Monday, March 26, 2012
Book 15 - Ten Thousand Saints by Eleanor Henderson
This is the new novel by Eleanor Henderson and takes place in Lintonburg, Vermont. Lintonburg is obviously Burlington, VT, and is rife with references to Vermont State (UVM) and Lake Champlain (which is still Lake Champlain). At the beginning of the novel, we meet Jude and Teddy - two teenage boys that are seniors at the local high school and who are into the local drug scene. Jude's father is a marijuana dealer in New York who is dating Di, a prima ballerina (literally). Teddy is Jude's best friend and his mother also is heavily involved in the drug trade. Eliza is Di's daughter from a previous relationship and is a few years younger than the two boys. At the opening of the novel, it is New Year's Eve and it is the Mid-80s. Eliza decides to stop in Burlington on her way home to New York after a ski trip to Stowe and parties with Jude and Teddy. The three attend a bash at a local, wealthy classmate's home where there is alcohol, pot and cocaine (the cocaine being provided by Eliza, who never was into the whole pot scene apparently). After using coke with Eliza (and having sex with her) and then huffing freon with Jude, Teddy suffers a tragic overdose and dies, leaving both Jude and Eliza with massive amounts of guilt (and a pregnancy). As a result of this, Teddy's half brother, Jude and Eliza opt to band together to raise the baby and often shuttle between Lintonburg and Alphabet City in New York City, where Jude and Eliza become members of the Straight Edge punk rock scene, almost by default.
What I found really interesting about this novel is how Henderson used the Straight Edge movement as a catalyst for a coming of age epiphany for each of her characters and how each of them came out markedly differently even though they all partook in very similar situations and actions at very similar times (pregnancy aside). And yet, while each struggled to use the movement to attain individuality and to rebel, they all were seemingly like lemmings - they alls haves their heads and got X tattoos and listened to the same music and abstained from everything. They force their belief system on others and beat up those who don't buy into their theories and belief system (a la the Crusades but on a much lesser scale of course?). What I also really thought masterful about this novel was Henderson's writing style actually. The prose that she uses moves smartly along, and the dialogue was wonderful. I also really like how she delayed plot turns until a character essentially started talking about the twist which is gutsy, particularly in a newer writer and which I really appreciated because it kept my attention. Henderson is also gifted in the sense that she developed her characters and they had discernible epiphanies and were markedly different at the end.