Monday, June 18, 2007

Book Review: Like Always

by Robert Elmer

(WaterBrook Press; 978-1-4000-7165-4; PB; 308 pages)

"You wish Will didn't have to worry so much, and that it was just like it always was when our kids played together and we had barbecues on the back patio and Easter egg hunts in the Abells' backyard." (p. 224)

For Merit Sullivan how can life ever be Like Always when her husband Will trades his secure job of a lifetime in the Bay area for a dream to operate a rundown resort in the wilderness of Idaho? When her son Michael returns from Iraq an emotionally wounded stranger? When she finds out in one day that she's pregnant and has an aggressive form of leukemia?

Suddenly Merit is alone in holding onto a tiny life that puts her own at greater risk. Never spiritually strong, Will is struggling to support her and leans on the pastor of the local church. Her estranged sister Sydney, a cat-loving vegetarian New Ager, attacks men in general, Will in particular, and the church for Merit's decision to keep the baby and put off treatment. Michael and her two young daughters seesaw between hope and despair.

Merit finds help and friendship in young Stephanie Unruh, the local pastor's daughter. So does Michael.

After someone leaks Merit's story, the national press descends on Kokanee Cove. Life is certainly not like it always was. But does God have something better in mind?

Rita Fedrizzi, a forty-one-year old Italian woman who found she was pregnant and had cancer at the same time, inspired Robert Elmer to write Like Always. Fedrizzi rejected cancer treatment in order to give life to her baby.

Elmer takes us through the emotions and thinking of Merit, Will, Sydney and those around them. He describes the conflict, the pain, the misunderstandings, and the passions aroused by Merit's decision in a moving tale of courage, love, and selflessness. The author portrays the characters so realistically in their challenges, hopes, and fears that I found thoughts of them pursuing me throughout the day. Readers will not want to put this story down until they complete the journey with Merit and Will.

I thoroughly enjoyed the book. However, I did have one problem. The story alludes to a time of intimacy between Will and Merit the end of April being responsible for her pregnancy. But the baby is not born until Easter. This makes an eleven-month pregnancy. Other than this timing problem, it's a thoughtful, tender love story of a woman for her unexpected child, a husband for his wife, and two estranged sisters for one another. The timing does not change the issues involved.

Readers of tender heart may expect to shed a few tears.

Reviewed by Debbie W. Wilson, a human rights advocate, speaker, and author of Christy Award-winning thriller Tiger in the Shadows. Her weekly prayer list for the persecuted church can be found on the home page of Bound Together Ministries.

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