urbanski, who may be carrying Teddy's child. What results is an odyssey encompassing the age of CBGB, Hare Krishnas, zines, and the emergence of AIDS. Henderson is careful, amid all this youthy nostalgia, not to sideline the adults, who look upon the changing fashions with varying levels of engagement. Still, the narrative occasionally teeters into a didactic, researched tone that may put off readers to whom the milieu isn't new-but the commitment to its characters and jettisoning of hayseed-in-the-city cliché distinguish a nervy voice adept at etching the outlines of a generation, its prejudices and pandemics, and the idols killed along the way. (June)
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Ecco; First Edition edition (June 7, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0062021028
  • ISBN-13: 978-0062021021
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.2 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (102 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #135,473 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

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By Miss Barbara TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on July 13, 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Ten Thousand Saints is a very well written book that for some reason failed to resonate with me. It may be a generational thing but I doubt it as I've been charmed by many other coming of age books. I think that the ability of the author to write so vividly, actually sculpting grand theater of the mind may have worked against her a little. The characters were placed in such dark places that the actual story needed to be a grand epic to pull them out of the reader's mental despair.

One of the main characters dies of a drug overdose in the story's set up and exists in the remainder of the book as a point of reference. I didn't find any of the characters to interest me or have me sympathize with their plight though I wanted to, I really did.

I must admit that I continued reading until the very end as the author managed to bring this sad and cautionary tale of drugs and living on the fringe in NYC to life. I kept hoping to relate with someone, anyone, in the pages but for me this never happened. I'm giving the author's writing skills 5 stars but the story only gets 2 stars. I'm rounding down on this one. I'm sure there are many readers more into this New York scene than I & I'm hoping they discover this work. I'm also looking forward to the next work by Eleanor Henderson - she had a good start with this one & I'm sure she has better works ahead, she's certainly capable.
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I have to admit that it's somewhat difficult for me to review this book objectively, because it reminded me of, but never came close to being as good as, one of my all-time favorite books. There is much about "Ten Thousand Saints" that is reminiscent of Michael Cunningham's "A Home at the End of the World," which is a book I have read four times and cherish. But Eleanor Henderson has nowhere near Michael Cunningham's talent for drawing characters about whom a reader cares. Perhaps the problem was that "Ten Thousand Saints" went on much longer than it needed to to made its point, so that boredom lead to disengagement. But while I do believe the book would have benefited from more rigorous editing, I'm not sure it would have made me like this book. I only intermittently cared about a couple of the characters, and most I didn't care about at all. Moreover, I actually found myself having to stop several times and remind myself which character was which; they blended together very easily, largely because the all had the same "voice." I also felt as though the whole "straight-edge" aspect of the book was merely added on in an attempt to give the book something to distinguish itself from the myriad other "coming-of-age-under-traumatic-circumstances" novel. In the end, it just didn't move me, provoke any deep thought in me, or even really entertain me.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
The new novel TEN THOUSAND SAINTS is certainly interesting and to me at least quite original. The book begins on New Year's Eve 1987 in fictional college town Lintonburg,VT (um if you notice Lintonburg contains the exact same letters as Burlington the home of the University of Vermont and the fictional and real cities have many similarities). Two young teenagers, Teddy and Jude, are out partying with their new friend Eliza from Manhattan and tragically Teddy is found dead the next morning after among other things huffing Freon and snorting cocaine. Both Jude and Eliza feel very guilty because Jude pressed the Freon on him and Eliza supplied the cocaine. Actually Eliza offered Teddy more than cocaine that night and she soon discovers she is pregnant from her one time encounter with the now deceased teenager. Eliza, Jude and Teddy's older half brother Johnny form a family of sorts who hope to raise Teddy's baby.

Adults are as important to the story as the teenagers and the effects of parents' actions on their children is a major theme of the book. Jude and his sister Prudence's divorced parents both make their living from marijuana as their dad Les is a prosperous grower and dealer while their artist mother Harriet, perhaps the most stable parent in the novel, makes her living from blowing glass bongs and pipes. Eliza's mom who at the beginning of the story is also Les's girlfriend is a self absorbed ballerina while Teddy and Johnny's mom is an aging hippie known for disappearing when ever things get uncomfortable. Johnny's dad is a prison inmate and Teddy's dad is an unknown man of Asian Indian descent who turns up toward the end of the book and is not what this reader at least expected.
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Jude and Teddy are childhood friends growing up in Vermont in the late 1980s. They do nearly everything together--cut school, take drugs, steal, listen to and play hardcore music, and dream of a "real life" away from what they know. Teddy's mother has just disappeared, leaving him to fend for himself and turn to Jude and his family for support. On New Year's Eve, Teddy and Jude meet up with Eliza, the daughter of Jude's father's girlfriend, and they take her to a party in search of fun and drugs (although not necessarily in that order). The party turns their lives upside down in more ways than one, and after they put Eliza back on a train to New York City, Teddy dies of an accidental drug overdose.

Overcome with grief over the death of his best friend, yet unable to express himself, Jude heads to New York and finds Johnny, Teddy's straight-edge half-brother. (Straight-edge kids swear off drugs, alcohol, sex, and often meat, but follow the hardcore punk scene.) When they find out that Eliza is pregnant with Teddy's child from their encounter at the party the night he died, Johnny sees this as a chance to form a real family, one that has escaped him for so long. Yet he must deal with the demons inside himself, as well as Jude's jealousy, on so many different levels. This is a book about finding yourself and realizing what makes a family, about the hardcore music scene of the late 1980s and the changing demographics of New York City, and about trying to avoid making the same mistakes your parents made.

I thought this book was pretty fantastic. Eleanor Henderson created some truly memorable characters and gave each surprising depth, which made me feel truly invested in what happened to them.
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