Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Ten Thousand Saints-Eleanor Henderson

Ten Thousand Saints
Eleanor Henderson
Ecco (HarperCollins), Jun 7 2011, $26.99
ISBN: 9780062021021

In Vermont, Les grows pot and his significant other Harriet creates paraphernalia. The pair adopts Jude who shows signs of fetal-alcohol effects. When Jude is nine years old, Harriet catches Les cheating on her and kicks him out of their home. He vanishes.

In Vermont, Teddy’s white mother insisted his Indian father is dead. Now she deserts Teddy too. Teddy and Jude are best friends who enjoy skateboarding while high. On December 31, 1987, the two teens crash a party with fifteen year old coke head Eliza. They share cocaine and Teddy has sex with her. Afterward the two males try Freon, but Teddy dies from it. Meanwhile Eliza is pregnant. Jude moves to run down Alphabet City in Manhattan where Les arrives to take his adopted son with him. Teddy's 18-year-old brother Johnny though gay offers to marry Eliza so that the baby can remain with her mom and not discarded for adoption as demanded by the maternal grandmother of the unborn.

This is an engaging look at the late 1980s mostly from the perspective of the teens, but deftly avoids a nostalgia return through the amused adults who are awed, horrified and stunned by the beginnings of rapid change that will take the country into the virtual world. The characters are fully developed and different as the young come of age with Teddy’s death and Eliza’s pregnancy, and their parents struggle with what is right for their offspring who learn how fragile living is whether it’s in Vermont or Manhattan.

Harriet Klausner

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