Wednesday, August 10, 2011
Ten Thousand Saints by Eleanor Henderson
Ten Thousand Saints revolves around the life of Jude, a sixteen year old coming of age in the late 1980's. Jude was adopted at birth by parents who proudly called themselves hippies. Now, as he tries to determine who he is, they have split; his mother a glassblower in Vermont and his father a drug dealer in New York City. Jude doesn't do well at school; he doesn't have many friends, and he's not sure why his life isn't working out. His one true friend is Teddy, who is also from a broken home.
On New Year's Eve of 1987, several events happen. Jude's father's girlfriend's daughter, Eliza, comes to town for a few hours to meet Jude and his sister, a suggestion by Les, the father. Jude and Teddy take Eliza to a party where Teddy and Eliza end up together and Jude ends up being beat up by the local football hero and the local drug dealer. Finally, as the year ends, Jude and Teddy get high and Teddy dies.
As the battle between Jude and the local toughs intensifies, his parents decide that he should move to New York for a while to live with Les. Once there, Jude meets up with Johnny, Teddy's big brother who moved to the city several years ago. Johnny introduces Jude to Straight Edge, a militant group that worships music and bans drugs, alcohol, sex and eating meat. Jude falls in with this group, joining Johnny's band and then eventually starting one of his own.
The book follows Jude's life for a year as he moves from group to group, cleaving to friends then breaking apart, always searching for what will make sense of his life. The adults in his world don't seem to have made any more sense of their lives than he has, and Jude must determine what will work for him to move forward.
This book is recommended for all readers interested in determining life paths. For many, it will be nostalgic of the time period, while others may read and wonder how all of this occurred. The book covers other topics; unplanned pregnancies, the birth of gay liberation and the AIDS epidemic, the band scene, the gentrification of New York City and the sense that life happens whether or not one is ready for it. This is a debut novel by Eleanor Henderson and readers will be waiting eagerly for her next book, ready to see what new topics she will tackle.