It took me quite a lot of time to get into the skin of this book and enjoy it. “Ten Thousand Saints” by Eleanor Henderson wasn’t an easy read to begin with. Let me directly get to the plot.
The book begins on New Year’s Eve 1987 in a fictional college town Lintonburg, Vermont. Two teenagers, Teddy and Jude are out partying with their new friend Eliza from Manhattan. Everything seems to be going fine when Teddy is found dead the next morning, after huffing Freon and on an overdose of Cocaine. The guilt weighs heavy on Jude and Eliza, as they were the ones who provided the drugs. Eliza also discovers that she is pregnant with Teddy’s baby and is confounded about what to do. Eliza, Jude and Teddy’s older half-brother Johnny then decide to raise the baby.
That is essentially the crux of the story. I found it a little difficult to read initially because of the structure but when you get used to it, it is a breeze. The parents of the teenagers are as involved in the book as the kids. The story also centers on the parents’ decisions and its impact on their kids. Jude’s divorced parents make their living by selling marijuana. Eliza’s mom is a self-indulgent and aging ballerina. Teddy and Johnny’s mom is an aging hippie. In short: Nothing is what it seems and it all goes wrong and also connects everyone with the other after Teddy’s death.
The book does tend to get repetitive at times but it is fascinating to some extent. There are times when you can get into the characters’ minds because they are so well-formed and etched. Maybe it is nothing new, but the content covers almost every topic – from homelessness to the emergence of AIDS in the late 80’s, to the time when things were progressing rapidly in the US of A and its impact on the characters and their lives.
The metaphors used are marvellous and fit like a glove on every page. The redemption of characters takes place gradually in the book and when you see it as a reader, it has the capacity to astound you. The overarching themes make the plot what it is – beautiful that is. The moral dilemma of the characters only adds to the book.
“Ten Thousand Saints” may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it was definitely mine and I am glad I endured and read through it.