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 turneda 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 makeboth the ones that threaten to destroy our lives, and those choices that might save us.
|Product dimensions:||5.90(w) x 8.90(h) x 1.10(d)|
Read an Excerpt
Saint John of the Five Boroughs
By EDWARD FALCO
UNBRIDLED BOOKSCopyright © 2009 Edward Falco
All right reserved.
Chapter OnePeople were checking her out from the balconies. Avery knew it, she could feel it, and so she was conscious of how low her slacks rested on her hips, how much of her stomach showed, how her breasts pushed up by her bra rode just slightly higher than the straight neckline of her tank top. Part of her squirmed, part of her preened. An old Rolling Stones song charged down from a second-story balcony a dozen feet in front of her, the driving rhythm doing its magic, dance welling up through her legs and backbone to her shoulders like someone flipped a switch and for an instant she was wildly happy, and that was a pleasure for the moment it lasted before she started wondering about the actual party where she was headed and about whether or not this night she might really hook up with some guy just because she liked his looks or the way he was built or whatever. Because she didn't want to go back to ice cream and an old movie with Melanie. Because the summer at home that had just passed was all ice cream and old movies, only with mother, with Kate.
Mel bumped shoulders with Avery and said, "Look. That's Billy and Chack."
Avery saw Chack first. He was an Indian guy with big eyes and short, scruffy hair. He had on a short-sleeved madras shirt and khaki slacks, which waslike a uniform with him. Sometimes Mel called him Professor Madras. He was a grad student in chemistry or something like that. He and Billy were one of those sets of guys who seemed to exist in a kind of magnetic relationship so that wherever one was, the other was circling nearby. She was still looking for Billy when she heard him scream out Melanie's name and then hers as he emerged out of the crowd and climbed over the balcony railing. He was barefoot and wearing pants that only reached midcalf and a bright red shirt that looked like it was probably a woman's blouse given the fat collar and the lack of top buttons, a small, skinny guy with long hair slicked back and dripping water on the shoulders of the shirt-blouse. When he let go of the railing to wave them up, Chack grabbed him around the waist and yanked him back to safety. Then someone turned up the volume on some Salt-N-Pepa cut, and heads nodded and bodies bobbed in a ripple of motion.
Melanie said, "What's up with that boy?"
"Let's go see." Avery started toward the balcony and then stopped to say maybe they shouldn't, since Dee was expecting them at Vince's party.
Melanie said, "Screw her. She's been a bitch all night."
Avery thought it over for a second and then continued across the lawn. At the crowded doorway, she wanted to turn around, repulsed by the prospect of trying to wedge her way through the dense crush of bodies inside, but Melanie grabbed her by the arm and yanked her into the swarm. "I need another drink," she said. "I'm losing my buzz."
"Buzz?" Avery shouted. Melanie had her wrist in a death grip as she pulled her through pounding music and sweaty bodies. "You're out of it, girl! You left buzz behind hours ago!"
Melanie yelled something Avery couldn't make out, and then a body stumbled in front of her. Melanie's grip broke, the crowd closed around her, and Avery found herself toe to toe with a guy so big she had to look up to see his face, which was amazingly square and flat. "Yo, Missy," he said. "Looking good!"
Avery was about to slide around him when someone knocked into her from behind and pushed her flat against his unmoving body, which was so rock-hard and solid that it startled her. Banging into him was like running into a boulder. "Jesus," she said, the words spilling out without thought, "what are you, like a weight lifter or something?"
The guy's face lit up. "You don't know who I am?"
"I'm supposed to know who you are?" Avery stepped back to get a better look and saw a guy who did in fact look a good bit like a boulder. He was tall and wide, with a neck the size of an average guy's thigh. "Let me guess," she said. "Football player."
He offered her his hand. "Zachary Snow," he said. "I'm pretty famous, but I guess you don't follow football, huh?"
Avery said, "Do we have a football team?"
Zachary's face went slack with confusion before Avery smirked, cluing him in that she was making a joke, and he laughed a weird, high-pitched, tittering laugh. "You're funny," he said.
