|Fourth of July Creek
"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."
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 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 F.B.I., putting Pete at the center of a massive manhunt from which no one will emerge unscathed.
Want to know what a small town Social Workers life is like? This book will give you all the inside info! Corruption, alcoholism, welfare, mental instability, starvation, runaways, homelessness, drug abuse, sexual abuse, mental abuse, verbal abuse, and any other kind of abuse you could think of... this book has it. I don't mean to say that this book is trying to shock the reader, because everything inside is written very naturally, almost like you see glimpses of horribleness but with understanding behind it. The main character, Pete, isn't the type of Social Worker you would normally think of. He isn't that super sweet, perfectly normal, entirely helpful, the one who thinks there is a cure for every malady out there - even the emotional ones. He is hard, true and knows how to connect with these people. He relates to them, because you see, his life is pretty messed up as well. His wife and daughter have moved away and soon after his daughter ends up running away, completely disappearing. This happens while he has a giant stack of cases that need to be taken care of, some of them harder than others.
It's a little like a train wreck, watching Pete try and sort out his own life while playing nice with the other families who are under his care. You feel terrible that he has so many people to look after that he can't even focus on his own life. One of the families has an abusive mother who is having trouble with her teenage son acting out. Another family consists of a wacked out father (total conspiracy theorist) who lives out in the woods with his son and doesn't trust anyone. You know these people exist, that all this is TRUE... somewhere... but I still found myself in disbelief quite a few times. I guess it might be because I don't want things like that to happen, I don't want people to treat others that way. The hard reality of life I suppose.
I can't write this review and not mention the emotional pull I felt because of the subject matter. I have had to work very closely with DCF myself when my own family had troubles. I ended up cursing the worker because he'd constantly miss pick up times, give me the wrong information about meet ups, etc... After reading this, I guess I can understand the stress they have to go through and the amount of cases that come across their desks. It's a wonder they can keep anything straight.
I also can't write this review without mentioning how great the writing is. It pulls you in, I have to admit that I found myself plopped down in a town I would never image visiting. However, I need to caution those who pick up this book, there's quite a few ugly things happening and I don't know too many people who could read through it unscathed. I know this book gave me a few scars that I'll take with me, I know It'll make me think twice next time I see a family struggling.
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