Books Magazine

Fourth of July Creek by Smith Henderson

By Pamelascott

A dark and powerful debut novel set in the hardscrabble American heartlands.

'If I knew for a certain'ty that a man was coming to my house with the conscious design of doing me good, I should run for my life...' Nominated for the Folio Prize

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, Jeremiah's activities spark the full-blown interest of the FBI, putting Pete at the centre of a massive manhunt from which no one will emerge unscathed.

[The cop flicked his cigarette to the dirt-and-gravel road in front of the house, and touched back his hat over his hairline as the social worker drove up in a dusty Toyota Carolla]

In this shattering and iconic novel, Smith Henderson explores the complexities of freedom, community, grace, suspicion and anarchy, brilliantly depicting America's disquieting and violent contradictions. FOURTH OF JULY CREEK is an unforgettable, unflinching debut that marks the arrival of a major literary talent.



(@WmHeinemann, 5 June 2014, 480 pages, paperback, copy from @AmazonUK #AmazonVine)


Fourth July Creek Smith Henderson


This book reminded me a lot of Ohio by Stephen Markley. They both deal with similar gritty, dark subject matter and the writing style of both authors' is similar. I loved Ohio so this is a good thing. I loved the setting, a nowhere place called Tenmile, Montana, a typical small town where things run a little differently than they do in the big towns and cities. Henderson creates an impressive sense of place in the book. The characters are spot on as well. Pete, the main character (sort of) is a social worker trying to help those who want and need it and those who need it but refuse it. He's very caring and subsequently very real. His most troubling case comes when a boy called Benjamin wanders into his path, looking and acting like he's been raised by wolves. Benjamin's father, essentially the villain of the book is a survivalist. He's intense and terrifying at times. The writing is also very powerful verging on beautiful at times.

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