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Fourth of July Creek [Kindle Edition]

Smith Henderson
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (356 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $15.99
Kindle Price: $10.99
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Sold by: HarperCollins Publishers
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God Help the Child
A fierce and provocative novel that adds a new dimension to the matchless oeuvre of Toni Morrison.

Book Description

In this shattering and iconic American novel, PEN prize-winning writer, Smith Henderson explores the complexities of freedom, community, grace, suspicion and anarchy, brilliantly depicting our nation's disquieting and violent contradictions.

After trying to help Benjamin Pearl, an undernourished, nearly feral eleven-year-old boy living in the Montana wilderness, social worker Pete Snow comes face to face with the boy's profoundly disturbed father, Jeremiah. With courage and caution, Pete slowly earns a measure of trust from this paranoid survivalist itching for a final conflict that will signal the coming End Times.

But as Pete's own family spins out of control, Pearl's activities spark the full-blown interest of the F.B.I., putting Pete at the center of a massive manhunt from which no one will emerge unscathed.

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Dedicated social worker Pete Snow lives in remote, impoverished Tenmile, Montana, in part because he’s hiding out from the fallout of his own fractious divorce and in part because he knows that poverty breeds dysfunctional families, and there are plenty of kids who need his care. When he is summoned to open a file on Benjamin Pearl, a nearly feral 11-year-old boy who is suffering from malnutrition, he comes into contact with the boy’s father, Jeremiah, a paranoid survivalist who mints his own money and is convinced that the end-time is near. Pete soon learns that the FBI is also interested in Jeremiah, targeting him as a homegrown terrorist. Meanwhile, Pete’s own family is in crisis; his teenage daughter has vanished, and his ex-wife can’t do much more than drink and pray. First-novelist Henderson not only displays an uncanny sense of place—he clearly knows rural Montana and its impassable roads, its dank bars, its speed freaks and gas huffers—he also creates an incredibly rich cast of characters, from Pete’s drunken, knuckleheaded friends to the hard-luck waitress who serves him coffee to the disturbed, love-sick survivalist. Dark, gritty, and oh so good. --Joanne Wilkinson


''This book left me awestruck; a stunning debut which reads like the work of a writer at the height of his power . . . Fourth of July Creek is a masterful achievement and Smith Henderson is certain to end up a household name.'' --Philipp Meyer, New York Times bestselling author of The Son

''Fourth of July Creek knocked me flat. This gorgeous, full-bodied novel seems to contain all of America at what was, in retrospect, a pivotal moment in its history...Smith Henderson has delivered nothing less than a masterpiece of a novel.'' --—Ben Fountain, author of Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk

''Fourth of July Creek cannot possibly be Smith Henderson's first book. Its scope is audacious, its range virtuosic, its gaze steady and true. A riveting story written in a seductive and relentlessly authentic rural American vernacular, this is the kind of novel I wish I'd written.'' --—Claire Vaye Watkins, author of Battleborn

''Fourth of July Creek is an astonishing read. The writing is energetic and precise. Henderson has a mastery of scale that allows this particular place and these particular people to illuminate who we are as Americans...I could not recommend this book more highly.'' --Kevin Powers, bestselling author of The Yellow Birds

Product Details

  • File Size: 1824 KB
  • Print Length: 485 pages
  • Publisher: Ecco; Reprint edition (May 27, 2014)
  • Sold by: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00FJ37BWI
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #12,532 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
58 of 64 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely amazing May 21, 2014
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Henderson's novel is an incredibly powerful tale. Set in rural western Montana, it all begins when a young boy is found wandering through their very small town and local social worker, Pete Snow, is called in to help. Trying to return the lost (or just wandering) boy to his parents who live outside of town in what can only be described as an isolated compound, Pete has his first run-in with the boy's father, Jeremiah, an extremely violent, anti-government fanatical religious fundamentalist.

Pete, though he has his own demons, decides to see if he can make any progress with Jeremiah in the hopes of offering the help/assistance his family so desperately requires ---- poverty and desperation is no good upbringing for a child. He begins the long and patient process of trying to earn Jeremiah's trust. And he might be successful --- until the FBI becomes involved and all hell breaks loose.

I was blown away by intensity of this novel. There are so many themes at play here, but through it all is one darned fine story. The characters are larger than life....full of faults, yes, but aren't we all? Of course we all have thoughts of Ruby Ridge and the Koresh disaster when this topic comes up, but Henderson is very sensitive to the subtleties at play here. Rarely in life is any situation black and white, and Pete's dilemma, Jeremiah's mental illness...these are subjects that deserve an introspective look. Henderson accomplishes this admirably and never lets the pace of the plot flag for a moment. I was turning pages late, late into the night with this novel. Highly recommended.
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36 of 43 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A TALENTED WRITER WRITES A NOVEL FULL OF HEART May 24, 2014
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Fourth of July Creek is Henderson's first novel but it reads like he's been writing and publishing fiction for years, so good is it. In summary, it sounds like a horror show. Pete, a falling-apart on-again-off-again-drunk Montana social worker encounters an eleven-year-old wild child and his survivalist father and forges a bond of sorts with them. Pete would like it to become friendship but the father, Jeremiah Pearl, is paranoid, maybe insane: trust beyond the most tentative is impossible between them. No matter how Pete tries to help the Pearls -with food, vitamins and medicines, clothes--Jeremiah sees him as the agent of the occupation, ZOG --for those who don't know, ZOG stands for Zionist Occupational Government, which some survivalists see as the visible manifestation of the Jews' takeover of America. Jeremiah is always waiting for the black helicopters to swoop down on him. Everything he sees or hears is a sign: of the arrival of the antichrist, the impending Apocalypse, the hidden controls a Satanic government and a damned people impose on the few remaining pure. What happens between them is scary.

