BOOK TITLE: This Is How It Always Is
BOOK AUTHOR: Laurie Frankel
PUBLISHER: Flatiron Books
January 24th 2017
GENRES: Coming of Age, Literary Fiction
CHECK IT OUT AT: Goodreads
BUY IT: Buy on Amazon
This is how a family keeps a secret…and how that secret ends up keeping them.
This is how a family lives happily ever after…until happily ever after becomes complicated.
This is how children change…and then change the world.
This is Claude. He’s five years old, the youngest of five brothers, and loves peanut butter sandwiches. He also loves wearing a dress, and dreams of being a princess.
When he grows up, Claude says, he wants to be a girl.
Rosie and Penn want Claude to be whoever Claude wants to be. They’re just not sure they’re ready to share that with the world. Soon the entire family is keeping Claude’s secret. Until one day it explodes.
This Is How It Always Is is a novel about revelations, transformations, fairy tales, and family. And it’s about the ways this is how it always is: Change is always hard and miraculous and hard again, parenting is always a leap into the unknown with crossed fingers and full hearts, children grow but not always according to plan. And families with secrets don’t get to keep them forever.
"This is a novel everyone should read. It’s brilliant. It’s bold. And it’s time.” ―Elizabeth George, #1 New York Times bestselling author of A Banquet of Consequences
I missed so many great books last year.
It was a tough year, and my reading for the first few months really suffered. I couldn’t concentrate on reading (although I found myself listening to a lot of old favorite books on Audible). Somehow, through lots of listening and a big comeback, I completed my Goodreads Reading Challenge 22 days before the end of the year.
There were some really good books that I missed, and I knew I missed, in the first part of the year. Luckily for me, some of my favorite publishing contacts sent me a few of the books I missed so I could catch up before they were released in paperback.
One of those was This Is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel. I knew I was missing a good one, but just couldn’t fit it in. But I took the time last month to catch up.
And it was so worth it.
Reading This Is How It Always Is was a wonderful experience. Each of these characters is wonderful drawn and real, and Frankel pulls the readers in with the ordinariness of their lives. Of course, the ordinary is never ordinary.
The dilemma comes in trying to do the right thing. When the Walsh-Adams family moves across the country, from their rural farmhouse to the more liberal Seattle, they decide to keep the fact that their daughter was born a boy a secret. And you know a secret is going to be uncovered eventually.
Although I’m not the mother of a transgender child, I felt the confusion and pain Rosie and Penn (the parents) had to fight. Having a child with Down syndrome is nothing like having a transgender child, but then again it is. I felt their pain in fighting the school system to include a child just the way she is, and to hope and pray that the other children can just accept her for the incredible person she is. Hoping that they can look past her differences and see the bubbly, effusive, wonderfulness that is my daughter.
The Walsh-Adams family doesn’t set out to keep Poppy’s truth a secret, but it falls on them and they decide to take the easy path for a few years. Secrets are never good, but who knows what the right thing is in this situation? Who knows what I would do? Embracing your own child and his or her own differences is the easy part (usually), but protecting them from the rest of the world is much harder. Sometimes (often) the world doesn’t accept the different in the world, even when it is a child. If you can protect a child from that for even just a few years, whose to say you wouldn’t? I can’t say I wouldn’t have done the same thing.
After I finished the book, I learned that Frankel has a transgender child, so many of the feelings are real and first hand. But, like any good author, she took her life and made it fictional. Because she has her own experiences parenting a transgender child, she’s able to make readers connect deeply to their child (Poppy, who was born Claude), and to the whole Walsh-Adams family.
The only real problem I had with this story is the ease in which the Walsh-Adams have it in the world. The other day I read an article about families of special needs children picking and choosing school districts for the programs — and how that is really an upper-middle class choice (we got pretty lucky with our school district, and have been even luckier with teachers and advocates). How much harder it is to advocate for a child with special needs if you don’t have the luxury of being able to move easily.
I felt that way about the Walsh-Jennings. Claude was born into a wonderfully accepting, liberal family that accepted Poppy, which is definitely not always the case. And then they had the ability to move across the country, to a new, more liberal city. And one parent (in this case dad) was able to stay home and be there for all the kids and the issues they might be having. And then, when things got tough, mom had the ability and the need to go across the world, talking Poppy with her, where they could figure it all out in a different locale.
I just kept thinking, that if it was this hard for a family of means with open minds, how hard is it for a child with less, and/or a child with closed minded parents?!!!
But this wasn’t the story Frankel chose to tell, and the story she does tell is beautiful and honest. The ending is wonderful, if a little fairy tale-ish (and even involves a fairy tale), but I love a good happy ending.
This was probably my favorite book I read in November. A lovely, beautiful story, and one that I suggest everyone read.