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.
Family turmoil, existential crisis and artistic yearnings fill this wide-ranging but slow-moving novel. Avery Walker is a college senior when she meets Grant Danko (Saint John), a 37-year-old struggling artist who persuades her to ditch school and come live with him in Brooklyn. But Grant's career is off track since a violent episode left him unable to write, and as Avery falls in with his successful friends, Grant turns to a nefarious uncle and an unlikely involvement with the mob. Meanwhile, Avery's widowed mother, Kate, enlists her brother-in-law Hank (who harbors feelings for Kate) and his wife, Lindsay (whose brother is in Iraq), to leave Virginia and accompany her to rescue Avery. Falco produces some excellent writing, especially when he's exploring Grant's complicated past, but these sharp and nuanced passages unfortunately expose the other, more pedestrian sections. Avery serves as the linchpin between the two plots: the Virginians lost in New York and Grant's struggling. But except in Avery's head, these two worlds never quite become a whole.