What We're Reading Now: Fourth of July Creek by Smith Henderson

Book sharing is at an all-time high here in the EW offices — maybe it’s the lazy summer days (do people really have those?), the afternoons spent languishing by the pool (are there pools by which one can languish in the city?) or the casual pace people adopt heading into July (casual as in only elbowing three people as they shove onto the subway instead of ten…) or, maybe just maybe, it’s that books are really good right now.

Either way, Editor Matt has pulled 1Q84 off my desk and into his travel bag. Deputy Editor Kristen B snagged The Southern Reach Trilogy‘s next installment before I could even begin detailing why I, like, totally need it first. And, Executive Editor Meeta and I had to jockey for Fourth of July Creek (which Matt raved about the whole time he was reading and EW reviewed here).

Lucky for Meeta, there were two copies floating around and we could all get on with our day.

This book is stunning. The language, the setting, the characters, their spirit, their damage. All of it. Everyone is splintered. Everything needs a helping hand. I don’t generally get drawn to books with obvious moral messages, but the notion that we all need help before we need judgement…well, that’s not so hard to get behind.

I once dated a guy whose father runs a camp in California for rehabbing delinquent teens. Pete Snow, our story’s hero and a social worker devoted to helping kids in the vast Montana wilderness, made me think of him often — so I’m calling out my biases — but I can’t imagine anyone reading this book and not falling hard for Snow. You want to cheer for the guy.

He isn’t perfect — gorgeously and grotesquely flawed is a better description. Like the many children he is protecting from their parents, Snow is a parent whose child needed protecting. He spends much of the narrative searching for his runaway daughter while carrying on an affair with a fellow social worker who, after bouncing around the foster care system in her youth, unnervingly serves to illustrate the kind of woman Snow’s daughter is likely to grow into.

If that logic isn’t enough to perplex you, consider that Snow’s other major relationship is with Jeremiah Pearl, a faithful, the-apocalypse-is-coming-and-all-is-for-naught devotee. The interplay between a man (Snow) so broken by his own past — sure that he has destroyed everything dear to him — and a man (Pearl) who values nothing because, well, we’re all about to get wiped out anyway — is delicious with tension.

This isn’t the light, summer read we talked about last week. But its exceptionally enjoyable and we can’t recommend it enough.

What is everyone else paging through these days?

 

 

 


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