Eleanor Henderson's debut novel, Ten Thousand Saints (Ecco), immediately landed on best-seller and required reading lists. Her other fiction has appeared in Agni, North American Review, Ninth Letter, and Columbia, among other publications, and her story "The Farms" was nominated for a Pushcart and selected by Alice Sebold for The Best American Short Stories 2009. Her nonfiction has appeared in Poets & Writers, where she was a contributing editor, and The Virginia Quarterly Review, where she was the chair of the fiction board. The unique story and critical acclaim of Ten Thousand Saints, coupled with Henderson's enthusiasm and passion for writing, makes her the perfect speaker for university and colleges, First Year Experience programs, libraries, writing conferences, and workshops.
In Ten Thousand Saints, Henderson tells the part coming-of-age, part coming-to-terms story of Jude Keffy-Horn, who, after being adopted by a pair of diehard hippies, spends much of his youth developing innovative methods to get high with his friend, Teddy. When Teddy dies of an overdose, Jude's relationship with drugs and his parents find a new extreme. Jude attempts to honor Teddy's memory through his new, militantly clean lifestyle, but his addiction to straight edge has its own dangerous consequences. Meanwhile, their parents struggle to raise a generation that has a radical reinterpretation of sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll and a grown-up awareness of nature and nurture, brotherhood and loss. Moving back and forth between Vermont and New York City, Henderson's first novel is an emphatically observed story of a frayed tangle of family members, brought painfully together by a death, then carried along in anticipation of new and unexpected life. With empathy and masterful skill, Henderson conjures a rich portrait of the modern age and the struggles that unite and divide generations.
Henderson was born in Greece, grew up in Florida, and attended Middlebury College and the University of Virginia, where she received her MFA in 2005. From 2006 to 2010, Henderson taught at James Madison University in Virginia. She is currently an assistant professor at Ithaca College in Ithaca, New York, where she lives with her husband and son.
Praise for Ten Thousand Saints:
"Henderson does not hold back once: she writes the hell out of every moment, every scene, every perspective, every fleeting impression, every impulse and desire.... She is never ironic or underwhelmed; her preferred mode is fierce, devoted and elegiac."
-- New York Times Book Review
"Rarely has a coming-of-age novel captured a time and place-here the late 1980s on Manhattan's Lower East Side-with such perfect pitch. Grade: A"
-- Entertainment Weekly
"[Henderson] captures the fraught, incomplete stories that teenagers manufacture about their lives...Henderson's novel reminds us of how blunt teenagers are, and by extension, how honest. She has a perfect ear for conversation between siblings; the way a lazy spat can turn into a grudging moment of closeness. And the euphoria of the straight edge movement that [characters] Jude and Johnny embrace suffuses the novel with a reckless, glib joy...a bittersweet, lovely book."
"[A] rare debut that, with a flinty kind of nostalgia, invokes both the gods and demons of a generation."
"An irresistibly rich and engrossing novel...poignant, complex...Henderson brilliantly evokes the gritty energy of New York City in the '80s, and the violent euphoria of the music scene. The hard-edged settings highlight the touching vulnerability of young characters."
-- O Magazine
"Ten Thousand Saints is a whirling dervish of a first novel - a planet, a universe, a trip. As wild as that may sound, wonder of wonders, the book is also carefully and lovingly created, taking the reader far into the lives and souls of its characters and bringing them back out again, blinking in the bright light... [Henderson] writes with great compassion but does not flinch - some scenes are amped up so loud a reader looks away...Like many other American novelists before her (Richard Russo comes to mind), Henderson also knows how badly her readers hope for redemption. It's a natural law: The better you know a character, the more deeply you see their vulnerability and the odds stacked against them, the more you want them to succeed. What makes Ten Thousand Saints so deeply satisfying is that possibility and the slow, painful steps to get there."
-- The Los Angeles Times
"Eleanor Henderson's debut novel bursts out of the gate with all of the drive and sensory assault of the punk music that infuses it...Ten Thousand Saints is a classic coming-of-age novel, with tattoos. But more than a story of young people on the cusp of adulthood, it's also a story of a neighborhood and movement on the verge of transformation...Henderson is a versatile ventriloquist, taking us briskly and believably into the minds and hearts of most of her major characters...Ten Thousand Saints is at its best when depicting the punk scene in New York in the 1980s and its amalgam of homeless junkies, vegan Hinduists, early AIDS victims, and antigentrification activists. It's an auspicious debut, and gives us reason to hope that Eleanor Henderson will mature as satisfyingly as her subjects do."
-- Boston Globe
"[An] empathetic novel of wayward youth and their wayward parents...Henderson proves herself to be an expert ethnographer; her detail work is phenomenal. A scene in which Jude joins a game of laser tag in the subway system is particularly well-realized and almost demands to be filmed. Henderson's witty, offhand observations and throwaway lines are worthy of Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers, whose song 'I'm Straight' could be seen as this novel's anthem...characterizations demonstrate Henderson's greatest skill. Even the ones who receive comparatively little stage time are always precisely defined... Not all of these characters are particularly appealing, but they're memorable, and Henderson's affection for them is palpable."
-- Washington Post
"Eleanor Henderson is in possession of an enormous talent which she has matched up with skill, ambition, and a fierce imagination. The resulting novel, Ten Thousands Saints, is the best thing I've read in a long time."
-- Ann Patchett, bestselling author of Bel Canto and State of Wonder