The Promise of Jesse Woods

The Promise of Jesse WoodsThe Promise of Jesse Woods by Chris Fabry
Genres: Contemporary, Drama
Published by Tyndale Publishing on July 1, 2016
Pages: 400

 

About The Promise of Jesse Woods (from the back cover):
The summer of 1972 was the most pivotal of Matt Plumley’s childhood. While his beloved Pirates battle for back-to-back World Series titles, Matt’s family moves from Pittsburgh to Dogwood, West Virginia, where his father steps into the pulpit of a church under the thumb of town leader Basil Blackwood. A fish out of water, Matt is relieved to forge a fast bond with two unlikely friends: Dickie Darrel Lee Hancock, a mixed-race boy, and Jesse Woods, a tough-as-nails girl with a sister on her hip and no dad in sight.

As the trio traipses the hills and hollers, Matt begins to fall for Jesse, and their promises to each other draw him deeper into her terrifying reality. One night, the wrath of the Blackwoods and the secrets of Jesse’s family collide, and Matt joins Jesse in a rescue that saves one life and ends another . . . and severs the bond of their friendship.

Years later, Matt is pulled back to Dogwood and to memories of that momentous summer by news of Jesse’s upcoming wedding. He could never shake the feeling that there was more to the story of that fateful night, and he’s determined to learn the truth behind the only promise Jesse Woods ever broke.

 

It’s been several years since I’ve read one of Chris Fabry’s books.  I tend not to read many dramas, so his books rarely make it to my reading stack.  The last book of his I read was June Bug, and the characters made their way to Dogwood, West Virginia.  I remembered the town and when I saw that The Promise of Jesse Woods also takes place there, I decided it was time for a drama.

Dogwood is one of those locations that leaves an impression.

It’s been seven years since I read June Bug and I remember very little about it except for the town.  Dogwood is one of those locations that leaves an impression.  It’s a small town with dominating antagonists and ordinary protagonist.  They could very well be the poster child for the white washed tombs.  They’re proclamation of Christianity is at times much louder than their actual practice of Christianity.  But within this town of surface Christians are true believers that struggle to work out their faith.  Dogwood is a wonderfully developed setting and in and of itself, is a main character within this book.

Matt and Jesse are both excellent characters, but in very different ways.  Jesse’s strength and determination is easy to see and makes it easy to connect with her.  Matt’s is just as strong, but the source of his strength and determination is not the same as Jesse.  His endearing qualities stem from his willingness to rise above his fear and intervene because it’s right, not because it’s easy.  In a town that loves appearances, Matt stands in stark contrast to peers and fellow adults who preach love, but rarely show it.

Matt’s endearing qualities stem from his willingness to rise above his fear and intervene because it’s right, not because it’s easy.

The Promise of Jesse Woods has a dual timeline.  The events of 1972 tells a coming of age story for Matt.  He’s moved from Pittsburg to Dogwood and in doing so, encounters his first love.  However, he’s also forced to evaluate his faith and grow beyond the sheltered world that he’s experienced so far.  While this time period is a worldly coming of age story, the events of 1984 are a spiritual one.  I loved seeing how the events of 1972 changed and molded Matt and Jesse, but I equally enjoyed seeing how twelve years later, those experiences helped both of them spiritually.

I loved seeing how the events of 1972 changed and molded Matt and Jesse, but I equally enjoyed seeing how twelve years later, those experiences helped both of them spiritually.

There are a lot of strong spiritual themes throughout this book.  In many ways, the town itself is an object lesson of Jesus’ teaching.  However, the theme that really stands out to me is that we make lousy saviors.  Only Jesus is a worthy savior.  This is a great message as well as a challenge to Christians who struggle with attempting to rescue when what is needed is a savior.

I very much enjoyed The Promise of Jesse Woods.  It’s not exactly light reading, but it is easy to read.  The characters are highly engaging and the spiritual themes very strong.  I look forward to returning to Dogwood—that town still has a lot of secrets to reveal.

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *