Adopted by a pair of diehard hippies, restless, marginal Jude Keffy-Horn spends much of his youth getting high with his best friend, Teddy, in their bucolic and deeply numbing Vermont town. But when Teddy dies of an overdose on the last day of 1987, Jude's relationship with drugs and with his parents devolves to new extremes. Sent to live with his pot-dealing father in New York City's East Village, Jude stumbles upon straight edge, an underground youth culture powered by the paradoxical aggression of hardcore punk and a righteous intolerance for drugs, meat, and sex.
With Teddy's half brother, Johnny, and their new friend, Eliza, Jude tries to honor Teddy's memory through his militantly clean lifestyle. But his addiction to straight edge has its own dangerous consequences. While these teenagers battle to discover themselves, their parents struggle with this new generation's radical reinterpretation of sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll, and their grown-up awareness of nature and nurture, brotherhood and loss.
Moving back and forth between Vermont and New York City, Ten Thousand Saints is an emphatically observed story of a frayed tangle of family members brought painfully together by a death, then carried along in anticipation of a new and unexpected life. With empathy and masterful skill, Eleanor Henderson has conjured a rich portrait of the modern age and the struggles that unite and divide generations.
©2011 Eleanor Henderson (P)2011 HarperCollinsPublishers
I loved this book, about smart teenagers trying to understand their world and get by in Manhattan and Vermont in the late 1980s. The characters are flawed and troubled and sometimes dangerous, but you grow to care about them as the book moves forward. The author successfully shifts to the different points of view of the characters, including their wayward parents. You can always tell that she cares deeply for each of them.
The narration was excellent. I have not experienced this narrator before, but I thought he brought the right note of yearning and wonder to the story. His handling of the different characters' voices was strong without being distracting.
I recently read "A Visit From the Goon Squad," which has similar themes, and I can't say that I preferred one over the other. Both were absorbing and enjoyable novels. But "Goon Squad" was more of a novel composed of short stories (a lot of those these days....), while Ten Thousand Saints was a real novel, focusing on one protagonist with a lot of compelling parallel subplots.
Faced with mindless duty, when an audio book player slips into a rear pocket and mini buds pop into ears, old is made new again.
The subject of “Ten Thousand Saints” is family; i.e. it is about mothers, daughters, fathers, and sons. The strongest family characters are women. Absent fathers weave in and out of Henderson’s story to show how absence wreaks havoc on family values.
Henderson creates characters that seem destined to die young but are drawn back to living by crises and acceptance of responsibility; not all survive and not all accept responsibility but, like in real life, experience and maturity changes behavior.
“Ten Thousand Saints” is a history of the 60s, 70s, and 80s, but it is also a life lesson for every generation that ignores the importance of mothers and fathers in every human life. “Ten Thousand Saints” is well written, insightful, and entertaining. Sadly, the ending is imperfect; just like real life.
a classic or history, family story
I listened to it to learn more about teens, drugs, etc
I listen to lots of books, and this one never drew me in. The characters didn't come to life, and the ending seemed too tidy. Some of the characters seemed so implausible I couldn't permit the suspension of belief (if I remember the right terminology from high school English) that would have allowed me to enjoy the book.
Terrible English accent
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