When 22-year-old Avery Walker, a senior at Penn State, meets Grant Danko, a 37-year-old performance artist from Brooklyn whose stage name is Saint John of the Five Boroughs, her life changes radically as she leaves college to live with Grant in Brooklyn and pursue a life as an artist. Worried about Avery, her mother, Kate, and her aunt, Lindsey, and Lindsey’s husband, Hank, travel to Brooklyn, where they all face a crisis of their own and make life-altering choices.
Grant is an angry guy with a curiously attractive personality and a coterie of bright, artistic friends. He’s used his good looks and his accomplishments, and the accomplishments of those friends, to get by while he works hauling stolen goods for his gangster uncle. He carries dark secrets that have caused his life to go off the rails. Grant is about as lost as a man can get, adept at making wrong choices. But when he finally faces his explosive moment of truth, something extraordinary happens.
Saint John of the Five Boroughs is beautifully turned—a stunning and layered novel about the effects of violence, both personal and cultural, on its characters’ lives. It’s about the way violence twists character, but also about the possibilities for redemption and change, for achieving a kind of personal grace. Edward Falco once again proves to be a master of urgency and suspense, of events careening out of control, as he brilliantly explores why we make the choices we make—both the ones that threaten to destroy our lives, and those choices that might save us.
Reviewers have rightfully stressed the seamless writing, the well crafted world building, and the book's quick cinematic pace. On the one hand, the book reads like a well crafted indy film. Edward Falco creates unorthodox characters that are painfully real in their motivations and logic, which is part of the book's appeal.
On the other hand, I found the unorthodox and real characters to be too "real" at certain points. I could easily picture Lindsay's response to her brother's deployment and her demand that their family relocate to New York City, but just as I could readily imagine Lindsay, I found her to be flighty and annoying.
While I might not have enjoyed Saint John of the Five Boroughs as much as many of the other reviewers, it was just not my thing. Other readers will surely appreciate the clearsightedness with which Edward Falco creates his characters.
Publisher: Unbridled Books; 1st edition (October 20, 2009), 424 pages.
Review copy provided by the publisher and Unbridled Book Tours.
About the Author, courtesy of the publisher:
Edward Falco was born in Brooklyn and teaches at Virginia Tech University in Blacksburg, Virginia. He’s the prize-winning author of Wolf Point, along with three previous collections—Sabbath Night in the Church of the Piranha: New & Selected Stories, Plato at Scratch Daniel’s and the Richard Sullivan Prize winner, Acid—and a novel, Winter in Florida. Visit Edward Falco's website at http://www.edfalco.us to learn more.