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Fourth of July Creek: A Novel by Smith…

Fourth of July Creek: A Novel (2014)

by Smith Henderson

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7204320,256 (3.92)53
"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" --… (more)

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» See also 53 mentions

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What a great book! I’m not alone in thinking this, either: since FOURTH OF JULY CREEK was published in 2014, it has won numerous awards.

But, right up front, I want to say I have two issues with this book: its genre and its title.

I do not agree with the genre the book is classified under (at least at my library), Mystery and Suspense. To call it that is a stretch. Although part of FOURTH OF JULY CREEK wonders what became of a family, that is only a part. The book is literature more than it is mystery and suspense.

And FOURTH OF JULY CREEK is about more than Fourth of July Creek.

The book centers on Pete Snow, a social worker in Montana. Fourth of July Creek has to do with one of his cases that begins with the discovery of a filthy and somewhat wild boy, Benjamin Pearl, who lives in the wilderness with his father, Jeremiah, a paranoid man, suspicious of everyone, always afraid that his freedom is threatened.

Pete seeks to gain their trust so they will accept his help and, in so doing, learns the Pearl family also consists of a wife and several more children. Where are they?

But that is just one of Pete’s cases featured in FOURTH OF JULY CREEK. Also, issues in his own life make up half the book, with a runaway daughter who resorts to prostitution because she thinks she is maintaining her freedom and a brother who is evading prison.

All the parts of FOURTH OF JULY CREEK, Pete's social work and his personal issues, have in common the desire for freedom.

Smith Henderson is an author I’ll be watching for. His writing is brilliant, a word that may be overused but, in this case, is applicable. ( )
  techeditor | Jul 29, 2017 |
I wonder why this author is using so many words, and so much faul language where he could have written a good book with at least 150 pages less. Even reading the first pages of this book are a crime, using to many words to explain simple things. His family should be lucky if he doesn't talk the same way in a normal conversation.
There is no way I get any sympathy for Pete, or for any others of the people he tries to help. And there is no way I dissapear into the story like I do with other great books. Even the people in Agatha Christie's books get more into my skin than any of his characters does. Is it a bad book? I don't know. The story in itself could be great if it had been written in a different style. And i don't care what the NYT says, or any other who thinks this is a great debut. I didn't like reading it at all, and I will never buy any book of him for sure. Glad this one didn't cost me any money.... ( )
  annus_sanctus | Mar 10, 2017 |
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. ( )
1 vote lynnski723 | Dec 31, 2016 |
I'm always skeptical of books that I I read about on must-read lists. I'm glad I read this one though! I liked that the main character was in a professional position, but was just as messed-up as the people he was responsible for taking care of. Some of the content and language is graphic, but it really only serves to paint a picture of the lives these people lead. This book would probably be considered more of a male read, but that doesn't mean that females won't enjoy it. It almost seems like modern fiction, but is set in the 80's. I'm honestly not sure who I would recommend this book to, but there are themes of depression, religion, conspiracy, violence, complicated man-woman relationships, complicated parent-child relationships, abuse, and living poor. -Audio ( )
1 vote aurorapaigem | Nov 23, 2016 |
I have had this book on my TBR list forever and finally decided to pick it up. I am so, so glad I did. This is an example of the great American novel. Full of heart, full of characters, full of contradictions and questions. And most of all full of brilliantly written prose. I loved it. Hated for it to end. If you haven't been on this journey, I highly recommend it. ( )
  Maureen_McCombs | Aug 19, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 43 (next | show all)
Long before Smith Henderson, the author of this not-to-be-missed first novel, makes it explicit, it’s clear that to work for the Department of Family Services in a job like Pete’s is to grapple with every form of human frailty and to try to bring salvation rather than pass judgment. The book’s deeply persuasive message is “that all of life can be understood as casework.” And Pete serves as something of a secular priest.
added by ozzer | editNew York Times, Janet Maslin (Jun 26, 2014)
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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. -- Henry David Thoreau
For my family
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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 Corolla.
The mother collected unemployment but her full-time occupation was self-pity.
She could be seen around town powdered white and made up in slashes of red around her mouth and blue around her eyes like an abstract of the American flag, some kind of commentary on her country, which of a sort she was.
"You come clothed in weakness, but I know what stands behind you. You insinuate yourself among good people and you rot them from the inside with your diseases and mental illnesses." Crazy talk.
How trout looked in that water, brown and wavering and glinting all the colors there were and maybe some that didn't really exist on the color wheel, a color, say, that was moss and brown-spotted like peppercorns and a single terra-cotta-colored stone and a flash of sunlight all at once. That color existed in the water here.
Problem bears broke into places up around here, but he hadn't had any trouble. The very idea of problem bears. A problem for who. Did the bears talk about problem people.
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