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Fourth of July Creek

3.89 of 5 stars 3.89  ·  rating details  ·  3,581 ratings  ·  729 reviews
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 work
Hardcover, 470 pages
Published May 27th 2014 by Ecco
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Leslie Rollins Omniscient narrator. Though one is largely with Pete, the point of view also comes from Cecil, Pearl, Rachel (and her interviewer), maybe others. When…moreOmniscient narrator. Though one is largely with Pete, the point of view also comes from Cecil, Pearl, Rachel (and her interviewer), maybe others. When an author presents multiple points of view, it's called omniscient narration.(less)

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Jeffrey Keeten
Aug 07, 2014 Jeffrey Keeten rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommended to Jeffrey by: Will Byrnes
”He was frightened for her and what was about to happen to her and felt the fullest burden of the fact that he was indeed a thing that had happened to her too and was happening to her yet and would be for a long time to come.”

Pete Snow is a good man, despite that fact, he is in the vortex of a tornado. Those close to him are flung far and wide, battered and bruised by the briefest of contact. His relationship to his larger than life father is nearly nonexistent. When his father dies he learns of
Will Byrnes
There should be fireworks shooting off for Smith Henderson's first novel, as it is a just cause for celebration. This is not to say that the subject matter is exactly festive, but the book is a triumph.

Pete is a social worker in Tenmile, Montana, a place so insignificant it was named for it's distance from the nearest possible somewhere. The folks he is charged with trying to help out need all the support they can get, but some can't seem to accept any.

There are three main threads braided into
"We're not that bad...People fuck up. They get forgiven."

optimism is nice, but it's one thing to tell yourself that, and another to live in the real world.

pete snow lives in the real world. he works for the montana department of family services, where his territory covers a huge swathe of the rural backwoods of the state. the year is 1980, but there is a timelessness to this remote and undeveloped country which leaves its inhabitants untouched, somewhat exempt from the world at large.

pete bears
There are quite a few damn good books coming out in 2014 by fairly unknown authors, this is one of them.

This is rural fuckedupness right up there with the Donald Ray Pollock and Daniel Woodrell.

It's 1980, Carter is about to be ousted from the White House, Reagan's on the rise, and in a small town in Montana a long-haired social worker is about to be in the center of a whole lot of disturbing shit. Shitty families, drugs, alcohol, fringe Christians with radical libertarian economic ideas, crimi
Ron Charles
If you fly in the rarefied air of literary awards, you may have caught Smith Henderson’s name a few years ago when he won a Pushcart Prize and a PEN Emerging Writers Award. A 41-year-old advertising writer originally from Montana, Henderson has published a few stories in literary magazines that, like exotic birds, are known to exist but are rarely spotted.

Those days of obscurity are over. His first novel, “Fourth of July Creek,” is the best book I’ve read so far this year. On a gamble that seems
Fourth of July Creek
by Smith Henderson

Simultaneously Beautiful and Ugly

"Having children makes you no more a parent than having a piano makes you a pianist." - Michael Levine

My friend Derek described this book by saying:

"This book is beautifully written, but it's making me feel dirty all over. If grunge was a book genre, that's what I'd call this one. Very, very grungy."

I couldn't have said it better! The writing is so beautiful and eloquent, even though the harsh lives of these characters are
This one blew me away with its passion and poetry from the soul of a social worker in rural Montana in the early 80’s. Pete works for child protective services in a remote region in the northwestern part of the state near Glacier National Park. People live here for the freedom that isolation brings, but the dangers there make the interdependence within the community especially important. Many people are humane nature lovers or competent salt-of-the-earth types; others are nuts, survivalists, or ...more
Shelby *wants some flying monkeys*
Sep 30, 2014 Shelby *wants some flying monkeys* rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommended to Shelby *wants some flying monkeys* by: Will Byrnes
Shelves: hicklit, read-2014
I may cry.

I wanted this book from the minute I saw the first blurb about it. I've drooled for it. Then I start reading it.
I wasn't crazy about it. What is wrong with me!? I love this type of book. Gritty, dark and the souls of the characters are laid bare.
Still didn't like it.

The writing for me..and this should not stop anyone from reading it, was choppy and uneven. Half the time I didn't know what was going on or which character was being discussed.

