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Fourth of July Creek: A Novel Hardcover – May 27, 2014

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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


“First novels don’t come much more confidently written or fully imagined than this.” (New York Times)

“This is a hell of a great book.”- (Esquire)

“Breathtaking...heartbreaking…Henderson’s immersive, colorful style makes this scenic journey worthwhile. He’s a curious kind of hard-boiled poet - part Raymond Chandler, part Denis Johnson.” (Entertainment Weekly (Grade A))

“The best book I’ve read so far this year...Henderson choreographs these parts so masterfully that the novel is never less than wholly engaging… All week I was looking for opportunities to slip back into these pages and follow the trials of this rural social worker.” (Washington Post)

“...a masterful debut...we find ourselves rooting for these deeply human characters in the end.” (The Oregonian (Portland))

“Fourth of July Creek is an extremely dark book, but Henderson’s lyrical sentences lend an elegance-an importance-to the lives of his fictional children. By tenderly portraying horrible family secrets, Henderson is able to illuminate the richness and possibility in even the most painful lives.” (Kirkus Reviews)

“On a political level, Henderson skillfully presages the contemporary political environment in his portrayal of the America of three decades ago. On a deeper level, this dark, compassionate novel finds in Jeremiah’s-and Pete’s-pain a mirror of everyone’s. This is a significant debut.” (Library Journal)

“Born and raised in Montana, author Smith Henderson knows the terrain and its people, crafting a profoundly American tale that explores our love for freedom, our individualism and the price people sometimes pay.” (AARP)

“[A] remarkable first novel...” (Shelf Awareness)

“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)

“Tremendously satisfying—think Daniel Woodrell’s Winter’s Bone...or Jimmy McNulty...set...in...another kind of violent American wilderness...[a] mesmerizing accomplishment. I cannot think of a finer first novel; it’s hard, in fact, to think of a finer second, third, or fourth one, either.” (Antonya Nelson)

“A soul-wrenching debut novel... Henderson’s talents lie in the tenderness and empathy he extends to (almost) every character in the book, no matter how damaged.” (O, the Oprah Magazine)

“Henderson, a Montana native, is a nimble wordsmith… His debut novel gives us flawed people, a bleak setting, and a story that’s impossible to forget.” (Parnassus Books / Musing)

“This is an impressive, bold, ambitious book, an unforgettable epic that confidently navigates big themes and breaks your heart with small tragedies.” (Miami Herald)

“I was blown away by Smith Henderson’s debut novel, Fourth of July Creek....” (Dallas Morning News)

“In Henderson’s impressive novel, an overburdened social worker becomes involved with a near-feral boy and his survivalist father in 1980 Montana.” (New York Times Book Review, Notable Book)

“[A] stunningly accomplished debut novel … Henderson’s narrative enthralls, his dialogue crackles, and on the considerable strength of this, a promising literary career beckons.” (Minneapolis Star Tribune)

“The myth of rugged individualism crumbles…at the side of the body of water that gives Henderson’s debut novel, Fourth of July Creek, its name…Henderson’s saga of looking for salvation by way of saving others is lyrical, suspenseful, and heartbreaking. Not all can be rescued, but we can all be redeemed.” (Entertainment Weekly, #3, Year's Best Fiction)

“Another big, gripping novel and fine feat of naturalistic storytelling.” (Janet Maslin, NYT, Top Ten Books of 2014)

“My favorite book of 2014, Smith Henderson’s Fourth of July Creek, is out in paperback... which gives me another chance to recommend it. This exciting, beautifully written debut novel describes the travails of Pete Snow, a social worker in Montana struggling to save damaged families - including his own.” (Washington Post, Ron Charles)

Fourth of July Creek is the beautifully written story of a flawed man trying to save children from bad people like himself… a richly satisfying novel and well worth its reader’s time.” (Tullahoma News)

“Probably the most significant book to come from a Portland writer in the past year is Smith Henderson’s Fourth of July Creek… one of the most assured and accomplished debut novels in recent memory, right up there with Zadie Smith’s White Teeth. The book… is both savage and beautiful.” (Willamette Week (Portland))

“Henderson’s firm understanding of rural Montana and its residents reminds one of Kent Haruf’s novels set in Colorado, but, as if Cormac McCarthy has come to town, there’s an undercurrent of violence and vice throbbing throughout the story. Henderson understands the explosive possibilities of having those tensions surface.” (Cleveland Plain Dealer)

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Ecco; 1St Edition edition (May 27, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0062286447
  • ISBN-13: 978-0062286444
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.4 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (500 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #251,595 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By M.Jacobsen TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 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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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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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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