The Promise of Jesse Woods
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.
I was first introduced to Chris Fabry through his book June Bug, which I was interested in because it was inspired by Les Miserables. Later I read another of his novels, Every Waking Moment. I was impressed with his writing in both, though they were not the type of stories I'm typically drawn to. They're wistful and bittersweet, and in that respect, The Promise of Jesse Woods is no different.
It's a difficult book to read because of many of the incidents that happen, and because the characters seem to take the hardest paths possible, filled with mistakes and regret. The book isn't devoid of hope, though, and it's engaging enough so that it's difficult to put down. That said, its ending is still not exactly happy and I don't think it's supposed to be. Since plots centered on secrets, misunderstandings, and old regrets tend to frustrate me, The Promise of Jesse Woods is not a new favorite of mine. However, from an objective point of view it's still a thoughtful read from a talented author.
Note: recommended to older readers do to themes of abuse, rape, and violence.
I received this book free from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.