Chris Fabry has written many novels and books for teens and tweens, most recently a series with Jerry B. Jenkins that my son is reading. "Dogwood" is his first novel for adults, and while it is good, it left me feeling unsettled. Which may be how he intended me to feel.
"Dogwood" is the story of lives marred by tragedy and how getting stuck in the past can radically change the future. Will didn't mean to do it, but driving along a familiar road he struck and killed two young girls. Now, he's serving his time and waiting for the chance to get out and make things right.
The love of his life, Karin, has chosen to move on. Now married with three children of her own, she has tried her best to forget that boy that everyone had said was no good for her. Still, something holds her back, and no one knows what it is...not even Karin.
Then there's Danny Boyd, the one survivor of the incident that changed so many lives forever. Can he be the one who finally brings everything into the light and brings healing? Or is he just as damaged as the others?
This was a difficult novel for me to read. The overall tone is a melancholy, almost overcast sky feeling, like the sun will never shine for this town or these people again. Haunting. And it wasn't a good feeling.
Which makes this review awkward. I cannot say I didn't like this book. I actually loved it by the end. But the mood and the tone made me take THREE WEEKS to finish it. I kept having to put it down and pick up something cheery to lighten how I was feeling.
That, my friends, is powerful writing. And it was worth hanging in there, because the ending is not to be missed. Chris, I didn't see it coming at all. And that's great writing.
There were some moments of confusion for me as I read. The jumps between points of view, in my opinion, were too sporadic and there were too many. Had it stayed between Karin, Will and Danny Boyd, that would have been more manageable. The rest detracted from the story, making it hard to follow who was saying what.
And the subplot about Elvis (you'll have to read it...HA!) felt disconnected from the rest of the story a bit. It was a little awkward, not tied in tightly enough, but that's just my opinion.
All in all, I can say with complete honesty that this is a debut worth reading. Hang in there. Maybe you won't be as emotional or where I was emotionally when I read this one, and it will hit you differently. I'd love to hear your thoughts.
This is a stunning debut with an author who has potential to bring us some great stories that make us both think and feel deeply.
I'm giving "Dogwood" four out of five bookmarks, with a steering wheel as a charm. "Dogwood" releases from Tyndale August 2008.