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Ten Thousand Saints: A Novel Hardcover – May 30 2011


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Ecco (May 30 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0062021028
  • ISBN-13: 978-0062021021
  • Product Dimensions: 3.3 x 15.9 x 23.5 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 499 g
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #273,826 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)


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Amazon.com: 81 reviews
22 of 26 people found the following review helpful
Great writing - story lags July 13 2011
By Miss Barbara - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product
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.
38 of 47 people found the following review helpful
Straight Edge! May 26 2011
By Falkor The White Luck Dragon - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product
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.

The teenagers turn to Straight Edge music with the accompanying austere lifestyle strongly influenced by Hare Krishna beliefs. It is implied that this is a reaction against their parents' hedonistic ways. Johnny who is a musician and tattoo artist living in the Tompkins Square Park area of Manhattan's alphabet city marries Eliza in hopes of giving his dead brother's baby a chance to stay under his influence even though he has no romantic interest in women. Johnny seems to epitomize the Straight Edge lifestyle and is known as Mr. Clean because of his shaved head and vegan habits.

TEN THOUSAND SAINTS is a novel well worth reading. AIDS, homelessness, gentrification, parenthood, adoption, and drug use are among the many topics incorporated in the book. The author does a great job of bringing the late 1980's in the East Village to detailed life and the choices of the kids and parents in the book will linger in the reader's memory. And the book ends with a very appropriate and effective postscript from 2006 on the last night the famed punk venue CBGB's was open.
15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
A better editor would have made a better book July 18 2011
By bert1761 - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product
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.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
True 'Till Death? March 7 2012
By A. Ross - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
I should admit right up front that I tend not to read "hot" new fiction until a few years after its published, partly because I already have plenty of stacks of unread books in my house, and partly because I feel like that gives it time to cool down, and I'll have more data (ie. friends' opinions) to draw upon before decided to commit to reading it. However, this debut was an exception -- mainly because so many people were telling me that the late-'80s iteration of the straight-edge hardcore subculture that I was a part of plays a huge role in the plot. Now, I know that's a pretty weak reason to pick up a book, but what can I say -- curiosity got the better of me. I was deeply into that scene from 1987-91, and though I experienced mainly down in D.C. (RIP, Safari Club), I drove up to shows at the Anthrax, and the Ritz, and knew plenty of people who were bands, started record labels, did 'zines, etc. and 25 years later, I remain one of the few from that time who's still straight edge.

What I found was not untypical of a first novel: a somewhat haphazard, awkwardly paced and plotted story that crams in way too much and feels like it needs another few drafts to reach a finished, polished state. Don't get me wrong, there's plenty of good writing and good storytelling, but it's side-by-side (ha ha, inside joke for my straight edge brethren) with bad writing, soap opera plot developments, clunky transitions, and even a feel-good coda. The book starts extremely strongly, under some high-school bleachers in Burlington, Vermont (for some reason, recast as "Lintonburg" -- why bother?), where we meet Jude and Teddy, two teenage misfits whose main ambition in life is getting chemically stimulated. A visit from Jude's not-quite stepsister from Manhattan (with the unfortunately transparent last name "Urbanski" -- I mean, come on!) is the catalyst for tragedy and change, as Teddy dies and Jude moves to New York.

It it Jude's journey that leads us through the book, as he gets to know his father, who has been largely absent from his life. He also falls in with Teddy's older brother, who is a fixture of the burgeoning New York City hardcore scene, with his straight-edge band Army of One. (Note: those who would like to read more about this subculture should check out All Ages: Reflections on Straight Edge, a book of interviews that includes a number of people from that era of the scene, or the anthology Sober Living for the Revolution: Hardcore Punk, Straight Edge, and Radical Politics -- unfortunately the two more academic ethnographies of the subculture are kind of weak. And if you want to hear a sampling of the music, start with the New York City Hardcore compilation from 1988, and go from there.) Anyway, the straight edge stuff is relevant to the story because Jude's parents are both aging hippies who, in different ways, make their living from the pot trade, and his stepsister is a stereotypically spoiled rich Manhattan brat with access to lots of drugs, and in the straight edge scene, he finds a path to a more meaningful life in the wake of the death of his best friend. This is a bit overdone (does it really have to be both parents who make a living off weed, can't it be a little more nuanced than that?), but more or less works.

The reason the book didn't work for me is that the author also brings in all kinds of other stuff, such a teen pregnancy and resulting soap opera antics, AIDS, fetal alcohol syndrome, an attempted portrait of the late '80s pre-gentrified Lower East Side, including the characters direct involvement with the real-life Tompkins Square riot, and most of all, a large subplot involving concealed homosexuality. (The homosexuality angle had the potential to be interesting within the context of the characters involved, but the author oddly muddies the waters by suggesting multiple times that the straight edge subculture was some form of mask for latent homosexuality.) It's just too much stuff, too many themes, and the author only has partial control over it. There are characters who have some great moments here and there (for example, Jude's mother's ineffectualness as a parent), but they're too few and far between, and some characters whose voices are too muted. I ultimately feel like it all would have worked better as a series of separate or linked short stories, with maybe one novella devoted to Jude.
9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
What an unpleasant experience Jan. 2 2012
By A Reader - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
I'm about two-thirds of the way through this book and have finally decided to put it down for good. The author seems to have talent but the subject matter isn't involving and I don't find the story authentic. She's obviously done tons of research but that's exactly the way the book reads, like she's citing research facts about New York and the Lower East Side in the 80s -- like lists of things, what music characters are listening to, or what you might have found on the corner of St. Mark's Place and 1st Avenue, or what happened at such and such a time in Tompkins Square Park. I lived in New York then and was looking forward to having that great experience of feeling immersed in a place I know, but I never got that feeling, reading this, not for a minute. (For example, what about the food in that neighborhood? What about all the cheap Indian places and Russian places and delis, and all the stuff we love about the Lower East Side that makes the setting so rich? She just does not inhabit that place at all, not the way a downtown New York story really requires.) There's something intriguing about a tale in which the children of drug-addled hipster parents are completely neglected, and how they manage to survive (or not, one of the more unpleasant aspects of the book), but that's not the story the author wants to tell. She leaves that subject to move into another, less interesting one, about the "straight edge" movement (hardcore bands who did no drugs, had no sex, and ate no meat) and that just left me cold. I don't believe Ms Henderson lived this life at all and she's not skilled enough yet to make us believe a fiction about it. (Ps -- kids in the 80s were not using sarcasms like "Whatever.") Time to move on.


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