Fourth of July Creek

Fourth of July Creek

3.3 25
by Smith Henderson
     
 

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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

Overview

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

Library Journal
★ 04/15/2014
Pete Snow is a social worker in early 1980s small-town Montana whose life is nearly as troubled as those of his clients. He is separated from his wife and teenage daughter, estranged from his father and stepmother, and easing his problems with alcohol. One morning Pete receives a call regarding a strange young boy who has shown up at a local school. Benjamin Pearl is the son of Jeremiah Pearl, a reclusive survivalist who lives in the hills outside town. Pete tries to help ragged and undernourished Benjamin but soon runs afoul of the paranoid Jeremiah. Through persistence, Pete slowly gains a degree of trust from Jeremiah and is able to provide some assistance. But when Jeremiah's activities draw the interest of the FBI, Pete is caught up in the web of suspicion. As the noose tightens, Jeremiah's dark secrets will profoundly affect Pete as well. VERDICT 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. [See Prepub Alert, 12/16/13.]—Lawrence Rungren, Andover, MA
The New York Times - Janet Maslin
…this not-to-be-missed first novel…is a Rorschach test of sorts. It may remind readers of many different writers, even though it's such an original. Mr. Henderson has prompted comparisons to a long list of novelists who've written about grim, hardscrabble lives in eloquent prose…a mix of Richard Ford's writing style with characters by Richard Russo. I'd add that there is much of early Russell Banks in Pete's keen awareness of his failings and desperate yearning for the decency that remains just out of reach. And there are hints of [another] bolt-from-the-blue debut: David Wroblewski's The Story of Edgar Sawtelle (2008). This book is far darker…But its gripping story and shimmering sense of the natural world do bring that great debut to mind.
New York Times
“First novels don’t come much more confidently written or fully imagined than this.”
Esquire
“This is a hell of a great book.”-
Entertainment Weekly
“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.”
Washington Post
“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.”
The Oregonian (Portland)
“...a masterful debut...we find ourselves rooting for these deeply human characters in the end.”
AARP
“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.”
Shelf Awareness
“[A] remarkable first novel...”
Philipp Meyer
“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.”
Ben Fountain
“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.”
Claire Vaye Watkins
“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.”
Kevin Powers
“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.”
Antonya Nelson
“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.”
O: the Oprah Magazine
“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.”
Parnassus Books / Musing
“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.”
Miami Herald
“This is an impressive, bold, ambitious book, an unforgettable epic that confidently navigates big themes and breaks your heart with small tragedies.”
Entertainment Weekly (Grade A)
“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.”
the Oprah Magazine O
“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.”
Dallas Morning News
“I was blown away by Smith Henderson’s debut novel, Fourth of July Creek....”
New York Times Book Review
“In Henderson’s impressive novel, an overburdened social worker becomes involved with a near-feral boy and his survivalist father in 1980 Montana.”
Minneapolis Star Tribune
“[A] stunningly accomplished debut novel … Henderson’s narrative enthralls, his dialogue crackles, and on the considerable strength of this, a promising literary career beckons.”
Janet Maslin
“Another big, gripping novel and fine feat of naturalistic storytelling.”
Tullahoma News
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.”
Willamette Week (Portland)
“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.”
Cleveland Plain Dealer
“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.”
—Philipp Meyer
“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.”
—Ben Fountain
“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.”
—Claire Vaye Watkins
“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.”
—Kevin Powers
“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.”
—Antonya Nelson
“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.”
—The New York Times
“First novels don’t come much more confidently written or fully imagined than this.”
—Esquire
“This is a hell of a great book.”-
—Entertainment Weekly
“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.”
—Washington Post
“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.”
—The Oregonian (Portland)
“...a masterful debut...we find ourselves rooting for these deeply human characters in the end.”
—AARP
“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.”
—Shelf Awareness
“[A] remarkable first novel...”
Kirkus Reviews
2014-05-15
Of wide open spaces and lives narrowly, desperately lived at the bitter ends of dirt and gravel roads.The spur of the Rockies at the northwestern corner of Montana is as hard and remote a stretch of country as any in the Lower 48, good reason why a person might want to disappear into it. Social worker Pete Snow, delivered to us in medias res, is well-used to what happens to people with too little money and too much booze or meth in tow. But he's not quite prepared for how years of being used to such things can wear a person down—and what will touch him off to the point that he's willing to smack a client. Says Pete to his target, trying to explain the rightness of his act, "[t]hose punches sure as shit come through me but they were not mine. As meant for you as they were, they were not mine." He's willing to cop to most responsibilities, but that doesn't stop his own life from dissolving. Meanwhile, he's caught up in a curious knot: In a land of snarling dogs and WIC checks, he has to sort out the life of a very nearly feral child, bound up in the even more complex life of a survivalist, paranoid and anti-statist, who may or may not be a Unabomber in the making. That brings the feds into the picture, and if Pete resorts to fisticuffs reluctantly, the FBI thinks nothing of beating their way around a countryside that looks ever more apocalyptic with each passing page. Henderson, a native Montanan, finds ample room for deep-turning plot twists in the superficially simple matter of a man looking for meaning in his own life while trying to help others too proud and mistrustful to receive that assistance. The story goes on a bit long, but the details are just right: It's expertly written and without a false note, if often quite bleak.Of a piece with Peter Heller's The Dog Stars and Cormac McCarthy's The Road in imagining a rural West that's seen better days—and perhaps better people, too.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780062286451
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
05/27/2014
Sold by:
HARPERCOLLINS
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
480
Sales rank:
25,553
File size:
1 MB

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 3.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 25 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.
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.
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
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 More than 1 year 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.