Tag Archives: Chris Fabry

Book Review: The Promise of Jesse Woods by Chris Fabry

Title: The Promise of Jesse Woods
Author: Chris Fabry
Publisher: Tyndale House
Published: July 2016
Genre(s): Christian Fiction, Coming of Age, Book Club Fiction

About the Book: (from the publisher’s Web site)

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.

My Thoughts:

This thought-provoking coming of age novel is told from the point of view of Matt Plumley, who is a 14-year-old boy in one timeline, and a young adult in the other. Over the course of the novel, the reader is right there with adolescent Matt in the 1972 portions of the book, experiencing a life-changing summer along with him. But we’re also accompanying an older Matt in 1984 as he returns to his childhood home on a journey back to understand what happened that summer and whether he can fix it. The two timelines merge well to create the perfect blend of immediacy and hindsight, as the timelines build on each other on their way to the story’s pivotal moment.

Populated by quirky and memorable characters, and featuring an emotionally poignant storyline, realistic dialog and beautiful prose, this story is a keeper. Book clubs in particular will appreciate this book for the wealth of discussable topics it addresses and the excellent discussion questions included in the back of the book. But it’s the little unexpected and vivid details scattered throughout the book in dialog, description, and characters’ observations that really drew me in to the time and place and made the book stand out for me.

This is the second book I’ve read by this author (see my review of the audio edition of Not in the Heart). I have to say I’ve been impressed by both books, and plan to seek out more of his work.

Thank you to Tyndale House for providing a complimentary copy of the book for review purposes.

Quick Links: About the Book | Author’s Site

Audiobook Review: Not in the Heart by Chris Fabry

Title: Not in the Heart
Author: Chris Fabry
Narrator: Chris Fabry
Genre: Contemporary Christian Fiction
Publishers: Tyndale (print and electronic), and  Oasis Audio (audio)

I was excited to read and review Not in the Heart, because it is the 2013 Christy Award Winner in the Contemporary Standalone Category and I’d heard a lot of good things about it. The copy I read was an audiobook version, checked out and downloaded from my local library, so I’ll be reviewing not only the text of the book itself but also the quality of the recording and its narration.

Summary:

Not in the Heart tells the story of an out of work reporter who is estranged from his family, but is offered an opportunity to reconnect with them as well as earn some money toward paying off his mounting debts by writing the story of a death row inmate. That inmate, Terrell, is a convicted murderer who wants to donate his heart to Truman’s ailing son. But as Truman researches the story, he uncovers evidence that points to Terrell’s innocence. This raises a dilemma for Truman.  If Terrell is proven innocent, Truman’s son could die for lack of a heart transplant, but if Truman says nothing, an innocent man will be executed.

My reaction:

The complicated situations and difficult decisions explored in this book, make it a fascinating read as well as an excellent option for discussion by a book group.

The main character, Truman, is not an easy character to like.  He is a selfish man with a gambling addiction, and he has made a number of bad choices that lead to hurt and problems for him and his family.  And yet, I think the fact that the story is told in the first person from his point of view, helps the reader identify with him and feel for him, despite the negative character traits.  I have to say I enjoyed Truman’s dry and sarcastic sense of humor, which tends to keep things interesting from page one to the end.

What really resonated with me was the surprise twist at the end.  I won’t say what the twist is but I will say that I didn’t see it coming at all, and I thought it fit the rest of the story perfectly.  And yes, I cried at the end.  I couldn’t help it.  In my opinion, Chris Fabry crafted the perfect ending to a fascinating book.  There aren’t many books that I’m tempted to read a second time when there are so many other good books out there remaining to be read, but I am seriously tempted with this one.  It’s such a layered and nuanced story that I imagine a second reading would allow me to pick up on details I may have missed the first time around.  I’m also interested to check out the author’s latest book, Every Waking Moment, which sounds like it should also be an excellent read.

Specific to the audio edition:

About a year ago, I attended a lecture at a library conference where a representative from an audiobook recording studio discussed the audiobook production process at her company. She commented that while many authors wish to narrate their own audiobooks, it’s not usually a good idea.  She prefers to hire professional actors to narrate audiobooks.  In many cases, I think she’s right, but I think this audiobook proved to be an exception to that rule.  Chris Fabry did an amazing job narrating his book.  Perhaps his experience hosting his own radio show came into play.  At any rate, the listener gets to hear the author’s “voice” literally as well as figuratively, and I think in this case it adds to the enjoyment.  The sarcasm and dry humor in the main character’s words comes through loud and clear in the author’s narration.

The various character voices are well differentiated and pleasant to listen to.  Even the female characters’ voices are well done.  When male narrators try too hard to make their female characters sound distinctively female, they can come across sounding nasal or falsetto in a way that no human voice should sound.  Thankfully, that’s not the case here.  Instead female voices are mostly mid-range and sound fairly gender neutral, which in my opinion works perfectly.  You know from context they’re female, but the voice doesn’t get in the way of the story.

Conclusion:

In short, I would highly recommend this book.  If you’re an audiobook fan or you’re looking for listening material for an extended car ride or while doing chores or errands, this one gets an enthusiastic thumbs up from me.  For those who prefer to read in print or ebook format, those editions should be good too.

Links:

Compact disc and downloadable audio editions of this title (as well as print and electronic editions) are available from christianaudio, christianbook.com, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble, and may also be available from your local library.

Author, Chris Fabry’s Web site includes a blog, links where you can connect with him on Facebook and Twitter, and a link to his Youtube channel featuring book trailers and clips where the author discusses his books.  There’s also a link to a discussion guide that’s not to be missed if you plan to discuss this book with a group.