Fourth of July Creek

Fourth of July Creek

3.4 26
by Smith Henderson

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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

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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.

Editorial Reviews

Social worker Pete Snow is stuck in the middle of nowhere 1980 Montana, but his life is far from uneventful. After bringing some closure to the case of a wayward teen and his speed-addicted mother, he moves on to a crisis even more troubling and complicated. Asked to investigate the plight of eleven-year-old Benjamin Pearl, he discovers a boy unbathed and reeking, living under the tight rein of a paranoid survivalist father. Fourth of July Creek ties together the stories of Snow's professional obsessions with his family's own problems, making this debut fiction both powerful and believable. (P.S. Smith Henderson writes with the ferocity of a young Jim Harrison or Richard Ford, making this one of the summer's breakout novels.)

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
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6.20(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.60(d)

Meet the Author

Smith Henderson is the recipient of a PEN Emerging Writers Award in fiction. He was a Philip Roth Resident in Creative Writing at Bucknell University, a 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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Fourth of July Creek 3.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 26 reviews.
SupposedlyFun More than 1 year ago
"The world is a blade and dread is hope cut open and spread inside out." I was really excited to read this book for a couple of reasons. First, it has a fantastic jacket description. Second, I've lived in Missoula, Montana for a year now, so I loved the idea of reading a novel set in my new hometown. Third, I love the jacket design--which sounds shallow, but there it is. Fourth, I've heard good things about the novel from a couple of people now. And yet ... it hasn't gone well. Fourth of July Creek is billed as a shattering exploration of America's disquieting and violent contradictions. It is supposed to deal with the complexities of freedom and anarchy--and I can't think of a better setting for this than Montana, where independence is not only valued but fiercely defended. These themes are meant to be reflected in the story of a social worker, Pete Snow, who gets tangled up with Jeremiah Pearl, a mysterious anarchist preparing for war in the backwoods of Montana. Pearl is a survivalist who believes the End Times are not just upon us, but already in motion. That would make a fantastic novel, and Henderson has the talent to pull it off. Fourth of July Creek crackles with dangerous energy whenever Pearl makes an appearance. The problem is, for more than two hundred pages his presence is merely hinted at. Instead, we're treated to Pete's sad-sack life. You see, Pete is in his early thirties and can't seem to get his stuff together. His wife cheated on him, so he ran out on her and his daughter. Now he can't decide if he wants his ex-wife back or hates her forever. And in a twist that could be interesting but only really grates, the social worker is an inept and apathetic father. He has a history of a drinking problem that is becoming more and more essential to his makeup. The guy is a mess. Most people might not have so much of a problem with this, but a curious thing has happened to me in the past year. I've become increasingly impatient with novels that essentially come down to "screw-up white guy can't get his life together."Because seriously, it's incredible how many of those books exist in the world--and how they continue to multiply. There are so many more interesting stories that could be told (Jeremiah Pearl's comes to mind). Add in the fact that Pete finds himself a love interest who comes down to the exact cliche you would expect for a guy like him. She starts out appearing strong and wise to his screw-up ways, then upon their second meeting inexplicably sleeps with him. Her actions make no sense because when it comes down to it the author doesn't understand her and doesn't want to understand her. So she's left fluctuating between strength, weakness, and potentially violent emotional instability. Add to this the fact that the only other female characters (including Pete's ex-wife are harpies, nags, and emotionally immature. His daughter is an exception, I suppose--aside from the emotionally mature part. By the time I reached the novel's halfway point I was exhausted. And it had become increasingly difficult to care. If Jeremiah Pearl's story is going to be filtered through a character I find increasingly irritating, then why bother? So I put it down. Which is a shame, because I really think this had the makings of a great book. In addition, the narrative is curiously fractured. Pete's narration is the focus, presented in the standard format. Then we have the tonally jarring narrative of his daughter, which takes the form of an interview. And gradually, the narrative of Cecil (one of Pete's cases, who was sexually abused by his mother [did I mention that all women are horrible in this book?]) becomes a thing. Maybe it all comes together in the end, but two hundred and fifty pages is a long time to ask a reader to be patient. Grade: C-
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Incredibly written, perfect prose, with a plot to capture your heart and soul.  This book will get awards, I am certain.  Of the thousands of novels I have read in my life, this one is number one.  Gritty, searing, emotionally breathtaking.
crossword69 More than 1 year ago
Sometimes you have to do the housework.  I find that even a 500+ page book is not that much of a burden in your left hand while your right hand is holding a dust cloth.  Could not put this book down.  Gripping, twisting and one of those that will be relegated to the top 100 of the decade.  Please read this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
One of the worst books I've ever read. I'm not even to page 100 yet & have no idea what in the heck is really happening??? I should have read reviews of the book before purchasing, but at least it cost less than $2!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
An engrossing read, which I can highly recommend to anyone looking for total immersion.   I look forward to new works from this author, and/or a sequel to this book. Rarely has a story or character(s) touched me so deeply.  I will remember this book for a long time.
RANYC More than 1 year ago
Smith Henderson's Pete is flawed--very flawed--but his social worker heart is in the right place. The young people he tries (and sometimes succeeds) to help will haunt you. The Montana setting is gorgeous and vividly rendered. One of my favorite books of the summer.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I had read good things about this book but I personally didn't enjoy it. I think the premise of the story had great potential but it was dysfunctional overload and a lot of negativity. I just didn't like the writting style or any of the characters. Not a book for me.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Over done too many cliches spoil the tale nothing orginal in this story of unpleasant scenes and characters blurb tells all and so you have already been warned page counter p.s. it takes only a small sample if it is "off"
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The story was all over the place & the descriptions were a almost laughable. Its almost like the author was trying to use as many words & pages as possible & too many unbelievable scenarios. Worse book ive read in a long time. I just wanted it to be over with.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This story breaks your. So well wrtten and beautiful.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A very tedious read. I had difficulty finishing this book. It never came together and I would suggest you read something else.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Writing good but nothing to hold interest in the story. Did not finish.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great read. Looking for more of his work now.
Anonymous 9 days ago
Fascinating book - but --- a difficult heart breaking read. Great character development. The novel includes- many characters who lack any sense of boundries, alcoholism, drugs, prostitution, murder, insanity, lack of direction, obsessions, lies, cruelty, and more. The book is about people on the edge. The main character is a social worker who is also profoundly damaged. Cannot say I loved the story because this is a story of many damaged people, but this a very fascinating novel. Highly recommended!! Not for the faint hearted. This novel deserves an A+++++++++
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The writer gets inside each character in such realistic detail you feel you know them and can't help feeling their pain and their triumphs, however small, and rooting for them to make it, each in their own way.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
An interesting story told remarkably well.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
hilariousoup More than 1 year ago
This is an excellent book about intertwined stories. You love and despise all the characters.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Suspenseful. Thought provoking. I could not put it down. I look forward to reading more from this author. This would be an excellent choice for a book club.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I give it no stars! First im not sure if the first poster was the author or best friend but i strongly disagree. Ive never left a review but had to this time. First i think the author tried to use every adjective available to man. Book was all over the place, didnt even make sence at times. Writing was awful. I tried and tried but finally gave up reading it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I agree with another reveiwer that all of the women in this book are portrayed horribly. That being said there is not one redeeming character you care anything about by the end. The book just strings together increasingly violent sick acts of rage. Thank god I don't know any people who remotely live like this and I certainly don't want to read about anyboby who does. I don't understand why anybody would praise this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Four stars.