"I'm only funny when I'm drinking," she said. "Otherwise I'm pretty dull."
"Well, shit ..." Zach pulled a silver flask out of his back pocket, took a swig, and offered it to her. "Can't be talking to no dull girls."
Avery managed one big gulp of bourbon, which she recognized from its familiar sweet burn, before she coughed and handed back the flask. "That's good," she said. "Smooth."
"Booker's," Zach said. "Fifty dollars a fifth."
Avery stalled a moment, offered Zach a coy smile. She was getting that fluttery feeling she got when she didn't know for sure what she was doing but was pretty sure she was about to do it. "So are you one of those football players everybody's trying to get with because they're, like, on the cover of Sports Illustrated and stuff?"
"Nah, not like that," Zach said. "But, you know, maybe. If I have a good season. This'll be my first year starting."
"Starting what?" Avery asked. She had to smirk again to let him know she was joking.
"You're pretty funny," he said.
"So, like, Zach ..." She reached up and touched the biceps on his right arm, which was significantly bigger than the width of her outstretched hand, thumb to pinkie. "How much can you lift?"
"I can bench four hundred," he said. "I got a shot at the Iron Man title. You into lifting?"
She smiled her cutest, girliest smile. "Do I look like I'm into lifting?"
Zach said, "You look good." He pulled the flask from his back pocket and handed it to Avery.
Avery took another big swallow, shook it of off, and looked over Zach one more time as she handed the flask back to him. "So, Zach," she said, "you want to come out to the balcony with me and meet my friends?" She offered him her hand.
Zach said, "Aight," and flashed a bright, happy smile.
Avery gestured toward the balcony and then followed Zach as he bulled through the crowd. She was getting dangerously close to being too drunk, though she wasn't there yet. Sound buzzed and swooped over her, color flashed and flared. Breasts were in fashion again, which was a good thing for her, since she had 'em, but rough on girls like Mel, who didn't have much at all. She briefly pondered this-the current fashion of displaying breasts-as she was pulled through the party, past one girl after another wearing a variety of revealing tops.
On the balcony, Mel was leaning against the railing next to Chack. She held a gigantic plastic cup of beer frozen an inch or so from her lips as she watched Avery approach hand in hand with Zachary. Billy appeared to be passed out. Chack was holding him up with an arm around his chest. The boy looked like a rag doll, his head and arms dangling loosely, his legs bent under him.
"Is he okay?" Avery had to shout to be heard over the music. She touched Billy's hair, which was dripping wet. The clothes he had on-close up, clearly a woman's blouse and slacks-were damp. "What," she shouted, "did he fall in a pool or something?"
"You got it," Chack said, "only dove. Lydia's got his clothes in the drier."
Mel said, "Lydia?"
"S'er place." Chack touched his fingertips to his forehead, as if he were about to read someone's mind. "Hey, dude," he said, "do you know who you are? You're Zach Snow."
"See?" Zachary put his arm around Avery. "I told you I was pretty famous."
Mel brought the beer down from her lips without taking a drink. "D'you guys just meet?"
Someone turned up the volume on the music until the glass in the balcony doors rattled. Avery hissed in Mel's ear, "He's huge!"
"No kidding," Mel said, looking up at Zach.
Chack said, "You're starting linebacker this year, right?"
"Dude," Zach said, nodding.
"Sweet." Chack returned the nod.
Avery said, "Chack, Zach," and the boys shook hands. She leaned over Mel and kissed her loudly on the forehead. "This is my roommate, Melanie."
"Hey," Melanie said.
Zach said, "Pleased to meet you," and winked at her. He looked down at Billy. "You sure he's okay? I had a buddy almost died last year from alcohol poisoning." He pulled his flask from his back pocket and offered it to Chack.
Chack waved off the flask and looked down worriedly at Billy. "You think he might have alcohol poisoning?" He gave Billy a shake and the boy's body flopped around like it was boneless. "Alcohol poisoning," he repeated, as if the idea were new to him and perhaps worth considering.
Zach said, "Dawg, don't they get alcohol poisoning where you're from?"
