cover image Fourth of July Creek

Fourth of July Creek

Smith Henderson. Ecco, $26.99 (480p) ISBN 978-0-06-228644-4

This uneven debut, set in 1980 Montana, isn’t always able to sustain the interest of its opening sections. The first chapter introduces us to social worker Pete Snow, who has been called by the police to defuse a domestic dispute between a 15-year-old boy, who has been in trouble with the law repeatedly, and his speed-addicted mother. The situation is grim, but Snow goes above and beyond the call of duty to place the teenager in a stable and supportive environment. His greater challenge comes with his next case: a boy who shows up on the playground of the local school dirty and reeking. The child, Benjamin Pearl, is reticent about revealing the circumstances at home, and Snow finds trying to help him difficult; Benjamin’s reclusive and angry father is opposed to assistance, even making the boy strip naked rather than wear the clean clothes Snow has provided. Snow’s efforts to help the Pearls despite the father’s hostility are the focus of the book, which is too long and features an unsatisfying ending. (June)