Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Chris Fabry's Dogwood ~ Reviewed

By Chris Fabry
Published by Tyndale House Publishers
352 pages
ISBN# 978-1-4143-1955-1

Back Cover:

“There are losses that mark a life forever…but I still had hope that our lives could be salvaged from the past.”

Will Hatfield returns to the small town of Dogwood, West Virginia, intent on pursuing the only woman he has ever loved – lonely to find there is far more standing in his way than lost years in prison. Karin has buried her shattered dreams by settling for a faithful husband whose emotional distance from her deep passions and conflicts leaves her isolated. Loaded with guilt, she tries to raise three small children and “do life” the best she can.

The secrets of Will and Karin’s past begin to emerge through Danny Boyd, a young boy who wishes he hadn’t survived the tragedy that knit those two together as well as tore them apart.

And the trigger that will lay there pain bare and force them to face it rather than flee is the unlikely figure of Ruthie Bowles, a withered, wiry old woman who leads Karin so deep into her anger against God that it forces unexpected consequences.

“Many a man claims to have unfailing love, but a faithful man who can find?” Proverbs 20:6


Chris has a quote by Jackson Browne in the front of the book that speaks volumes about this story “I think that life is full of pain…It’s painful for everybody…Growing is painful. But I think that the only way through it , is through it…and anything that helps is a blessing”. In this story the author shows his characters dealing with the pain of life in many different ways.

My mind and emotions were impacted as I read the first page. Ruthie Bowles helps Karin find answers and peace in her lonely days and sleepless nights. “I have been staring at the hornet’s nest called life, afraid to live, too stunned to move. Ruthie was the one who drew the poison from my soul.” Karin admits. Chris Fabry delivers word pictures like this all through this story. The imagery is powerful and thought provoking.

“Life isn’t pretty so you’ve got to hug the ugly out of it,” Ruthie said to Karin.

I loved the depth of gut level honesty these women share with one another. A close relationship develops between this most unlikely pair Ruthie and Karin. As I read I kept wanting to find out the tragedy and heartbreak that happened in this small town named “Dogwood” that brought so many people together and changed their lives forever.

In the first 4 chapters the author develops individual characters and their situations. Chris makes it easy to know who’s speaking because the character’s name is on top of each new chapter. Before he takes you to the next chapter and a new character ; the author leaves you hanging and wanting to learn more about the character he just introduced. After the 4th chapter I started wondering if and when these people’s lives would intersect. The story really builds up to this intersection of lives. Then it happens their worlds collide in a fast paced action packed climax. Chris Fabry has woven these people’s lives and this story together in a fascinating way. Chris has written many books for children. This is his first adult fiction story. I can’t wait to read what he writes next; you’ll be looking for his next book too!

Reviewed by: Nora St.Laurent

Bonus Review:

Chris Fabry's debut adult novel, Dogwood, is a mosaic of humanity, God's grace and the power of love.

Solidly literary fiction with deep, flawed characters and beautiful prose, Dogwood also contains a mystery within the story that adds tension and a deepening plot. Twists and turns fill this multi-first-person POV novel.

The spiritual elements run deep and into moments that teach, however, the characters who do the teaching end up being so compelling that it doesn't feel preachy, but instead feels like wisdom that needs to be savored and pondered and maybe even considered in the life of the reader.

Sensitive readers may want to use caution because the themes in this book are PG-13 and intense.

Days after finishing the story I'm still mulling over and wondering how I feel about situations and information that I was given in my journey to Dogwood. Haunting may be too strong, but I think there will be a shadow that follows me for awhile as I continue to process what I've read.

Even though the characters had great depth, I struggled with finding sympathy or even like for a main character. But I think this is a back-handed compliment because that means this paper and ink "person" got under my skin.

Those who love literary or general fiction, especially the stories that are infused with a touch from God, may find Dogwood to be a very satisfying read. Fabry is a wordsmith and quite a storyteller. I'm looking forward to his next novel.

Reviewed by: Kelly Klepfer

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