Josiah's Reviews > The Promise of Jesse Woods

The Promise of Jesse Woods by Chris Fabry
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it was amazing
bookshelves: general-fiction, best-of-2018
Read 2 times. Last read April 27, 2020.

There are some books that stick with you long after you've finished reading it.

The Promise of Jesse Woods is one of those books for me. Two and a half years after my first read-through, the characters and themes of the story still come back to me in memorable ways. Whenever I'm talking about Christian fiction that's actually good, the book's close to the top of my list. And I've used it as an example in a number of different discussions I've had or articles I've written about Christian fiction over the past couple of years.

What is it that's allowed the book to stick with me? Certainly a large part of it has to do with the characters. The novel lacks the cliches and stale character types I sometimes expect to see in the Christian fiction genre, replacing them with real, jagged characters whose flaws sometimes seem insurmountable both for the protagonist and themselves. These aren't the sorts of Christians you may be used to seeing in Christian fiction. But they are the kinds you may have met over the course of your life.

Certainly a large portion of this book's enduring nature for me also comes down to its themes and the way they poke and prod at actual flaws that real Christians struggle with. This isn't another evangelistic tract or feel-good story about how much better we are than others. In some ways, the story may seem to start out this way--but that's only to take a strong left turn into a very different lesson that we need to grapple with and face as Christians: the truth that we weren't meant to become the saviors of others, no matter how much we want them too.

And there are certainly many other elements of the story that have made it continue to stick in my mind. The setting and the way Fabry transported me to the world of Applachian culture. The plot and the way Fabry manages to balance two competing plot lines without letting either overshadow the other. The prose and the memorable turns of phrase he's included within the story.

It's a fine book. More than fine, I might add. The first time I read through the book, I was disappointed by the climax, less for the protagonist's epiphany (which I loved) than in the exact way he came around to that conclusion. But after re-reading the novel, I think I can better appreciate what Fabry was trying to do with it and why he chose to wrap things up in this way.

Two-and-a-half years after I first read the book, it still hasn't left me.

And I doubt it will anytime soon.

Rating: 4.5 Stars (Excellent).

(For a longer look at the book and the specific themes it examines, check out an article I wrote about the themes of the book for fiction writers here: https://storyembers.org/how-to-write-...).
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Reading Progress

December 16, 2016 – Shelved
December 16, 2016 – Shelved as: to-read
January 1, 2018 – Started Reading
January 2, 2018 – Finished Reading
January 14, 2018 – Shelved as: general-fiction
March 3, 2019 – Shelved as: best-of-2018
Started Reading
April 27, 2020 – Finished Reading

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