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Fourth of July Creek

3.82  ·  Rating details ·  14,158 ratings  ·  2,150 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, 466 pages
Published May 27th 2014 by Ecco
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Jonathan Her interviewer is the author, not necessarily Smith Henderson precisely, but the storyteller. You don't realize that until the last page in the book,…moreHer interviewer is the author, not necessarily Smith Henderson precisely, but the storyteller. You don't realize that until the last page in the book, where the "interviewer" talks about what kind of guy Pete is, and how he just couldn't go on without finding out if Rachel comes home.(less)
Leslie M. 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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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 int
Jeffrey Keeten
Apr 14, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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
Aug 06, 2014 rated it really liked it

"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 wor
Aug 31, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: us
In my very short review I wrote that the novel feels very American. Yes, it is what at least an outsider sees a part of the US. Montana, remoteness, small towns, guns, a paranoid survivalist separated from the world, ultra-religious craziness, police violence, failure of social work system etc

I have no idea how this novel got on my TBR some time ago and even less how I bought it 4 years ago. What I know, is that it was time to read it or dump it. After going through the blurb I wasn’t very optim
Richard (on hiatus)
Pete Snow is a social worker fighting a losing battle against the products of poverty, drugs, alcohol and ignorance. His patch is Tenmile, rural Montana - a depressed flyblown backwater surrounded by miles of blacktop, empty skies, snow topped mountains and the savage beauty of untracked wilderness. It’s the late 1970s in the era of Reagan and Carter.
Pete’s got a lot on his plate ........ an over full case load of broken families including Jeremiah, a paranoid survivalist and his young son, livi
Paul Bryant
Nov 30, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: novels
How can this not be five stars?

It’s essentially a story about three lost children and this one guy’s attempt to find them. He’s a social worker. So we have a social-worker-as-alcoholic-fuckup hero. One of the kids he’s trying to save is his daughter. In the novel, it’s 1980, 81, 82, Carter into Reagan, and we’re in the wilderland of Montana where there’s a crackpot and his family, one of these millenarian swivel-eyed ranters about the gold standard and masons and the illegal government in Wash
Ron Charles
May 13, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2014-favorites
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
Shelby *trains flying monkeys*
Jun 12, 2014 rated it it was ok
Recommended to Shelby *trains flying monkeys* by: Will Byrnes
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
Aug 02, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Raw, gut wrenching and heartbreaking. Midwest America - outside the city limits exists poverty, homelessness, addiction, crime and abuse. Much less resources to help those in need. Pete Snow is a social worker living day to day attempting to protect and remove children from abusive homes. He is an alcoholic - unable to deal with the stress in his job as well as within his own life; trying instead to make it better for others at the cost of losing touch with his own daughter, who becomes a runawa ...more
Dec 04, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: true-grit, fiction
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
Elyse  Walters
Nov 18, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: netgalley
WARNING....YOU LOOSE!! I'm bummed!!!!!!

I lost my-BRILLIANT-first review!

Being a social worker must be one of the most thankless jobs in the world.

Pete Snow -social worker has more challenging cases on his plate than one man should have to handle alone.
How do you help 6 kids living in the woods -who need food -clothing -education-love -(really need help), --but their dad does not want you to come near them? And if you do --your own life may be in physical danger?
How do you help the teen kid w
Disturbing, dark, intense, heartbreaking, ambitious, and masterfully written. Smith Henderson has a fascinating and twisted imagination. I hope to read more from this gifted author in the near future. "Fourth of July Creek" is depressing as hell but well worth the 400+ journey into the fucked-up psyche of an alcoholic, faith-deprived, but well-intentioned social worker, Pete Snow. Set in the early '80s in rural Montana. Get ready for a bumpy ride! Enjoy. ...more
Jun 05, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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
Aug 11, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, debut
The Hook - The reviews, pure and simple.

The Line“Wild mushrooms and carpets of moss and bumblebees turning figure eights in the slashes of sun in the woods, as if they too are stupefied by the beauty of the place.”

