Audiobook Review: The Promise of Jesse Woods

27 Apr

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.

Chris Fabry is an award-winning author and radio personality who hosts the daily program Chris Fabry Live! on Moody Radio. He is also heard on Love Worth Finding, Building Relationships with Dr. Gary Chapman, and other radio programs. A 1982 graduate of the W. Page Pitt School of Journalism at Marshall University and a native of West Virginia, Chris and his wife, Andrea, now live in Arizona and are the parents of nine children.

Chris’ novels, which include Dogwood, June Bug, Almost Heaven, Not in the Heart, Borders of the Heart, Every Waking Moment, The Promise of Jesse Woods, and his latest release, Looking into You, have won three Christy Awards, an ECPA Christian Book Award, and two Christianity Today Book Awards of Merit, but it’s his lyrical prose and tales of redemption that keep readers returning for more.

Chris has also published 70 other books, including nonfiction, film novelizations, and novels for children and young adults. He coauthored the Left Behind: The Kids series with Jerry B. Jenkins and Tim LaHaye, as well as the Red Rock Mysteries and The Wormling series with Jerry B. Jenkins. RPM is his latest series for kids and explores the exciting world of NASCAR.

My Impressions:

Chris Fabry can tell a story. His novels reach right to the heart of the matter while weaving a tale that fully immerses a reader into the time, place, and characters’ lives. In The Promise of Jesse Woods, Fabry returns to Dogwood, WV, a town that has seen its fair share of heartbreak and redemption. This time three kids on the verge of adulthood explore the dirt roads and woods around Dogwood. Their summer adventures are impacted by greed, betrayal, and cowardice of adults. A coming-of-age novel that will touch your heart, The Promise of Jesse Woods is a highly recommended read.

Dogwood once again comes to life in The Promise of Jesse Woods. There is a dual time line (1972 and 1984) as Matt Plumley recounts his first months in the town his parents have returned to. I loved how Chris incorporated the events and fads of that year as he lays the foundation for the story.  Overweight, a bit of a misfit, and with a love for all things baseball, Matt becomes friends with Jesse and Dickie. On the fringe of polite Dogwood society, these two accept Matt and include him in ways he has never been before. The three make unlikely friends, differing in many ways, yet their shared isolation, bonds them. Until tragedy rips their friendships apart. Twelve years later, Matt returns to right the wrongs done to him and Jesse.

Fabry’s writing is beautiful even as it recounts the ugliness in the world. Innocence is destroyed in all three of the main characters’ lives as they deal with death, deception and plain, old-fashioned meanness. The novel is told in Matt’s first person voice which provides insight into what the characters are dealing with. Yet Matt’s knowledge is incomplete. It is not until the end of the novel when all things become clear. The events of the summer of 1972 only make sense in his return to Dogwood in the fall of 1984. That’s when Matt learns the whole truth, and comes to understand himself. The Promise of Jesse Woods is a journey of growth for more than Matt, as all characters are forced to reflect on the choices they made twelve years before.

I listened to the audiobook, which I recommend as well. Fabry is the narrator, so you know that the story is told just the way it should be.

I would characterize The Promise of Jesse Woods as literary fiction. It is writing at its best and a guaranteed great read!

Highly Recommended.

Audience: adults.

To purchase, click HERE.

(I purchased the audiobook from Audible. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)



7 Responses to “Audiobook Review: The Promise of Jesse Woods”

  1. Barbara H. April 27, 2017 at 10:00 am #

    I listened to the audiobook as well last year. Chris does have a knack for good storytelling.

    • rbclibrary April 27, 2017 at 2:10 pm #

      I have one more on my shelf that needs to be read. Perhaps I can make it a book club selection. That always moves a book up in the TBR pile.

  2. Donna April 29, 2017 at 6:50 am #

    So he narrated his own book? Have an author friend said she was told you shouldn’t but guess doesn’t apply to everybody

    • rbclibrary May 1, 2017 at 6:37 am #

      I have listened to a couple of author narrated books. My experience has been good. The authors’ deep connection with the characters/plot/etc. allows for their unique voice.

  3. Donna April 29, 2017 at 6:52 am #

    So he narrated it himself?have author friend said told not to, guess doesn’t apply go everybody

    • rbclibrary May 18, 2017 at 1:55 pm #

      Sooty for the late response to your comment. It wound up in a spam file. :(. Fabry has a great voice and experience with Focus on The Family, that probably makes a big difference.


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