The Promise of
Jesse Woods

Recipient of Christianity Today's 2017 Book Award of Merit, 2017 Christy Award Winner

The Promise of Jesse Woods

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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.

The Promise of Jesse Woods released in July 2016 and received the 2017 Christianity Today Book Award of Merit in the Fiction category. The book also received the 2017 Christy Award in the General Fiction category. Visit the Christy Awards website for a complete list of 2017 winners and finalists.

Author Notes

It's time for readers to meet Jesse Woods and her little sister, Daisy Grace. I'm hearing that this story is as deep and heartfelt as June Bug and Dogwood. It may be even deeper because of the longings of the heart it represents. In a sense, this is a love story and a mystery wrapped together in two summers—1972 and 1984.

The main character, Matt Plumley, moves to Dogwood, West Virginia, and is immediately thrust into a foreign world he doesn't understand. With the help of two friends, he navigates his way into the hills—and falls for an Appalachian girl.

It's a simple story of some simple people who are just trying to love their way through life and making mistakes just like the rest of us.

So I invite you to walk down the dusty road of my youth. Hear the junebugs, watch the fireflies, taste the roasted marshmallows and Faygo soda, hear the dog barking underneath the cinderblock steps at Jesse's house, and learn the heartbreaking truth about the way Matt and Jesse's lives have been affected by one fateful night.

"Fabry's latest could have been too heavy due to the subject matter and the tumultuousness of the time period, but his superior writing skills make it more of a nostalgic, sweet tale. There are some frustrating, disturbing moments where individuals and groups of people are not treated well, but in the end, good wins out over evil, and it is clear that no one is beyond redemption. This is a fast-paced read with many endearing characters."
Romantic Times, 4-star review

"This is a well-crafted novel with sympathetic characters, gently woven themes, and evocative descriptions. As a reader I became thoroughly immersed in the world of Dogwood and the lives of Matt and his friends. Fabry is skilled at portraying the real-life faith struggles of real people, and he manages to avoid the gravitational pull toward a clichéd ending."
— Sharon Garlough Brown, author of the Sensible Shoes series

"[In this] soul-searching novel of faith, friendship, and promises, Chris Fabry invigorates the small-town lives of three teens in 1970s West Virginia with his exquisite, lyrical writing. . . . A literary delight . . . this novel is worthy of a standing ovation."
— Shelf Awareness

"What first appears to be a story of childhood love is actually a tale of secrecy, sacrifice and family. Chris Fabry's The Promise of Jesse Woods details a life-changing summer. In 1972, new to the town of Dogwood, West Virginia, pastor's son Matt finds common ground with two other outcasts: Jesse Woods, a girl from a poor family, and Dickie Darrel Lee Hancock, a mixed-race boy. Matt forms a particularly quick bond with Jesse, whom he is determined to protect, no matter the personal cost. A serious trauma severs Matt and Jesse's friendship, and after years of silence, he must return to understand what else was lost that summer.
"Matt's strong voice is rivaled only by Jesse's resolve, and readers will cheer her fortitude. This poignant story is worth the heartache: Complex and layered, The Promise of Jesse Woods goes beyond a youthful promise to center on a bond renewed by a desire for truth."
— Beth Bulow for BookPage

"Christy Award-winner Fabry (Every Waking Moment, 2013) presents an unlikely trio in Matt Plumley, an overweight preacher's kid; Jesse Woods, considered 'white trash' by the good people of Dogwood; and Dickie Darrel Lee Hancock, a mixed-race youth whose father is serving in Vietnam. They're all social outcasts, bullied and discriminated against because they're different, mostly by the town's self-professed 'Christians,' who use their religion to justify their bigotry. Told from Matt's viewpoint, the chapters alternate between his arrival in Dogwood in 1972 and his return in 1984, when he tries to rescue Jesse from what he considers a disastrous wedding. This riveting, no-punches-pulled coming-of-age tale is reminiscent of Richard Bachman's (Stephen King) short story 'The Body,' which was made into the movie Stand by Me."
— Shelley Mosley for Booklist

"A tender coming-of-age story of first love, innocence lost, and the soul-freeing power of truth."
— Charles Martin, New York Times bestselling author

"The Promise of Jesse Woods reminds me of To Kill A Mockingbird in the way it touches on racism, poverty, and justice, but Fabry also weaves in a beautiful faith thread which never feels forced. It's lyrical yet also down-to-earth. Deep yet never overwhelming. This is real-life storytelling that's effortless to read and will leave you wanting more from Fabry's pen."
— C.J. Darlington, author (review on Goodreads)

"There is something about Chris' writing style that makes me comfortable. I would say that he writes with a Mayberry feel to it. A place we all want to go home to. . . . Do yourself a favor, if you haven't read any of Chris' books, grab one, get started and find yourself at home in Dogwood, West Virginia."
— Chris Jager, fiction buyer for Baker Book House

"The writing in this novel is superb. It has vitality, a fantastic use of imagery, and a wonderful way of capturing the essence of a character or a situation with one or two well-chosen, and often pithy, observations."
"For anyone who likes getting in on something good from the get-go, this book is the next To Kill a Mockingbird. It felt like the child of the classic, all grown up and refocused for today's reader."
— Rebekah Love Dorris, freelance writer & blogger

Download the first chapter of The Promise of Jesse Woods here:

PDF Excerpt from Tyndale House Publishers

Discussion Guide

Download the Discussion Guide for The Promise of Jesse Woods here:

PDF Discussion Guide from Tyndale House Publishers

What Readers Are Saying . . .

  • Under a Cloudless Sky is entertaining and a wonderful addition to the inspirational fiction genre . . . a multilayered, engaging story with rich details and interesting characters."

    ROMANTIC TIMES, 4-Star Review

  • "Once again, Chris Fabry's brilliance in developing full-fleshed characters within a thrilling, yet poignant and sometimes painful story has captivated my heart and mind."

    FICTIONADDICT.COM on Every Waking Moment

  • "[June Bug] is a stunning success, and readers will find themselves responding with enthusiastic inner applause."


  • "Precise details of places and experiences immediately set you in the story, and the complex, likable characters give June Bug the enduring quality of a classic."


  • "This riveting, no-punches-pulled coming-of-age tale is reminiscent of Richard Bachman's (Stephen King) short story 'The Body,' which was made into the movie Stand by Me."

    BOOKLIST on The Promise of Jesse Woods

  • "Fabry's [The Promise of Jesse Woods] could have been too heavy due to the subject matter and the tumultuousness of the time period, but his superior writing skills make it more of a nostalgic, sweet tale. . . . This is a fast-paced read with many endearing characters."

    ROMANTIC TIMES, 4-Star Review

  • "[Every Waking Moment] has authentic characters, a compelling narrative, and a complex exploration of the brokenness and hope of human life."

    Susannah Clements, department chair of literature, Regent University

  • "The rural South comes to life, with themes of forgiveness and second chances as highlights. The characters are both deeply flawed and immensely relatable, making this another hit for Fabry."

    LIBRARY JOURNAL on A Piece of the Moon

  • "I haven't read anything so riveting and unforgettable since Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers. Fabry has penned a remarkable love story, one that's filled with sacrifice, hope, and forgiveness!"

    NOVEL REVIEWS on June Bug