I think I'm gonna troll my damn self for bei
Diane S.
Tenmile, Montana, a desolate town located in the western corner of the Rockies, a town of last resort for many. The people here are running to or running from, living an existence both squalid and desperate. Pete Snow is the lone social worker for this town, he has basically no oversight and not much support. He meets the dregs of society, druggies, people who live in and associate with filth, and the children of these people, victims of various ages with various scars, internal and external. Bu ...more
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 wor
Honestly, I was 200 pages in and still did not care for this dark and dismal story, but slowly as I kept reading, I came to appreciate social worker Pete Snow's heroic efforts and his plight to help those in need in the harsh Montana wilderness while struggling with his own insurmountable family issues.

Be forewarned, there are a multitude of descriptive sexual situations and other deplorable acts for those weak at heart, and this is not a feel good book by any means, yet at times, (thankfully) t

I straight-up loved this book.

Pete Snow is a social worker in rural Montana in the early 1980s, struggling to do right by his messed-up clients--especially the kids. His work is all kinds of rough, as you might expect in a region with low incomes and minimal infrastructure. And Pete's own life is no cake walk--he took the job in remote Tenmile in part to escape his failed marriage and fractious family. He's not perfect, but he's trying hard.

Things kick into gear when he encounters Benjamin Pear

Well, right away have to chalk this up to being unsure if he's read the same book as everyone else -- or maybe just another case of bad timing (possibly/potentially right book at the wrong time/mood)? Getting the rating out of the way, it's a rounded-up 3 star "good" book, but unofficially 2.5 stars for just being on the fence about "liking" it.

It is a grim, dark, bleak, gritty -- almost relentlessly so -- novel of dysfunction, violence, and abuse in rural Montana. This did not stop me from li
So soaked in the mire of his paranoia and removed from the world, Jeremiah Pearl believes ash falling from the sky after the eruption of Mount Saint Helens is fallout from a nuclear war. He emerges from the forest with his young son, Ben, and holds a timber poacher at gunpoint, demanding, How many are left? I asked you how many are left goddamnit!

Smith Henderson’s smashing, crashing, tour de force debut novel, Fourth of July Creek churns with this sort of Action-Misunderstanding-Reaction and a h
This book is no laughing matter. It's dark, depressing, distressing, bleak and grim. But I get to page 435 and laugh because of this one sentence, "Then there's trouble". I'm like this author is messing with his readers! 434 pages of absolutely craziness and hard to believe situations and "then there's trouble". It was an LOL moment.
I loved this book. It's not a happy book and I'm not sure there is any hope in the book. That's up to each reader to decide. It's a well written book that's hard be
The real deal.

For 460 pages Henderson hustles and moves with this story, packs punches and surprises, lingers where he needs to linger and skips where he doesn’t. I was wary of this one. I’ll admit it: wary of the hype, wary of how much it sounded like it should be exactly my thing. Wary of how much energy it might take if I loved it— or worse, if I didn’t.

I love to be dead wrong. What did it turn out to be? Exactly my thing, no “should” or “maybe” about it. Pete Snow. The Pearls. Mary and Ceci
My first literary introduction to the Yaak River Valley in NW Montana was from Rick Bass who describes a beautiful but harsh, sparse, and rugged landscape that molds the psyche of its inhabitants gently- a proverbial putty that fills in the character gaps transforming rejects into a fully functioning citizenry. Smith Henderson's Tenmile, Montana uses these same terrains to do quite the opposite; a harsh tempest that plunges characters from the edge of eccentric behaviors and beliefs straight int ...more
Washington Post
Smith Henderson's first novel, "Fourth of July Creek," is the best book we've read so far this year.

In so many ways, the story Henderson tells here describes an American experience most of us never have to see — but should. Far from big cities or either coast, his characters are the poor and working poor in sparsely populated towns that few escape and no one ever moves to. His book follows a Montana social worker in the early 1980s.

All week Ron Charles, who reviewed the book for us, was looking
Fourth of July Creek is a great debut and one of the better novels that I've read so far this year.

It's interesting to read about lives of the poor in societies which are considered to be rich and prosperous. Most often they're brushed aside and ignored, while the lens of attention is focused solely on the glamorous and glittering places - forcing the great unwashed out to areas where many of us wouldn't even look at.

