Saint John of the Five Boroughs
Edward Falco
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Buy *Saint John of the Five Boroughs* by Edward Falco online

Saint John of the Five Boroughs
Edward Falco
Unbridled Books
424 pages
October 2009
rated 4 of 5 possible stars

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Edward Falco frames his ambitious novel around the lives of the Walker family, allowing us to follow them throughout their various marital and personal dramas in Salem, Virginia, and later in Brooklyn and Manhattan. As Falco brings to life their various fears, confusions and frustrations, a web of personal connections is set in motion when one night Avery Walker hooks up with enigmatic drifter Grant Danko, in Virginia to spend a couple of weeks with a friend.

Grant is a muscular, almost brutal guy who takes an immediate liking to Avery. He’s also handsome but in an interesting way, his warrior-like harshness suggesting “other possibilities.” After spending a moonlit night together, the couple spiritually and emotionally connect, the confused and angry sex  inspiring Avery to elope with Grant to Brooklyn.

Like shooting up some drug, Grant’s dangerous attractiveness enthralls Avery. But even as Grant woos her and she discovers a refuge in him, Avery’s mother, Kate, is appalled that her daughter would give up college and her life in Virginia by running off to New York with someone rumored to be a gangster. Kate clearly loves her daughter and wants to look out for her, yet she’s also fumbling through a three-way relationship with Lindsay, Avery’s aunt, and Lindsay’s blue-collar husband, Hank.

While Hank watches his football games, he’s similarly frustrated and angry at Lindsey’s incessant bouts of drinking. Frustrated at her life thus far, Lindsay drinks for attention, concerned for the future of her seven-year-old son, Keith, her young brother, Ronnie, who stupidly went to Iraq, and also for her father, who is now in the early ages of Alzheimer’s.

As Hank and Leslie must find a way to overcome their differences, life suddenly changes with the news that Ronnie has been wounded by an IED and is being airlifted for emergency surgery. Lindsey is devastated, but even in her pain she agrees to travel with Hank and Kate to Manhattan to find Avery, who has been attempting to make a life for herself in New York with Grant and his bevy of bohemian artist friends.

Life’s challenges are still there for of these people - especially for Grant, who is desperate for notoriety and for money. Ever living in the shadow of his more successful friends, Grant is haunted by the fallout from a fatal hijacking that occurred while transporting stolen goods across state lines for Billy, his no-good criminally-minded uncle.

Falco’s Manhattan is skillfully rendered, his characters trying to find their way as violence threatens to rock their respective worlds. There is great heartache here, and the possibility of lives unfulfilled, yet there’s also a grand potential for new beginnings. Avery’s growth as an artist and an independent spirit fuels much of the emotion, but it is also Grant’s efforts to achieve redemption from the sorrowful reflections of his past that make this novel such a compelling reading experience.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at © Michael Leonard, 2009

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