"I'm from Connecticut," Chack said, staring down at Billy. "Shit ..." He got to his feet and yanked Billy up with him. "Hey! Billy!" he shouted into Billy's ear while shaking him.
Mel said, "How much has he had to drink?"
"Incalculable," Chack said. "We both been drinking since this morning."
Avery said, "Since this morning?"
"Well, so, you don't have alcohol poisoning," Zachary said to Chack. "He probably don't either."
"He's twice Billy's size," Avery said.
"Point," Zach said.
"Nah ..." Chack seemed to have come to a decision. "Dude's just passed out." He looked up at Zachary. "Hey, man," he said, "be a prince and help me get him down to my car."
Mel said, "You're driving?"
Chack pointed out into the darkness off the balcony. "I'm just over there. I cut across the grass, don't even go on the road."
"Cool." Zach grabbed Billy's feet. "Lead the way." To Avery, he said, "Don't go noplace. Be right back."
"I'm not going anywhere," Avery said. She sat down next to Mel and watched as Zachary and Chack carried Billy through the opened screen door and into the seemingly still growing crowd of partygoers. Zachary yelled, "Casualties! Coming through!" and when no one budged, they hurled themselves into the mass of bodies, two huge guys carrying Billy's scrawny ass through the sweaty hordes.
When they were out of sight, Melanie said, "Av! You're not!"
"I think so," Av said. "I think I am."
"What?" Avery said. "It'll be fun."
"Fun? Jesus. He's a monster."
Melanie looked off into the scores of bodies packed onto the balcony. For a long moment she watched the crowd, and then she looked back and said, "Are you really?"
"Pretty sure," Avery said. "'Less something happens."
"How would I know?"
Avery nodded. "You?"
"Yeah," Melanie said. "We shouldn't drink any more, though."
"We want to know what we're doing, don't we?"
"What do you think of that guy?" Melanie gestured toward the apartment, where the balcony railing met the wall. "The one sitting on the railing smoking a cigarette."
Avery checked out the guy Melanie was talking about. "In the T-shirt?"
"Smoking a cigarette."
The guy was older than the rest of the crowd, maybe late twenties, maybe even early thirties, dressed in black chinos and a white T. He wasn't especially big, five ten, five eleven, maybe, but his chest had a sculpted look, as if he might be a bodybuilder, a tight set of abs clearly defined through the T, the muscles of his biceps and forearms sleek. Avery studied him a moment longer.
Melanie said, "You don't think he's hot?" She sounded shocked.
Avery squinted, making a show of checking the guy out. He was peering off into the distance as if lost in thought, as if he might as well have been sitting on some lonely mountaintop as on a balcony railing in the midst of a noisy party. His hair was cut close to his scalp in a military-style buzz cut, the dark hairline curving down deep into his forehead so that it looked like it wanted badly to grow back wild and thick. He held his cigarette pinched between the thumb and forefinger of his right hand, which was dangling loosely at his side. His left arm lay crossed over his lap. Something about him, she decided, looked brutal. It wasn't just the compact, muscular body and the practically shaved head, it was something in the way he held himself. "I think he looks creepy," she said, turning back to Melanie. "What about him?"
"Creepy? You think so? Don't you think he's good-looking?"
Avery shrugged. "Yeah," she said, "he's good-looking. So?"
"I caught him checking me out before."
"Really?" Avery watched him another moment. He still hadn't moved. A line of ash dropped from his cigarette. "Don't you think he's way too old?"
"For you. He looks like he could be in his thirties."
Melanie made a face that suggested Avery might be out of her mind. "I'm not thinking about making a life with the guy. Why, you have long-term plans for Zach?"
"All I'm saying is ... I don't know. Whatever." Avery searched the crowd, looking for other possibilities, and then leaned closer to Mel. "You really want to pick up some random guy? You sure?"
Mel turned a sober gaze on Avery. "Are you sure?"
"Pretty," Avery said. "But Zach kind of picked me up, which is a little different."
"Oh, bullshit," Mel said. "He picked you up like this guy is about to pick me up." She stood and brushed herself off. "Come with me," she said. "For backup."