The Sinker – Why is that some of the best books are the hardest to describe? Breathe in, breathe out and try.

Pete Snow’s territory and caseload are both huge often leaving him feeling ineffective in his work for DFS (Department of Family Services) in the vast landscape of 1980’s T
Diane S ☔
Jan 21, 2014 rated it really liked it
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
Jul 22, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Michael by: Will Byrnes
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
May 31, 2014 rated it really liked it
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

Jul 01, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I read this a couple years ago and it somehow got removed from my list...anyway, wonderful book.. Poor Pete, a social worker, he went through some unbelievable will love this book
May 13, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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
Jun 04, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was certainly worth the wait...

Once I heard about Fourth of July Creek coming out in mid-2014 I knew (I could bet a in soda-) this would be for me. Not that I'm all that all that enamored of the Big Sky State (it's one of my least-favorite states of the Union, really, with endless 100 mile-long drives just to get to the next town, with towns having little more than three {Protestant} churches...and ten taverns, and really bad diner food), but there's just something about novels se

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
Oct 24, 2014 rated it liked it
Pete Snow is an unlikely but good hearted DFS agent who is charged with the care of some pretty interesting families in the small Montana town Tenmile, near 4th of July Creek. The most challenging being the almost feral Benjamin Pearl who is living in the wild with his fanatically religious and Apocalypse preparing family, most namely his father Jeremiah Pearl. Trouble is brewing as Pete's marriage implodes, his teenage daughter becomes a runaway, his brother evades his parole officer, and his o ...more
Jan 26, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, audio
I finished the audio of this book a few days ago and I'm still at a loss to properly describe it. The story feels feels like it could become a feels enormous and heavy and important but at the same time, it meanders (wyoms?) along in this very specific voice, relating a story that is just a story. The writing is like nothing I have ever read and I am loath to describe it. Intricate, unique, masterful writing. One-of-a-kind writing.

The narration could not possibly have been
“I go into homes all the time and I save children. It’s what I do for a living, you see? And I didn’t save my own daughter.”

(3.5) If I take nearly a year over a novel, stopping and starting, that’s usually a bad sign. But I forced myself to finish this one, just like I did with The Orphan-Master’s Son by Adam Johnson. In the end my feelings were roughly similar, too: I appreciated the skill behind Henderson’s writing but never fully warmed to it. This is the story of Pete Snow, a Montana soc
Cathrine ☯️
Jun 05, 2015 rated it really liked it
A very good book about gritty and disturbing subject matter and people at the heart of it. Unflinchingly it opens the Pandora’s box of "What’s gotten into people?" and "What’s wrong with this country?”. Do you want to see what’s inside? Maybe. It’s not pleasant. The very small flame of hope at the bottom of the box appearing in the epilogue could easily be blown out by a puff. We all know the box cannot be closed after it’s opened, but we do have the choice to leave it alone.

“At bedtime, Mama t
Jun 11, 2014 rated it really liked it
There are several story lines occurring simultaneously in this novel, Fourth of July Creek by Smith Henderson and in the end, all lines converge and a bigger picture is revealed. The story takes place in the early 1980's in a small town .. so very small, in fact, that it really isn't map worthy.. the town of Tenmile, Montana.

Narrating the story is Pete Snow, a social worker for the Department of Family Services. Pete is one of my favorite types of characters… multi-faceted and complex…. he is a
Diane Yannick
Sep 14, 2014 rated it it was ok
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
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
Ɗẳɳ  2.☊
Nov 30, 2014 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Ɗẳɳ 2.☊ by: Paul Bryant
Shelves: literary-fiction
Wow! What a frustrating little big book. The writing style was so aggravating at times that I literally went from almost chucking it entirely, to considering it only middling, to finally settling on really liking it. I should have known once I discovered Smith Henderson won the 2011 PEN Emerging Writers Award, was a Philip Roth Resident in Creative Writing at Bucknell University, and a Pushcart Prize winner in fiction, that he would attempt to crush us puny readers with his mastery of the obscur ...more
Jun 02, 2014 rated it really liked it
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
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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.

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