Monday, October 6, 2014
Before I could make up my mind, the book appeared on my doorstep as my Lemuria First Editions Book Club selection, and my own book club decided to read it.
The novel set just as Reagan is elected president, focuses on Pete Snow, a social worker in Tenmile, Montana, a very small, very rural community with a fair share of hard cases. Henderson opens the novel as Snow arrives to help police sort out a domestic disturbance, and he finds one of the children on his case load handcuffed beside his mother after both of them were separated during a vicious physical fight. Cecil, the teenage son, poses a great challenge to Snow, but he feels equal concerned for the little sister he finds hiding in her closet upstairs.
As he tries and fails over and over to put Cecil into a better home situation, even the kindest foster parents find themselves pushed beyond their limits.
Then a young boy, suffering from malnourishment and inadequately dressed for the cold weather, is brought to Pete's attention. Benjamin Pearl, Snow learns, lives in the woods with his father Jeremiah, a religious fanatic waiting on the world to end, hammering holes through the heads of presidents on coins he then circulates through the surrounding towns.
Concerned about Benjamin, Pete works to gain Jeremiah's trust, while also keeping his own brother's whereabouts from the Parole Officer his brother assaulted. As Henderson's protagonist, though, Snow is no simple idealistic do-gooder. Interspersed chapters reveal the whereabouts of his young teenaged daughter Rachel (who prefers to be called Rose), told to an unidentified interrogator. As she leaves for Texas with her mother, separated from Pete after her adultery, she ends up living with little parenting and disappears from home--"wyoming" she calls it--prompting her mother to call Pete for help finding her.
Pete's own back story reveals his evident tendency to alcoholism and violence. When he begins a relationship with Mary, another social worker, he learns that she carries around even more emotional baggage than he does.
Never heading toward a storybook ending, Henderson's characters are left, instead, looking for a best-case scenario, or at least the lesser of two--or more--evils.
Posted by Nancy at 10:26 AM
Labels: reading; Fourth of July Creek; Wiley Cash; Lemuria Books; Laurette LePrevost Writers Symposium.