This from August 3rd, 2008, my favorite of all of Chris Fabry's wonderful novels.
This has been a rewarding summer in the reading department. The CFBA blog tours have provided an ample selection of valuable novels, and my other selections have exceeded or at least equaled my high expectations for the choices I’ve made.
Now to add to the growing collection of worthwhile novels: Chris Fabry’s first adult novel, Dogwood. The West Virginia native, “husband of one and father of nine” as he likes to say, has authored over 50 children’s and young adult books, and he is the host of the “Chris Fabry Live!” on Moody Radio, the Love Worth Finding broadcast. Suffice it to say his credentials are no small potatoes.
I cannot pinpoint how this happens, but some writers just inspire me to flex my writing muscles—to get down to it again, dive in for total immersion, engaging that story which simmers in my mind’s eye. Chris Fabry’s writing did that for me. He made me want to be better, to encapsulate myself within the words absorbing them into my bloodstream in order to somehow produce a living, breathing story. Oh, I know the feeling, but with this blog I’ve gotten away from “the novel” for awhile, and now it’s like I’m starving myself—or maybe it’s just finally occurring to me that I’m ingesting a bunch of junk food and trying to “live” healthy. Regardless of analogies, his writing is rewarding, so wonderfully and at the same time painfully real, that I remember what it feels like to “compose” a story. Thank you for that, Chris.
Dogwood is a multiple character study of several members of the small town, the protagonist Will facing his release from 12 years of prison, the memory of his first and only love keeping him sane and almost hopeful. The vision of his dreams for the future, Karin, is struggling with a tormented existence which she perceives as empty, lifeless, and corrupted by her memories and rekindled desires for Will after being convinced by an elderly friend to visit him not long before his release. She spends most of her nights in her closet unable to sleep.
The town of Dogwood has not forgiven Will for the car accident which slaughtered the children of one family, and he returns to hateful stares and trouble keeping a job. He learns a good friend from his youth has disappeared, and nothing seems right about the speculations as to his whereabouts. His strained relationship with his brother and the menacing threats from the new sheriff all add up to more misery, difficulty, and obstacles for Will’s realization of any kind of dream.
The subplots and intersections of all these characters reveal an intricate connection to one another. I haven’t decided if I’m completely in agreement with the choices made for the ending of this novel, but I’ll tell you this: the writing makes up for my differences with the plot direction and makes it more than a worthy read. I know I’ve been saying this a lot lately—and I know when someone reviews a book with superfluous comments, it can get old and seem a bit dishonest—but I truly loved this book.
The primary reason for my feelings is that Chris presents so many depictions of people and circumstances planted in a reality and voiced by individuals who you or I as a reader have either seen or known in our actual lives. They become familiar and you would recognize their voices and attitudes even if the chapters weren’t titled with their names. There are only a couple of stereotypes—easily noticed without my identification—but for the most part this story puts you smack dab in the middle of small town America with an angry attitude, a hypocritical desire to make someone pay, and a grudge to hold for as long as necessary. Contrasted to that is a love so deep and inextinguishable, it holds you captive with its hope—even when you wonder if it’s okay to hope for its consummation.
This is a beautiful story written oh so well. Read it if you can.
Father, I wouldn’t wish for Chris to be removed from sharing his writing with children or young adults, but I pray you would continue to lead him to write for adults as well. Thank you for the talent you’ve given him, and I pray your inspiration would reign in his heart. Please help him in all of his endeavors done for your glory. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.