Synopses & Reviews
When Will and Merit Sullivan decide to escape midlife blues and buy a small, dilapidated resort in northern Idaho, their dreams finally seem within reach. More importantly, their twenty-year-old son Michael has just returned from Iraq, thrilling his younger sisters and making their family complete again.
So the morning Merit discovers she is pregnant, at the age of forty-five, she is shocked. Can their lake lifestyle adjust to having a little one in the house? It seems too much to ask-until devastating news forces the biggest decision of all. As Will and Merit face the greatest trial of their lives, the couple must re-examine their faith and their devotion to each other in a truer way than they could ever have imagined.
Inspired by a true story, Like Always explores the triumph of real-life love and asks if we can ever go back to the way things used to be.
"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." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
Can love triumph in the face of tragedy? Following their dream, Will and Merit Sullivan move their family to a dilapidated resort in Idaho. When 45-year-old Merit discovers she's pregnant, they wonder if their lakeside lifestyle has room for another little one--until devastating news forces an even bigger decision.
About the Author
Robert Elmer is the author of The Duet, The Celebrity, The Recital, and the HyperLinkz youth series. He has also written nonfiction books for adults, and five other popular youth series, with combined sales of over half a million books. He lives with his wife, Ronda, and their small dog in a town very much like Scenic Bay in Idaho.
Reading Group Guide
1. Wills Uncle Fred questioned their decision to buy a remote, run-down resort. If you were Uncle Fred, how would you have advised the couple, and upon what would you base your advice?
2. When Michael is on his way home from serving in Iraq, he wonders if he will be able to forget the horror of what he saw and experienced. Does he ever forget? If not, what or who helps him he most? Is it realistic to think we can forget our worst memories? How does God deal with our unpleasant memories? What does Isaiah 61:3 say about Gods methods?
3. In the beginning of the book Stephanie asked herself if God had anything exciting for her life, fearing she was stuck in her hometown for the rest of her life. What did God send in answer to her prayer? Have you ever felt stuck-in a place or a situation? Whats the difference between being stuck and being faithful? How can you tell the difference? And if you do decide youre stuck, whats the best way to get unstuck?
4. Explain Michaels motives for tearing down the poster with his picture, hanging on the wall at the tire store. Do you think his motives were proper? Whats the best way to respond when people call attention to your accomplishments? When does modesty become false modesty? Can you think of a Scriptural basis for your opinion?
5. At Merits book club, everyone seems to know that Bernice is a Christian. Why do you think that was true? Did she get away with it because of her old age? Are people in everyday social settings aware of your faith?
6. At her going-away party, Merit made her friends repeat the words “I solemnly promise that I will come to visit Merit and Will, and that everything will be like it always was.” What motivated her to do this? In a similar situation, would you make your friends promise the same thing? Can anyone expect to maintain a long-distance friendship, after one of the friends moves away? If so, how can it be done-or should it?
7. Merit and her older sister Sydney drifted apart over the years. What kept them apart, and how did each sister specifically try to rekindle the relationship? Were their methods similar? For yourself, is it harder or easier to maintain a relationship with a close relative? What should we do if we find ourselves far apart in issues of faith? What if it gets especially heated, as in chapter 24?
8. When Will first hears the news of Merits condition from the doctor (page 135), he admits to himself that he had been ignoring his relationship with God. At that point, how did he pray? Do you ever fall back on memorized prayers? What are the advantages, or disadvantages?
9. This book revolves around a decision Merit makes in chapter 17 (page 139). Although it seemed to the doctor that she made a snap decision, what went into Merits stand? How important was it for Will to back her up, and how close do you think she came to reversing her decision without his full support? (See page 157.) If Merit were your friend-or your daughter-what would you tell her to do?
10. Will said he was “not okay” with Merits decision to refuse medical treatment (page 146). As a husband, was he justified in saying this? As a father, could he also make the same claim? Can you think of times when your obligations have conflicted, depending on which role you assume? In those cases, how do you resolve the conflict?
11. Pastor Bud tells Will about the case of Rita Fedrizzi, a real-life example of someone who faced a choice similar to Merits. In a sense, Mrs. Fedrizzis case inspired this fictional story; her moral courage was the model for Merit. Whose moral courage serves as your model?
12. In chapter 22, Stephanie explains how her mother had always pointed out landmarks, significant places because “it was important for her to know where she came from.” Does Stephanie follow that pattern? Why or why not? How important are those reminders in your life, and why are they important?
13. In chapter 22, Will wonders “what to say that God didnt already know or that (He) hadnt already been begged for.” (page 174) Explain what part this wondering plays in his spiritual journey. Have you ever felt that way about prayer? How did you resolve the tension between persistent prayer and believing that God answers?
14. When Will and Merit argue about moving back to California (chapter 23) Merit says God moved them to Idaho for a reason, and Will counters that she is “spiritualizing” things, looking for an easy out. With whom do you agree, and why?
15. In chapter 25, Merit hangs up on the reporter who had lied and fabricated a story about them. She later misleads a television reporter. Is her anger justified, and thus her actions? How should a person react when they are misrepresented or lied about? Have you ever been in that position?
16. When Merit and Will get away in chapter 29, Will says he is afraid. (page 233) What is he afraid of? Have you ever felt the same kind of fear? How do you resolve it?
17. When Merit addresses visiting church members (page 289) she calls herself “crazy.” What kind of crazy is she talking about? Define it. Now Read 1 Corinthians 1:27 — Is Paul talking about the same kind of crazy? If so, how can we build that kind of foolishness into our lives?
18. At the end of the story (page 303), Will finally realizes that he had forgotten Michael was adopted. In that forgetfulness they had overcome a barrier in their relationship. What does it take to forget in that way?