- Paperback: 480 pages
- Publisher: Ecco; Reprint edition (March 10, 2015)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0062286463
- ISBN-13: 978-0062286468
- Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 1.1 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars See all reviews (509 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #48,407 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Fourth of July Creek: A Novel Paperback – March 10, 2015
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*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 text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
“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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Top Customer Reviews
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.
Debut novelist Henderson Smith has written a tale about rural America that is both bleak and suffused with a bone-dry wit. Most of us do not have any reason to deal with the Department of Family Services in our state, but in my job as a psychiatric pediatric RN in Austin, I have my fair share of in- and out-of-state hook-ups (on the phone, or they come to us). Here in the outback bergs of Montana, Pete Snow, Bachelor of Social Work (drop-out of the master's program) is the go-to person for the most extreme and sometimes most dangerous cases involving crises and sometimes threats to life. An alcoholic whose partying wife has left him and taken their teenage daughter, Pete has a pretty sorry excuse for a personal life, except for his loyalty to a few friends and the hard cases he works.
In his work, Pete gets the job done. His tools are his clipboard and pen, and if the law shows up with a gun, he uses his wiles to disarm them. Usually. His clients are typically poverty-stricken and lawless, and dependent on the system that they resent; the children are the ones that Pete wants to help the most, the often innocent and vulnerable that are headed for a lifetime of institutional living. To his irresponsible wife, he has said, "I take kids away from people like us." His daughter has run away while in the care of his ex-, and now he is desperate to find her, while still invested in his work at home. In the meantime, he is shutting out his brother, an outlaw on the run. Snow's no hero--perhaps a flawed anti-hero. He should be more jaded than he is, but that is Snow's endearing quality--he just never gives up, on his daughter or his cases:
"...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."
The two cases he struggles with are Cecil, a violent and sexually deviant son of an abusive parent, and a feral child named Benjamin, who lives in the wilderness with his anarchist, survivalist father, Jeremiah Pearl. Pearl is already a living legend, haven taken American coins and punched holes in the presidents' heads; the coins have made their way around pawnshops and collectors. Jeremiah spouts an extreme Christian dogma that may be dangerous to himself, his son, and the world at large, including Pete.
It becomes evident that Pete Snow is compelled by his isolation and connection to the fringes of society. He lives in a primitive cabin (no electricity) in Tenmile, and showers at the courthouse. They put up with Snow's eccentricities and the way he pushes the envelope because his compassion and dedication is consummate and tireless.
This is a sweeping tale about tough human questions, such as: what freedoms are compromised for assistance--for food, clothing, and essentials? What price do people pay to meet Maslow's lowest hierarchy of needs? Is it fair to force someone with crushing demons into a society that demonizes and crushes him even more? Can you effectively help others when your own life and family is falling apart? The big questions of sovereignty, safety, family, and the pursuit of, well, individual liberty, is well wrought and teeming with moral ambiguity.
Smith Henderson knows his geographical areas. He is from Montana, and participated in the Michener Writer's program here in Austin, where part of the novel takes place. This confidently written, brutal, take-no-prisoners tale does not read like a debut novel. I know that Smith worked at a juvenile group home, a superb place to gather grit for this kind of story, to study the characters of children living outside of societal norms. It is well-plotted, focusing on character, but building to a nail-biting conclusion.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Look forward to his next book