Ten Thousand Saints: Book summary and reviews of Ten Thousand Saints by Eleanor Henderson

Ten Thousand Saints

A Novel

By Eleanor Henderson

Ten Thousand Saints
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  • Published in USA  Jun 2011,
    400 pages.

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Book Summary

A sweeping, multigenerational drama, set against the backdrop of the raw, roaring New York City during the late 1980s, Ten Thousand Saints triumphantly heralds the arrival a remarkable new writer. Eleanor Henderson  makes a truly stunning debut with a novel that is part coming of age, part coming to terms, immediately joining the ranks of The Emperor's Children by Claire Messud and Jonathan Lethem's The Fortress of Solitude. Adoption, teen pregnancy, drugs, hardcore punk rock, the unbridled optimism and reckless stupidity of the young - and old - are all major elements in this heart-aching tale of the son of diehard hippies and his strange odyssey through the extremes of late 20th century youth culture.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"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." - Publishers Weekly

"Henderson's powerful, surprising look at lost teens trying to course-correct with the violence-tinged straight-edge culture captivates via its authentic reassurance that adolescence is an often reckless ride to adulthood." - Library Journal

"A bold debut...[with] a powerful moral imagination." - Kirkus Reviews

"The magic of Henderson's debut lies in the way she so completely captures the experience of coming-of-age in the turbulent and exciting era that was the 1980s." - Booklist

"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

"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

"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

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Reader Reviews

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Rated 3 of 5 of 5 by Carol N. (San Jose, CA)
Coming of Age?
This book is a look at the 1980’s in New York’s East Village from the perspective of a close-knit group of teens - a portrait of modern age and the struggles that unite or divide generations. Moving back and forth between Vermont and New York City, Ten Thousand Saints is a story of a frazzled bunch of family members that were brought together by Teddy’s sudden death due to an overdose, then carried along in anticipation of the birth of his child. AIDS, homelessness, gentrification, parenthood, adoption, and drug use are among the many topics covered in the book.

Rather lengthy and repetitive at times, this book took patience on my part to get through it. The hardcore punk rock music venues and the physical violence between some of these musicians got a little tedious. The author could have been pared it down and still sustained the story. The characters in this book have been compared to those in a Wally Lamb book – alive, familiar and all too human. Even though the dialogue was well done, in my opinion these characters were not that likable. I pitied them, but it was hard to really like them. In other words, I probably never will remember their names after the “read” is done like I do that of Scout from “How to Kill a Mockingbird.” Highly publicized by other reviewers as a coming-of-age novel; there are much better choices.

Rated 2 of 5 of 5 by Gina G. (Portland, OR)
Kinda Meh
I highly anticipated this novel but once I started it I was disappointed as it is mediocre at best.

Rated 3 of 5 of 5 by Brenda S. (Grand Rapids, MN)
It's Not Worth the Read
This book did not get interesting until about page 80, then it slowly built to a mesa; one of a few books I wouldn't pass on to another person I liked. The gist of the story was not something to build over 300 pages; it wasn't good enough for 150 pages. The writing was boring and I found myself scanning the text until another interesting occurrence appeared. It was a struggle to get through the book and I'm not happy that I made the effort.

Rated 3 of 5 of 5 by Kathy G. (Alamo, CA)
Ten Thousand Saints
As I left a late night play in San Francisco, I saw tattooed teenagers on skateboards just "hanging", smoking and doing whatever they do very late at night . Johnny and Jude came to mind. I shook my head with dismay as apparently life has not become much better with the current generation.

I had a hard time with the book. As I turned each page, I had hoped to find redemption but the characters all remained dysfunctional. The parents had no parenting skills at all.

On a positive note, the author will give the reader an insight into the lives of dysfunctional families in the eighties.. The characters were well developed as well.
Hard to relate to. However I do need to point out that I am in my mid-sixties!

Rated 3 of 5 of 5 by Kelly H. (Chagrin Falls, Ohio)
Searching Hard for Redeeming Values
"Ten Thousand Saints" centers around a group of down-on-their-luck teenagers and their dysfunctional extended families. Each of the characters, and indeed the entire book, lacks a sense of purpose. The adults in the story act primarily as grown-up teenagers and seem to be missing even the most basic parental instincts. Rather than provide their teens with appropriate guidance (followed up with appropriate discipline), the adults show little regard for providing familial structure.

Perhaps I was searching too hard for redemption in the story. The characters remain largely one-dimensional and unchanging at their core. As dysfunctional as the teenagers grow up in the story, there is little indication the cycle will be broken for the next generation.

Rated 2 of 5 of 5 by Patricia K. (Oak Park, California)
Ten Thousand Saints
I forced myself to finish this book. The characters all seemed flat--they seem to pass through life on destructive paths and never really moved beyond their dreary existence. Everyone seemed to exist on drugs and violence with no redemption anywhere in the book.

...14 more reader reviews

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Eleanor Henderson earned her MFA from the University of Virginia in 2005. Her story, "The Farms," was selected by Alice Sebold for The Best American Short Stories 2009. Her fiction has also appeared in Agni, North American Review, Ninth Letter, and Columbia, among other publications. Her nonfiction has appeared in Poets & Writers, where she was a contributing editor, and Virginia Quarterly Review, where she was the chair of the fiction board. She is currently an assistant professor at Ithaca College. You can learn more at eleanorhenderson.net.

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