Wow! Talk about intense!
The series traces the friendship of Chris, a medic, and Erin, a trauma nurse, from the time they met as members of the military in Desert Storm.
In Wounded Healer, Chris and Erin meet and become friends, but Chris seems to hold everyone at arm’s length to a certain degree. When Erin accidentally discovers a traumatic secret from Chris’s past, Chris draws further away. Then when a rescue mission turns tragic, Chris blames herself. When Desert Storm is over, Christ volunteers to stay, and Erin loses contact with her. Several years later, Erin hears that Chris in involved in another tragedy for which she blames herself, and Erin travels from Portland, Oregon to Colorado to find her. The back of the book says, “When Chris’s fear of God and Erin’s faith in Him collide, they are involved in a different kind of war that only one of them can win. As Chris wrestles with grief, fear, and ghosts from the past, Erin fights to pull her from the brink of self-destruction.”
In Warrior’s Heart, there is a different kind of battle, but it is more of an undercurrent: Erin’s husband, Scott, wants to try to minister to Chris, but he is fiercely protective of Erin and feels that Chris is a harmful influence. Chris senses Scott’s disapproval right away, which makes her uncomfortable around him. Plus she is adjusting to a new life in the city of Portland yet misses her cabin and the open air in Colorado. Added to this are her baby steps in her newfound faith. A heavy storm blows over the area, knocking out power for days, and the Christian community pitches in to seek out those in their area who might need help. Chris is paired with…Scott.
In Valiant Hope, Chris becomes aware that a child who frequents her community gym may be abused. Chris has no real evidence to take to the police, so she decides to take matters into her own hands and visit the child’s home — where she finds more than she bargained for. Dealing with this child’s situation brings to the forefront the battle in her own heart with an inability to forgive. She’s brought to a crisis point, knowing that God requires forgiveness of her and yet feeling she just can’t face it. From the back of the book: “One remarkable man may hold the answers to help Chris sort through the agonizing secrets of her past, to help her find a road to peace. But the route threatens to take her to a place she thought she’d never again have to go, a place she swore she would die before ever seeing again.”
In the final book, Standing Strong, several friends formerly from the same military unit have come together to work in an outreach center on Kimberley Street near their church. They’re dismayed to find that an old gang has reformed and a gang from another area of town is seeking to expand its territory right into their neighborhood. Threatening confrontations with the gangs have Chris and Erin and the others in fear, wondering the best way to handle them. Chris’s romance with Jason is a healing balm to her, yet she finds that Jason has turned his back on God due to a crisis of his own, and though she loves him, she doesn’t want anything to pull her away from the Lord she loves and so desperately needs.
As I said, the story is intense, especially reading the books right after each other, both because of the magnitude and depth of the struggles faced in each book. Donna shares a riveting story with realistic struggles and believable characters.
Some time back on a message board forum for writers, one man claimed that he had to use bad language in his writing so that the characters were realistic. I disagreed, and Donna is a brilliant example of how to show unsaved people leading normal unsaved lives — even lives deliberately antagonistic to the gospel — in a genuine way without getting unnecessarily explicit.
I enjoyed the friendship between Chris and Erin, the message of redemption, and Chris’s struggles to understand and live out her newfound faith as well as her pure joy in the Lord.
I don’t know if this was deliberate — I imagine it was — but I also like that the cover art for each book successively shows a bit more of Chris’s face. That seems to parallel more of her story coming to light.
Deena has an interview with Donna here.