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.
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.