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Ten Thousand Saints: A Novel Hardcover – May 16 2011

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From Publishers Weekly

"In this enchanting blend of the real and unreal, a spunky girl welcomes a tiny dragon into her family's home," said PW in a starred review. Ages 6-9. (Sept.)
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


“Henderson does not hold back once: she writes the hell out of every moment, every scene, every perspective, every fleeting impression, every impulse and desire.... She is never ironic or underwhelmed; her preferred mode is fierce, devoted and elegiac.” (Stacy D'Erasmo, New York Times Book Review, Cover Review)

“One of the Book Review’s 10 Best Books of 2011…[A] raucous first novel” (New York Times Book Review, Paperback Row)

“Rarely has a coming-of-age novel captured a time and place-here the late 1980s on Manhattan’s Lower East Side-with such perfect pitch. Grade: A” (Entertainment Weekly)

“[Henderson] has a perfect ear for conversation between siblings; the way a lazy spat can turn into a grudging moment of closeness. And the euphoria of the straight edge movement that Jude and Johnny embrace suffuses the novel with a reckless, glib joy…a bittersweet, lovely book.” (

“The best and most lyrically written coming-of-age novel of the year.” (The Daily Beast/Newsweek Writers' Best Books of 2011)

“[A] rare debut that, with a flinty kind of nostalgia, invokes both the gods and demons of a generation.” (Vogue)

“An irresistibly rich and engrossing novel…poignant, complex…Henderson brilliantly evokes the gritty energy of New York City in the ‘80s, and the violent euphoria of the music scene. The hard-edged settings highlight the touching vulnerability of young characters.” (O magazine, Best Fiction 2011)

“Highbrow/Brilliant: All the all-star sentences in Eleanor Henderson’s punk-rock-teen novel Ten Thousand Saints.” (New York Magazine Approval Matrix)

“Ten Thousand Saints is a whirling dervish of a first novel—a planet, a universe, a trip. As wild as that may sound, wonder of wonders, the book is also carefully and lovingly created… [Henderson] writes with great compassion but does not flinch” (Los Angeles Times)

“[The] reader smells the sweat, blood, urine, beer; hears the crowds screaming; feels herself at times flung into the mosh pit - Henderson shepherds her characters with blatant affection…raucous, wounded, sweet, spasmodically desperate, [Saints] comes to feel like a modern, drug-and-rock-riddled version of Peter Pan…” (San Francisco Chronicle)

“Henderson’s debut novel bursts out of the gate with all of the drive and sensory assault of the punk music that infuses it…. It’s an auspicious debut, and gives us reason to hope that Henderson will mature as satisfyingly as her subjects do.” (Boston Globe)

“[An] empathetic novel of wayward youth and their wayward parents…Henderson proves herself to be an expert ethnographer; her detail work is phenomenal.…characterizations demonstrate Henderson’s greatest skill. Even the ones who receive comparatively little stage time are always precisely defined… Henderson’s affection for [the characters] is palpable.” (Washington Post)

“Absorbing…Tone is just one element Henderson balances well.... She also packs her coming-of-age story with grit and a generational wallop…. In this naturalistic and assured novel, Henderson crafts a satisfying structure…psychological astuteness is a key pleasure of Ten Thousand Saints.” (Cleveland Plain Dealer)

“In Ten Thousand Saints, Eleanor Henderson’s début novel, the ghosts of St. Marks are brought back to life…Henderson’s book reads in part like an elegy: she follows her characters from 1987 to 2006, long enough to capture the end of the era and its strange aftermath.” (New Yorker Book Bench Blog)

“Proudly unsentimental…Henderson zeroes in on the essentially malleable nature of these teenagers without squashing them into an indistinguishable mass…, Henderson parcels out its history in tantalizing images and snatches of conversations, holding back where her protagonists might themselves miss the significance of their surroundings.” (The Onion AV Club)

“Henderson’s novel recalls all the sweat and fury of coming of age. . . It’s also a beautifully rendered study of devotion-to a cause, a religion, a scene, and one’s own family-and all the conflict and sacrifice that devotion entails.” (The Millions)

“I loved TEN THOUSAND SAINTS; again and again I was stopped cold by beautiful chapter-ending sentences. I remember this Manhattan, the Sunday matinees at CB’s, the rage over Yuppies colonizing the East Village. ” (Dean Wareham, lead singer of Galaxie 500 and Luna, author of BLACK POSTCARDS)

“Eleanor Henderson is in possession of an enormous talent which she has matched up with skill, ambition, and a fierce imagination. The resulting novel, TEN THOUSAND SAINTS, is the best thing I’ve read in a long time. “ (Ann Patchett, bestselling author of Bel Canto and State of Wonder)

