This book was on my radar because Tod of the “Literary Disco” podcast, of which I am so fond, would not stop talking about it. It was his favorite book of 2014 so I convinced by book club it was a good pick for July, cuz you know, July. They were hoping for something light and fun.
Henderson’s debut novel is masterfully written. The story begins with Pete, a social worker in Montana trying to defuse a violent situation between a mother and son. Though Pete is the main character, the POV jumps periodically to his daughter, with a distinctive voice and style to that narrative. In this way, we slowly peel away the layers as we learn more about Pete and the characters he comes across through his job, and his existence. These are hard people leading hard lives with little hope.
The main conflict involves one of his cases, the Pearl family who lives on Fourth of July Creek Road, off the grid, paranoid, a seemingly powder keg situation waiting to explode.
It is hard to say I enjoyed this book because the subject material is a unrelenting: hard people leading hard lives with little hope. Hard to say, but not impossible to say. I love a story with rich character development, and Henderson is excellent at the slow reveal, and subtle misdirection. However, if you like a book with a lot of action, this isn’t it.
Some of the folks on my club struggled with the bleakness of it all, but for me it was first and foremost a story, so although the characters are realistic, I didn’t get emotionally invested. Also, I feel like I was desensitized somewhat to some of the things, which I chalk up to too many marathons of Law and Order: SVU. That stuff just doesn’t leave your brain.
I highly recommend this novel, but if you are in a funk, it os definitely not going to be an emotional pick me up. It is somber, insightful, and interesting, and deserving of the accolades it has received.