Adopted by a pair of diehard hippies, restless, marginal Jude Keffy-Horn spends much of his youth getting high with his best friend, Teddy, in their bucolic and deeply numbing Vermont town. But when Teddy dies of an overdose on the last day of 1987, Jude's relationship with drugs and with his parents devolves to new extremes. Sent to live with his pot-dealing father in New York City's East Village, Jude stumbles upon straight edge, an underground youth culture powered by the paradoxical aggression of hardcore punk and a righteous intolerance for drugs, meat, and sex. With Teddy's half brother, Johnny, and their new friend, Eliza, Jude tries to honor Teddy's memory through his militantly clean lifestyle. But his addiction to straight edge has its own dangerous consequences. While these teenagers battle to discover themselves, their parents struggle with this new generation's radical reinterpretation of sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll and their grown-up awareness of nature and nurture, brotherhood and loss.
Moving back and forth between Vermont and New York City, Ten Thousand Saints is an emphatically observed story of a frayed tangle of family members brought painfully together by a death, then carried along in anticipation of a new and unexpected life. With empathy and masterful skill, Eleanor Henderson has conjured a rich portrait of the modern age and the struggles that unite and divide generations.
Amazon Best Books of the Month, June 2011: Mostly set in the Lower East Side of 1980s New York City, Ten Thousand Saints is that rare book that paints scenes so vividly you can imagine the movie in your head. I wanted to live inside its pages, where I could imagine not just the scenes themselves, but the cameras, the lights, the actors reading their lines off to the sides of the set. Main character Jude Keffy-Horn--named after a Beatles song by his adoptive hippy parents--spends his high school days in small town Vermont getting high with his best friend Teddy, waiting to turn 16, when he can legally drop out. When Teddy dies of an overdose on the last day of 1987, Jude is sent to live with his pot-dealer father in New York City. Jude soon falls in with a group of straight edge Hari Krishnas, where his commitment to abstinence in all forms--drugs, sex, meat--becomes an addiction itself. Jude struggles to create an identity amongst the extreme movements taking root downtown, while his parents struggle to understand their son’s rejection of their free love culture. Author Eleanor Henderson's meticulous research into the straight edge movement in the late 1980s has opened a door to a piece of history handled with love, care, and incredibly unforgettable characters. --Alexandra Foster