cover image Like Always

Like Always

Robert Elmer. Waterbrook Press, $12.99 (304pp) ISBN 978-1-4000-7165-4

In this sentimental Christian novel, the Sullivan family faces a variety of trials both timeless and timely: mid-life career dissatisfaction, reentry into civilian life after military service in Iraq, unexpected pregnancy and terminal illness. As they cope with these challenges, parents Merit and Will, as well as their adult son Michael, find themselves drawing closer to God and to each other. Set against the beautiful backdrop of rural northern Idaho, the narrative unfolds in brief vignettes in which the Sullivans and their friends renovate a dilapidated resort, go fishing and camping, and hunker down companionably during dramatic weather. While these bucolic scenes are likely to appeal to fans of light Christian fiction, Elmer's heavy-handed treatment of the plot's central crisis nearly transforms the novel into a political screed. Rather than acknowledging that Christians of good conscience could come to different conclusions regarding the heartbreaking moral dilemma his main characters face, Elmer rushes to paint characters who endorse one point of view as shrill and godless, and those who hold the other as holy and heroic. While socially conservative readers looking for fiction that affirms their values may appreciate this book, those hoping for multidimensional characters who grapple genuinely with hard questions will probably be disappointed.