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Book Review: The Last Woman Standing by Tia McCollors

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The Last Woman Standing is the newest novel by inspirational speaker and author of Christian novels, Tia McCollors.

In this Christian romance, we are presented with Ace, Sheila, and Lynette. Lynette and Ace are divorced and have been on friendly terms. Ace has apparently moved on into a celibate relationship with Sheila, who is some years younger than he is. But, for some strange reason, he just doesn’t want to commit to marrying her. Why? Now, suddenly, both he and his former wife find themselves once again attracted to each other. But would their relationship last if they were to marry again, and what about Sheila — who is intent on keeping her man from his ex-wife?

The book falls in line with the statistics that four out of every ten divorced couples re-marry their old spouses. Like Lynette and Ace, these folks were married when they were “too young” and divorced but still continued to love each other. So the scenario is possible.

Anyway, the war is on. The people are all Christians, but none of them are perfect. Lynette is typical of many women with good jobs — she has a materialist streak and spends a lot of money on “herself.” But she has a good heart. Ace is not led about by his sexual desires, nor is he an absentee father. He belongs to a class of good African-American men one doesn’t generally see in urban movies. He’s still prone to thinking more about the kids and business than he does about the woman in his life, but he’s learning. And Sheila is a woman who’s hearing her biological clock ticking away but stuck with a man who has already had children and doesn’t want any more.

Now, the book is written to Bible-believing Christians, so there are certain things the reader takes for granted. For instance, generally, Christians do talk about praying and reading their Bible in regular conversation. It’s not preachy; it’s normal life. But those not familiar with the genre might think it’s all a bit pious. I suspect a Christian from any race would be able to read this book and not feel excluded. Although the characters are primarily African-American, the Bible-believing Christians live by the same moral codes as their white counterparts. This is not urban fiction where the reader is pulled into the seamy side of the Black ‘hood.

The typical Christian reader probably wants Lynette and Ace together from the get-go. Perhaps it’s our Christian culture and our definition of family, but our hearts long to have the family healed and restored. But what to do with Sheila? And what will Sheila do to keep her man…even though she senses he doesn’t love her as much as he should? I have never understood the need in certain romances to have women compete over a man. But that’s the way it apparently is (at least from what I’ve seen in these books). And Sheila can be slick.

As a character I found Lynette to be decent — perhaps too much so. There’s a weird normalcy about her. With the exception of speculative fiction, Black Fiction as a whole is divided into fairly raunchy stuff and fairly pious stuff. The twain rarely meet. The Black reader can choose between a gritty urban story with ho’s and extramarital sex (and drugs) or good, churchgoing folks struggling through committed relationships and doing the right thing. Black Christian romance writers write stories that show an alternative to ‘hood life, but often, whenever I read a Christian Black romance, I see a subtext of “look how normal and good we can be.” I understand that the typical reader of black romance is faced with a moral choice. But, dang!, Lynette’s normalcy made her — to me, anyway — more of a symbol than a real person. Her only vice seems to be that she’s materialistic and lives a typical life of a successful dentist, but the author doesn’t seem to think of it as a vice.

In fact, Sheila’s propensity toward being debt is subtly compared to Lynette spending money within her means. I am not sure if that’s a problem with morality or a class issue. Like Sheila, many poor folks often are in debt over their heads. Probably because I kept seeing the author’s moral judgment toward Sheila, I found myself liking Sheila a lot, although Sheila’s actions were a bit on the manipulative side. But, honestly, I felt as if she was being picked on and purposely being shown to be a bad example.

For this reason and others, The Last Woman Standing is a very predictable read. Yet, although it didn’t blow my heart away, it was a solid piece of writing, with good pacing and realistic dialog. It’s definitely a good entry on the moral side in the urban fiction arena and a book that suits a Christian reading group for any culture.

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