Adam’s Blog

That’s my thing, keepin’ the faith, baby. –Joe Friday

The Life of Pro-Life: A Review of Like Always

Posted by Adam Graham on June 20, 2007

The following is a review of Robert Elmer’s novel Like Always:


Will and Merit Sullivan and their two daughters move to small town Idaho in an attempt to escape from Will’s stressful job to the peaceful serenity of a rural America. Will and Merit leave behind a son in California who has returned from Iraq with scars he’s trying to hide.

In the midst of this, the Sullivans are hit with a double whammy. At 44, Merit becomes pregnant and is diagnosed with Leukemia. Her choice to refuse an abortion and treatment is tested by family members and eventually political activists and the media.

The Craft

I would be remiss if I didn’t praise Robert Elmer’s knowledge and skill in his craft. He had an incredible grasp of description. He has mastered the art of unobtrusively showing us settings, giving us background information on people in a way that keeps and stirs our interests.

His main characters come alive magically. Will, Merit, their son, Michael, and their neighbor Stephanie are well-developed . The innocence and kindness of the young Sullivan daughters often serves to punctuate the story’s most important moments.

Elmer avoids stereotypes with the main characters. When I read the first scene with Stephanie Unruh, a twenty-something home schooled preacher’s daughter with a love for animals, I braced myself for a stereotypical “weird” home school kid that pops up from time to time in popular literature. In the course of the story, we find her to be a unique, loving, kind, and hard working girl who becomes vital to the Sullivans as they face a crisis.

Perhaps, the only shortcoming was minor characters that were a little flat. Merit’s sister, Sydney is the embodiment of the new age vegetarian liberal with teas, herbs, and wild conspiracy theories. The only way she could have been more stereotypical was by placing a “Kucinich for President” sticker on the back of her trailer.

At 304 pages, the story could have used about fifty more to add some depth to a few minor characters, as well as give us a chance to better enjoy Elmer’s excellent leading characters.

The Message

The book is pro-life, and I don’t just mean that it’s anti-abortion. The book is life affirming, because the ultimate focus is not abortion, but love.

The book is the story of a mother’s love for her child and her fears as she faces her own mortality. It’s about love within a family and all the confusion and pain that surrounds that. It’s about the love of a small community for its newest citizen.

Without preaching, the book spoke volumes. Faith and Love are revealed through trials, not in spite of them. Through the darkest time of her life, Merit Sullivan becomes a stronger person, whose love for her husband and son changes their lives.

Like Always is an uncommon and powerful story that will keep your attention until the last page.


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