Ten Thousand Saints: A Novel by Eleanor Henderson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I was expecting something closer to The Taqwacores and Freaks and Revelations but Ten Thousand Saints doesn't focus as much on the straight edge scene as it does on Jude's search for love, and the competition for who will carry on Teddy's memory.
Why the author chose to rename Burlington is unknown, because it's pretty clear that Lintonburg is the stand-in (seriously, when you mention the ferry to Plattsburg, you're not exactly hiding the locale). Still, this look at the grittier side - the one the university students don't see - could be in any small-medium size New England city. Getting high is the escape, until Jude's birthday (aka New Year's Eve) when Teddy does just a little too much and dies during the freezing night.
He dies having left a little piece of himself behind, in the form of Eliza's baby, thus setting the rest of the book in motion. Our introduction to the straight edge life (no drugs, no meat, no sex, Krishna, etc.) isn't as in-depth as it could have been, and while we catch glimpses of Jude and Johnny's dedication, there's no sense of struggle as they try to fit their lives in to this world. The music is likewise less defined, although CBGB's gets name-dropped a lot (along with other mid-80s icons like Thompkins Square Park and St. Mark's Place).
The epilogue, set during the last few nights of CBGB's existence in 2006, follows the current trend of wrapping up enough of the plot to satisfy readers, when the real ending several pages before would allow us to imagine our own endings. It's a trend I'd love to see stopped.
ARC provided by publisher.
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