Title: Sustainer’s Smile
Author: Erika Mathews
Series: Truth from Taerna, book 4
Major Themes: Fantasy, Abortion, Pro-Life
Synopsis: After seeing what was happening to some of the innocent children in her town, Liliora is determined to make a difference for their good.
Sustainer’s Smile came at a busy time for me, but since I love children and want to support authors that try to shed a light on some of the injustices done today, I knew I wanted to read this book. In many ways, it wasn’t an easy read for me—and I don’t know that I would have gotten through it very quickly, except that I had a deadline to work toward!
Liliora is shocked when, one day, she discovers that a “lightener” has moved into her quiet village. This woman from a foreign country is promising to help any woman in the surrounding area to get rid of their “problems”—babies that they’ve conceived, but don’t want to or aren’t able to keep. What can she do? As a conscientious God-follower, Liliora instinctively knows that this is very, very wrong—but what can she, one single girl still living at home—do to right the wrongs that are being perpetrated under their very noses? How can she protect and serve the babies who otherwise would be mercilessly killed? Is there any way to reach the soon-to-be parents to help them change their minds?
I appreciated the pro-life message in Sustainer’s Smile. It resonated with me because I’ve asked some of the same questions before—I loved seeing Liliora wondering about what she could do, where to even start—as well as her joy at seeing fruits from her labors. Of course, coupled with that are the inevitable challenges and wracking grief when things don’t go so well, and I felt that, as well. Life is precious, sacred, and must be protected at all costs, and I love that this book brought that out.
I did struggle with this story, though. Part of that was the setting; though I knew it was fantasy, not everything in the story seemed to fit that world. It felt like an awkward coupling of the “knights and ladies” sort of fantasy and contemporary fiction. I found myself looking for things that would justify this being a fantasy world of its own (since so much was similar to our current culture), and that search distracted me from the storyline. Now, I’m sure that at least part of this worldbuilding confusion is that I haven’t read the three books that come in the series before this one. I assumed that each one is mostly stand-alone, but I could be wrong. It didn’t break the story for me in the end—I did end up enjoying it—but I was disappointed that I didn’t get to “see” more of the setting.
The other part I struggled with was the pro-life message. As much as I loved it, it came across pretty strong. I don’t know if or how it could be made better—and know I wouldn’t be able to do a better job!—but I was hoping there would be more to the storyline than just pushing this one subject.
Would I recommend Sustainer’s Smile? Yes, I would if you have a heart for life and want to see real change for the good in your nation. This book encouraged me to pray, and I’ve thought about it more since reading this than I did before. Some of the conclusions here were very encouraging, even though the subject matter was hard. At this point, I can’t see myself re-reading the book, but I’m glad I picked it up once.
I was given a review copy of this book, and this is my honest opinion of it.
WARNING: Abortion is a repeated theme in this story, especially mentioned in ch. 10, 13 (what they did after an abortion), 14 (outright killing), and 15. In ch. 5, a woman is pregnant out of wedlock. Ch. 7 has a description of an abortion from a baby’s perspective. Ch. 17 has a story about a woman who had a miscarriage, with the possibility of a poison aiding it. A baby dies in ch. 14, and more in ch. 19 and 20. Another girl is pregnant out of wedlock in ch. 20. Someone accidentally drank poison in ch. 23, and there is some description of what happened after a failed abortion in the same chapter.
Reading Independently—Ages 15 and Above, Adults