“Countless coming-of-age novels have been written. When a truly exceptional story of this nature does come along, it’s a significant literary event… Ten Thousand Saints is memorable for its boldness and ambition, its empathetic prose, and the troubled souls who discover unlikely forms of redemption.” (Dallas Morning News)

“TEN THOUSAND SAINTS is funny, touching, artistic, surprising, lovely, eye-opening, and very, very wise.” (Arthur Phillips, author of PRAGUE and THE TRAGEDY OF ARTHUR)

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24 of 28 people found the following review helpful
Great writing - story lags July 13 2011
By Miss Barbara - Published on
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.
15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
True 'Till Death? March 7 2012
By A. Ross - Published on
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.
18 of 21 people found the following review helpful
A better editor would have made a better book July 18 2011
By bert1761 - Published on
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.
40 of 50 people found the following review helpful
Straight Edge! May 26 2011
By Falkor - Published on
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.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Interesting...but not a favorite this year. July 25 2011
By Kiki - Published on
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product
I wanted to read this book. I was so excited to get a copy. I was hoping this book would be a sort of companion to Hilary Thayer Hamann's Anthropology of an American Girl, a wonderful debut novel about a teen set in 1980's NY last year. It was one of my favorites of 2010, and I felt it was true gem. I did not feel the same about Eleanor Henderson's ponderous tome of drug use among parents and teens and "Straight Edge"/ hard core culture. It just didn't resonate with me, as truthful, believable or meaningful.

There are several main players in the novel, but Jude(an adopted child, possibly afflicted with fetal alcohol syndrome, named after the Beatles song OR possibly St. Jude, depending on which parent he asks)seems to be the character most of the action revolves around in the story. The novel opens with the unfortunate adventures of Jude and Teddy, ending with Teddy's death brought on by cocaine and huffing chemicals from Jude's home air conditioning unit in Vermont. The year is 1987. This is pretty much where the author, obviously a talented writer and extensive researcher, lost me.

The book has an almost overwhelming array of characters, ranging from Jude's dysfunctional family, to Eliza, the last girl Teddy was with, and Teddy's half brother, Johnny. In between there are many connections between these three teens. Eliza is Jude's dad Les's girlfriend's daughter in NYC. Johnny also resides in NYC, living in an Alphabet City "apartment" (he squats there), as an amateur (but popular, tattoo artist, who embraces the "Straight Edge" life style, a hard core rock/punk movement that promotes self denial and clean living, including celibacy, veganism/vegetarianism, no smoking,/drinking and attending the local Hare Krishna temple. There are more characters, but just about each and everyone is majorly dysfunctional, using or dealing marijuana heavily, wasting their lives, misguiding their children(if they are parents), or doing things to themselves they know are dangerous, stupid or morally wrong and/or hypocritical.

The book needed a bit more editing, perhaps. I see the enthusiasm in the author for her subject, particularly the "Straight Edge" scene, which she obviously researched heavily (maybe she was involved herself??). But about 100 pages half way through the book veers off into nothing but Straight Edge world. I didn't want to know that much about this stuff, and quite frankly, it isn't that interesting. It was too much. I want to know about the characters, particularly Eliza, with whom she would tantalizingly tease the reader with a glimpse here and there, looking into Eliza's thoughts and then quickly backing away and disconnecting from that part of the story. I don't want to spoil the plot for anyone by telling you why this would be so fascinating, but I just thought this would have best served the main movers of the plot: Teddy, Jude, Johnny and Eliza, NOT the Straight Edge story. She also managed to touch briefly on topics like fetal alcohol syndrome, the growing acceptance of homosexuals in NYC, HIV/AIDS and methamphetamine and cocaine use, all part of the burgeoning culture of the 1980's. But while the book comes to a roaring close, the last third of the book previous to the crashing end is draggy and slow, mired down in the details of life in a Straight Edge band full of youngsters who should be home in high school.

This isn't a terrible book, I liked the writing, and it will appeal to some folks who can possibly relate to some of the activities of the characters. But for me, the story itself just left me cold. I grew up in this era, on LI, outside of NYC. I knew people, kids and adults alike that used drugs, mainly pot and cocaine. I knew people who were criminals. But in this novel, the line between criminal and user blurs. All the adults are pretty reprehensible, no one is responsible and none of the "kids" have any ambition at all. No one gets called on their horrible behavior either. Ever. They all seem to get away with it. There seemed to be no redemption for anyone, and I'm not going to comment on the final pages of the book, as I do not want this review to be a spoiler for anyone who may be reading the book and enjoying it. But I found the end pretty unsatisfying as well.