Chris Fabry is an author that I had never read before, but the summary of his new book The Promise of Jesse Woods made it look too good to pass up. Not to mention that I have a hard time resisting books set in my home state of West Virginia. I was not disappointed with this one! This story is moving and poignant. It’s a coming-of-age story about starting over, loyalty and how one decision can change your life forever.
Matt Plumley moved with his parents from Pittsburgh to Dogwood, West Virginia in the summer of 1972, before his first year of high school. On his first day in his new home, Matt made two new friends, Jesse Woods and Dickie Darrel Lee Hancock. They were far from being “acceptable” friends for the new preacher’s son. Jesse’s family, with her ill mother and absentee father was considered to be no better than trash. Dickie was a mixed-race boy, who no one would befriend. Together with Matt, they formed an unlikely trio who spent the summer riding their bikes around town and sometimes getting into scrapes. But when the unthinkable happened, Matt and Jesse made a promise that would alter everyone’s lives forever. Years later, Matt is living in Chicago when he hears that Jesse is planning to get married. He drops everything to rush back to Dogwood to try to stop her—and to find out what really happened one rainy night long ago.
This book was incredible. I’ll admit that after requesting it I had a moment of doubt about it, but once I started reading it, I didn’t want to stop. The story unwinds slowly, alternating between Matt as a teenager and an adult, recalling the days of that one fateful summer that changed him. As someone who has read thousands of books in her lifetime, I feel like I’m usually pretty good at guessing the outcome of many stories, but The Promise of Jesse Woods left me guessing until the very last minute. The characters and dialogue were on point, enhancing the feeling of small town life that Mr. Fabry writes about. It was also true to the Vietnam War era time period with a feeling of uncertainty and fear. This author also does a great job showing things from Matt’s perspective as a teenager, and then showing how his perceptions changed when he became an adult and saw that summer differently.
I cannot rave enough about The Promise of Jesse Woods. It’s a book that I would recommend to any fiction lover, not just Christian fiction. Chris Fabry is not a new author, but he’s new to me. I can guarantee, though, that this will not be the last of his books that I will read!
I received an advance copy of this book in exchange for this review. All opinions are my own and a favorable review was not required. Look for The Promise of Jesse Woods at your favorite bookseller on or around July 1.