“Fourth of July Creek is a masterful achievement and Smith Henderson is certain to end up a household name.”
—Philipp Meyer, New York Times bestselling author of The Son
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. Fourth of July Creek is an unforgettable, unflinching debut that marks the arrival of a major literary talent.
The kid walked bowlegged and with his chest forward like he was breasting his way across a river, observing with badly concealed interest the panoply of animals and plants cut from construction paper and taped to the walls. He looked through an ajar door at a classroom taking a quiz and at the lockers and up into the staircase with the mute fascination of an ambassador. In the bathroom, the boy entered the doorless stall and regarded the sculpted porcelain a moment before locating the upright seat and pulling it down. He shat with Pete watching, shameless as a dog. When he washed his hands, he lathered promptly, and then rinsed with wary pleasure, turning his hands in the hot water and looking at Pete in the mirror as if he had to keep an eye on him, and not the other way around.
The child didn’t have hot running water. And he’d never set foot in a public school.
The boy wouldn’t let the doctor examine him, but the doctor said scurvy was certainly possible. Said to check his belly and legs for liver spots, if the boy’d ever let him. He told Pete to get him some vitamin C, asked after the boy’s stool, and when Pete described the quality of it, wrote a prescription for the giardia he’d probably gotten from drinking the mountain water.
There was no trace of the boy’s earlier violence against the principal. If anything, the child radiated studied calm. He spoke in the clipped cadence of a POW, announcing at one point that he’d renounced his citizenship. He stated plainly that he’d kill anyone who stuck him with a needle.