Pete's life away from the Pearls is heartbreaking. His ex-wife is a good time girl who lives on a diet of drugs, alcohol and short-term sex. Her daughter Rachel runs away, partly to escape her mother's "boyfriends," partly just to get free of her mother. Pete searches for her, to no avail. Alternating chapters narrate Pete's story and Rachel's. (She calls herself "Rose" now.) Rachel's is told in the form of an interrogation: a neutral third party voice questions her and she answers. She's had no positive role models in her life except her loving but absent, inarticulate and alcoholic father Pete. She has no money. She has to depend on strangers she meets for food and shelter.
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "I take kids away from people like us." May 19, 2014
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose in Fourth of July Creek, an unflinching look into the complexities and contradictions of liberty, justice and freedom for all – Montana style.

But first, a word of caution: readers who feel compelled to seek out likeable characters or who shun stories with an overriding bleak vision would be well advised to skip this book. It is unrelentingly dark and full of moral ambiguity.

At the center of the novel is Pete, an unlikely long haired social worker in Tenmile, Montana, who has made a mess of marriage and fatherhood. His recalcitrant brother is on the lam, and he can’t even count his friends on one hand. He describes himself this way to his ex-wife: “I take kids away from people like us.”

When a pre-teen, partially feral boy – Benjamin Pearl – crosses his path, he becomes involved in the lives of the boy and his mistrustful father, Jeremiah, a paranoid survivalist who believes in the End of Days and the evilness of the government. (“The devil, I know how he comes. With cans of food and fresh clothes and coloring books.”)

As Pete tries to help Jeremiah and Benjamin and another out-of-control boy, Cecil, the son of an abusive mother, his own daughter dives into the underbelly of an uncaring and evil world. As one of the boys disappears into the system and the other into the Montana wilderness, the realization comes to light that “these absences were twinned in Pete’s mind as if the one could not be solved without the other, and he harbored the absurd hope that the revelation of the one would reveal the other.”

Fourth of July Creek has a lot to say about a lot of issues: where is the thin line between those who want to help and those who shun society’s help?
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars Two Stars
very well written, but story very depressing and hopeless
Published 2 days ago by Rona T. Cohen
2.0 out of 5 stars Two Stars
Lots of drugs and drinking.
Published 3 days ago by MCS
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
Great writing, bleak subject matter. Stay out of the back country of Montana.
Published 3 days ago by Marla Tangen
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent read!
A wonderful read. A book that a could not put down. No-one was perfect, not the difficult teenager, neither the social worker. Read more
Published 5 days ago by Linda De Rooster
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent book group discussion of this book
Loved this book
Published 6 days ago by Paul K Overland
4.0 out of 5 stars More than one try.
I got this book about a year ago. I just finished it. The first and second and even third time I tried to read this book, I just could not get into it. Read more
Published 6 days ago by chamilton
4.0 out of 5 stars New Western Fiction?
Gripping story that gives an authentic account of an emotionally damaged social worker in the remote west.
Published 8 days ago by Atlanta user
1.0 out of 5 stars I was told this was a fantastic book. It's awful
I was told this was a fantastic book. It's awful. It's completely embarrassing as a social worker to read this. Smith Henderson should have done better research. Read more
Published 8 days ago by chrissijo
4.0 out of 5 stars A dark, descriptive well-written story.
Well written, I became more involved with the plot and characters as I read on. I liked and admired this book a lot but found it painful
to read at many times.
Published 9 days ago by Sally ann
4.0 out of 5 stars The reader develops strong feelings as well as a deep ...
The reader develops strong feelings as well as a deep understanding of the difficulties Pete faces, both as a social worker and as a father.
Published 10 days ago by Reviewer
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More About the Author

Smith Henderson is the recipient of the 2011 PEN Emerging Writers Award in fiction. He was a 2011 Philip Roth Resident in Creative Writing at Bucknell University, a 2011 Pushcart Prize winner, and a fellow at the Michener Center for Writers in Austin, Texas. He currently works at the Wieden+Kennedy advertising agency. His fiction has appeared in American Short Fiction, One Story, New Orleans Review, Makeout Creek, and Witness. Born and raised in Montana, he now lives in Portland, Oregon.

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