Gary R. (Bolingbrook, IL)
And I thought the 70's were scary!
When I started this book I didn't realize I would lose a good three days in New York in the 80's.characters hold you and won't let go. A great story about people and families lost and trying to find something to hold on to. This book will suck you in! Great debut!
Dorian B. (Bainbridge, NY)
Eleanor Henderson gives a well written snap shot of New York City in the late 1980's. It's not the rags to riches, or the literary scene, it is the raw, punk-rock underbelly of the city. The characters are not perfect, often making bad choices, but they are believable and memorable. The story unfolds and the characters gain depth as they all try to figure out how to deal with each other and how to do what is right. I enjoyed it!
Elizabeth K. (Dallas, TX)
A Lost Ensemble of Contemporary Characters
Eleanor Henderson is definitely a talented writer to watch. The young characters in this book are the ages of my adult children and I wanted to get a feel for what growing up in the '80s was like from a youthful perspective. The environment was different from our lives in suburban Dallas, yet the common denominator seemed to be the casual and almost unquestioning drug use that has pervaded so much of society. In this book the parents are drug users and dealers, aging hippies who neglect their children, even though they love them. A tragic death pushes the main character away from drugs but he seesaws to the opposite extreme by joining a clean living cult. There's a hint at the end of the book that he eventually finds his way to a happier, more balanced adult life, but overall this book left me feeling sad. Everyone portrayed - parents and children - lacks a moral compass and while recognizing they need one, life just happens as they drift. The writing was excellent and the author makes us feel compassion for her characters, but I hope her next book has characters with more of a sense of purpose than this ensemble displays. I guess this is how some Americans choose to live, but it's far from inspiring.
Betsey V. (Austin, TX)
More sinners than saints
There's a lot of late eighties teenage shenanigans starting off this novel, a charged up kind of punk erudition, the urbane in-your-face stride of an anarchist. The tone and mood fit the era well, and the particular crowd that the reader is thrust into is intransigent, forceful, rough. A sizzling clash of cultures between the hippies and what we now know as Gen-X-ers ensues, as well as between hardcore and "straight-edge" (drug and sex-free) punk, a clash that is eventually sanded smoother as an understanding is reached between both countercultures, and hypocrisies are penetrated.
My only complaint is that it is too lengthy and repetitive at intervals. 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 100 pages or so and still brandished a powerful story.
Definitely recommended to the Gen-X crowd, for its authenticity and story. There's a mocking quality that you have to accept, and lots of drugs. This is an author to watch. A classy debut.
Susan J. (Twain Harte, CA)
A Disturbing Story
This book is well-written but uncomfortable to read and relate to. The parent generation - my generation - is weak and self-absorbed, opting out of their responsibilities, leaving the kids to raise themselves in a scary world. I don't doubt the reality of this story, but it comes from an entirely unfamiliar world. Not a book for my book groups, but might be better suited to those how in their 30s or 40s.
Bea C. (Liberty Lake, WA)
This book is very well written, but it would be more interesting to someone who is interested in learning about the punk-rock era of the 80s, or re-living it. It would be a very scary book for parents of kids soon to be the age of the characters in the book, late high schoolers. Peer pressure leads to indiscriminate sexual experiments and drugs abound, as do any other means of getting high, like sniffing glue, paint cans, etc. It is about more than that, though. It is about young people learning about love and doing what they think is the right thing. It is about family relationships, parent to kids, brother to brother. It wasn't really my cup of tea, (I am 60) but a good book anyway, hence the 4 stars.
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.