Feature

Novel of the week: Ten Thousand Saints by Eleanor Henderson

Henderson's absorbing first novel is about a teenage boy who seeks redemption in New York City's “straight-edge” music scene after the death of a friend.

(Ecco, $27)

Imagine two Vermont 15-year-olds who sample mind-altering substances “as casually as if they were Huck and Tom picking up their fishing poles,” said Karen R. Long in the Cleveland Plain Dealer. The tragic end of this 1980s friendship is the catalyst for Eleanor Henderson’s absorbing first novel, about rudderless youth. When one friend dies, the survivor heads to New York City and, together with two others touched by the tragedy, seeks redemption through immersion in the era’s “straight-edge” music scene. On its surface, this is a novel about a short time in an AIDS-scarred New York when certain people were devoting themselves to a life of no drugs, no sex, and “concerts that feature a lot of body-slamming,” said Stacey D’Erasmo in The New York Times. But the author’s gripping elegy is, at a deeper level, about the contrast between “those who seek intensity and those who shield themselves from it.” Her prose at times overheats, but she “writes the hell out of every moment.”

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