Donna Fleisher details a story of struggle and repentance, heroism and surrender, in which the only mode of surviving is Standing Strong.
Chris McIntyre, an army veteran, strives to maintain her strength as rival gangs of Portland, Oregon, threaten to fracture the fragile peace of her beloved Kimberly Square. She and her friends toil together through blackmail and gunfire, fearful of losing the evidences of their hard work or each other in some of the toughest times they’ve experienced since Operation Desert Storm.
Real life scenarios and day-to-day progressions are the main themes in the first two-thirds of this book. Fleisher entrenches the reader in the characters’ thoughts and prayers before, after and throughout each event, revealing contrasting feelings and rationalizations, though most of them are friends and unified in goal. The relationships, especially between the fellow warriors, intensify as together they face a new and unfamiliar kind of battle on the streets of the city. They grow closer and greatly begin to admire their differing strengths as they must depend on each other more, realizing their inability to succeed by themselves. This intimacy and mutual affection is most evident in the closing pages of the book; in the epilogue, the reader experiences the maintained loyalty of the group of friends as, years later, they continue to live and interact and enjoy life with each other in the same place where they had encountered and endured so much hardship.
Chris McIntyre and her friends have spent more than a year in planning and building a gym where the neighborhood children can come to engage in sports; they want the kids to get off the street and to pursue healthy hobbies and competition. Finally, it is up and running, but before long, something goes wrong, and Chris gets caught in between rival gangs. For the remainder of the book, she, her friends, and the gym receive threats both in writing and in person for having opposed the “East Siders”, and they battle as never before to protect those whom they love.
Gladly, Chris is not the classic, lovelorn heroine. Instead, she comes from the severe trials of being in the army, bringing with her not only a war-hardened, but also a tragedy-hardened heart that allows her little space for love. However, before the book begins, she finds Christ and gives Him reign in her life, freeing her from the horrors of her past. With this newfound hope, she finds strength to stand before men who have turned from fear and hopelessness to mocking cruelty and succeed.
Standing Strong, though rich in character development and relational accomplishment, is often banal in its abounding everyday-life descriptions. The reality of the people, which is one of its best attributes, is also its downfall; the reader becomes bored having to trudge through every thought and prayer that comes to Chris’ mind. On the other hand, the last portion is action filled, exciting, and intensely satisfying. Fleisher does a magnificent job of creating a “reader-to-character” attachment so that when the key characters are in true danger, the reader also weeps, fears, and hopes.
Despite its tendency to portray real life perhaps a little too completely, Standing Strong offers a lot of enjoyment. I see Fleisher’s heart and where she was trying to go, and, though she didn’t quite attain the goal, I recommend her story to those with a little patience and those willing to wade through some unnecessary material in order to reach a truly rewarding end. -- Hannah Selleck, Christian Book Previews.com.
Chris McIntyre has found a home at last. And life is good, with Chris savoring her status as a new aunt while she and Jason continue to explore their evolving relationship. But it’s going to take a hero’s heart to defend the community she treasures.
It’s the sweltering summer of 1996, and the quiet life of Kimberley Square is shattered by the sound of screeching tires as rival gangs battle to claim the neighborhood that has become home to Chris. This new kind of turf war between gangs is far more frightening than anything she and her buddies encountered on the battlefields of Desert Storm. Even as she guards her home, Chris also wonders if she dares to let down her guard emotionally. Will she have to choose between her love for Christ and her growing love for Jason?
Standing Strong is the fourth novel in the Homeland Heroes series by Donna Fleisher