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Fourth of July Creekby Smith Henderson
An enjoyable summer read — deeply textured story, characters that bear out their frail existence, and great writing.
Easily my favorite recent debut, Fourth of July Creek tells the story of a social worker who becomes personally invested in the case of a survivalist and his young son in rural Montana. I fell in love with all of Henderson's characters — even the ones it might have been easy to hate had someone else written them. Though set in the 1980s, Fourth of July Creek is at least as relevant today, and Henderson deals with anti-government thinking and its implications without preaching or oversimplifying. This is a beautiful, heartbreaking book I'll read again and again.
Synopses & Reviews
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 FBI, putting Pete at the center of a massive manhunt from which no one will emerge unscathed.
In this shattering and iconic American novel, Smith Henderson explores the complexities of freedom, community, grace, suspicion, and anarchy, brilliantly depicting our nation's disquieting and violent contradictions. Fourth of July Creek is an unforgettable, unflinching debut that marks the arrival of a major literary talent.
"This uneven debut, set in 1980 Montana, isn't always able to sustain the interest of its opening sections. The first chapter introduces us to social worker Pete Snow, who has been called by the police to defuse a domestic dispute between a 15-year-old boy, who has been in trouble with the law repeatedly, and his speed-addicted mother. The situation is grim, but Snow goes above and beyond the call of duty to place the teenager in a stable and supportive environment. His greater challenge comes with his next case: a boy who shows up on the playground of the local school dirty and reeking. The child, Benjamin Pearl, is reticent about revealing the circumstances at home, and Snow finds trying to help him difficult; Benjamin's reclusive and angry father is opposed to assistance, even making the boy strip naked rather than wear the clean clothes Snow has provided. Snow's efforts to help the Pearls despite the father's hostility are the focus of the book, which is too long and features an unsatisfying ending. (June)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
“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
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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