Avery said, "I don't know about this guy. Really."
"Well, let's go find out." Melanie ran her fingers through her hair and then shook it out briskly. "We'll just go over and talk to him." She hesitated a moment, as if having slight misgivings, and then said, "He is handsome, don't you think?"
"Yeah," Avery said, "if you're into the silent, brooding type."
"I'm into it," Mel said. "For tonight, anyway." She started into the crowd and then looked back to make sure Avery was following.
Avery laughed, more a giggle than a laugh, which reminded her that she was still drunk. "Okay," she said. "Whatever."
Mel mouthed, "Don't embarrass me," and pushed forward.
Chapter TwoLindsey sat up in bed with a hot cup of peppermint tea and a Land's End catalog that pictured a beautiful twenty-something model walking barefoot on a pristine beach of white sand beyond turquoise water, wearing a subtle pink top and SwimMini(tm) skirt and trailing a matching beach towel, her eyes downcast as if shy about being photographed. She flipped the catalog to the foot of the bed, where it landed on top of several other magazines and catalogs, and pulled a Victoria's Secret out of the night-table drawer. Here barely dressed women were all looking directly at her. She tossed the Victoria's Secret on top of the Land's End, poured a shot of Bacardi into her cup, and stirred it in with the tea bag, bouncing the porous sack of herbs around on its string as if were a dancing puppet. The house was quiet except for occasional TV sounds coming from the basement, where Hank was watching a football game. Keith, her seven-year-old, was asleep at the end of the hall. This was ten o'clock on a Saturday night, and when she thought about that and about not yet being thirty years old, a little hot flash of fury ripped through her, which she calmed with a swig of rum straight from the bottle.
Lately Lindsey's sense of humor was failing her. She considered herself someone who took the world in stride and with humor, but lately - Her younger brother, Ronnie, was in Iraq, and that weighed on her because she loved the little shit, but she was simultaneously furious at him. He had gone to Iraq because his friends were going. That was what he'd told her. What kind of reason is that? You're going to Iraq because Willy and Jake Jr. are going? She talked at him and talked at him about the stupidity of it, and he was just, Well, Willy and Jake Jr. are going, and we all went over to the recruiter's together, and they said - Willy and Jake Jr. and Ronnie, who were all still little boys in her mind, kids screaming on the Slip'N Slide, boys off fishing on Claytor Lake together every chance they got. Now the three of them were in Iraq and every time an IED killed some boy on the news or in the paper-which felt like it was every goddamned fifteen minutes-her heart went to ice and her blood stopped till she heard or read the names and they weren't her boys. This war was killing her sense of humor. Mostly she put it out of her mind as best she could, but it weighed on her and that was part of it.
Excerpted from Saint John of the Five Boroughs by EDWARD FALCO Copyright © 2009 by Edward Falco. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I enjoyed this book and I agree that if had a movie feel to it. For that reason, I had trouble giving it more than a 3.5. I thought that the ending tied up too neatly. Yes, we are not sure where Grant and Avery will go but..... I also wanted more resolution about what happened with Grant, Billy, and Albert. I thought that Grant was treated too lightly given his past. Hard for me to believe that Avery's mom etc. would be okay with her getting involved with someone with Grant's background and their age difference. I may read another Falco book because it was entertaining but it will be after quite a few other authors.
Avery and Grant meet and the sparks fly. Avery has just finished college and is making the move to Brooklyn where she will live with Grant. Avery's loving family make the trip to Brooklyn to talk some sense into her. The lives of everyone involved will never, ever be the same.Drugs, sex and violence are very much a part of this book. Life is a struggle and we become who we are because of the things we experience. This is a story that rings true to life. A startlingly beautiful novel.
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.
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.
Avery and Grant meet and the sparks fly. Avery has just finished college and is making the move to Brooklyn where she will live with Grant. Avery's loving family make the trip to Brooklyn to talk some sense into her. The lives of everyone involved will never, ever be the same. Drugs, sex and violence are very much a part of this book. Life is a struggle and we become who we are because of the things we experience. This is a story that rings true to life. A startlingly beautiful novel.