Although I am a fairly committed reader of non-fiction, especially in theology, the social sciences, and philosophy, I actually do agree with D. H. Lawrence's observation that although the other professions take up parts of the world (science, poetry, etc.) only the novelist has the audacity to take it as a whole. Lawrence said or wrote something like this, though I'm at a loss to find the exact quote right now. Eleanor Henderson's Ten Thousand Saints: A Novel certainly proves this point. It's my first true summer novel, and it in no way disappoints.
The narrative itself drives forward, not relentlessly, but with a sturdy vigor that I appreciate. I've never had warm feelings towards novels that try to draw too much attention either to description or their own prose. Long paragraphs describing trees and hills typically lose me. However, character-driven description that introduces you to complex characters you both love and hurt with--those are rare, and worth spending time with.
I'm most intrigued by Henderson's explorations of the straightedge scene on the east coast during this time period. Although I was never a punk rocker, or even close to one, I've had strong sympathies with and affinities to the straightedge scene (in a way ironically similar to my love of reggae), and this novel evokes the forms.
I really can't think of a better novel to read this summer, and commend it highly. If you only read one new novel this year, this would be a solid choice.