The novel is set in such a place - somewhere in northwestern Montanta, near th
switterbug (Betsey)
"Your caseload is brutal and will get worse as the holidays steadily advance on the poor, deranged, and demented."

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 ber
Social worker Pete Snow is immediately likeable. As the only social worker at a Department of Family Services in rural Montana in the late 1970s, most of his job consists of checking up on children in alcoholic, drug-strewn homes where weapons are more common than salt shakers. Pete tries to get the parents to shape up, the kids to let him know if they are not okay. Noble. You like the guy.

Then, you find out about Pete’s own home life, which is not very different from his clients’. And like them
Justin Sorbara-Hosker
So people tell me all the time, you like Cormac, you should read (this new thing). Most often, they're wrong. The last time it happened (this year), it was a debut novel by a guy named Kent Wascom - I quickly abandoned it, as it was such a blatant imitation, that it wasn't even funny.

This, however, gets compared to Suttree - which is my favourite McCarthy, so I picked it up immediately - & its both like Cormac & it isn't. Most importantly, Smith Henderson isn't copying Cormac's narrativ
This one was dark and depressing, even for me. Granted, I like that in a book, but sometimes it's less of an escape and more of a prevailing sadness to take over me. This was one of those.

Pete is a social worker in a remote region where he ran because his wife was having an affair. That's basically where you get dropped off in the beginning. It all goes downhill from there. I mean downhill as in for Pete, not as in the book. No, the book was fabulous and fantastically pulled me in from the get-
I didn't actually read this in one day - apparently I forgot to enter it as "currently reading." Complete review later. Very well- written. Really interesting characters. Dark scenarios, flawed people - realism.
Sep 24, 2014 Elizabeth rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommended to Elizabeth by: Will Byrnes
Shelves: fiction, beloved
Pete Snow you will be hard to forget.
Diane Yannick
I spend considerable time choosing which books I'm going to read. This one really caught my attention--first novel by the author, 1980's in a hardscrabble part of Montana plus a tough social worker trying to give destitute kids a chance. Right up my alley. Pete was initially very appealing as a character who would go the extra mile for his clients. Although I empathized with him, I could easily see why he was so hopeless at love. Jeremiah Pearl, a paranoid survivalist, was interesting in a perve ...more
Kate Schreffler
This book was incredible. The writing was amazing, and with every description of the town, I felt like I was there. I could imagine every person, and feel like I had met them and experienced their company. Every character is so troubled and flawed, and normally I find it overwhelming when the story is so dark, but his writing made it more relatable and realistic. The ending was delightlfully frustrating, but I think rather perfect in execution. Overall, I can not recommend this book enough, I wa ...more
Steph Post
Every once in a great while a book like this comes along. A book that you stay up late and get up early to read. A book that you think about, talk about, worry about until you can finally struggle out of whatever else is keeping you from the book and go back to reading. A book that is as momentous as a raging love affair- you want to furtively secret it away in your own heart and scream its name from the middle of an interstate highway at the same time. And when it is over, when you have finishe ...more
Brutal, honest, ugly. This is a terrifying look at a part of the US I know nothing about -- separatists, conspiracy zealots, farmers, drifters. Dark as it was, I couldn't put it down.

A more detailed review can be found on my blog at

The Painter
Once Upon a River
Liz Wilkins
So I started this novel yesterday morning and was not really enamoured after the first couple of chapters – I’m not sure why, I found the initial set up to be kind of slow – but the writing was beautiful so I kept on and here we are today and I’m finished. I really could not put this down once it kicked in, and I was right in that story all the way, despite its often meandering quality and some distinctive structuring that meant I had to keep my head in the game..

It is an emotional, often violen
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Smith Henderson is the recipient of the 2011 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. Born and raised in Montana, he now lives in Portland, Oregon.

Fourth of July Creek is his first novel.
More about Smith Henderson...

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“...the world is a blade and dread is hope cut open and spread inside out.” 3 likes
“Charles Snow had been as spiritually curious as a fence post, and Pete doubted that his father had ever changed in any meaningful way, even after Pete’s mother died. But there was an aptness to his late conversion, as though he always knew that at the end of his life he’d have to do something to avoid going to hell.” 2 likes
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