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
    Genre: Novels

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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

The information about Ten Thousand Saints shown above was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's online-magazine that keeps our members abreast of notable and high-profile books publishing in the coming weeks. In most cases, the reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author of this book and feel that the reviews shown do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, please send us a message with the mainstream media reviews that you would like to see added.

Reader Reviews

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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)

Another World
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)

Parents beware
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.

...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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