Have you ever read a book that you could swear was written by a seasoned author only to discover it’s their debut? To be fair, I knew going in that Fourth of July Creek was Smith Henderson’s first book, but still! Its maturity was extremely unexpected–you’ll see him compared to Cormac McCarthy for sure.
His main character, social worker Pete Snow, who covers a vast territory near Tenmile, Montana, can’t seem to get his life together any better than his clients. After he encounters Benjamin Pearl, an 11-year-old found on the school’s playground, Snow meets his survivalist father, who lives with his family in the Montana wilderness. Snow slowly begins to win the trust of the Pearls, hoping he can help them before their lives go further awry. There’s back story with his own family, too: Snow is estranged from his remote father, divorcing his cheating wife, his teenage daughter making her own series of bad choices.
Henderson’s assured voice carries you through this painful, unflinching story, and there are glimmers of hope in these troubled characters. This book is stunning, and the characters have stayed with me for weeks after I finished reading it.