When I started reading This Is How It Always Is, I didn’t really know what it was about, other than “family secrets” (..well, isn’t that basically the premise of 53% of the books out there?!). I heard about this book through #spiveysbookclub and I’ll pretty much read anything she recommends soo…I got it from the library and dove right in (immediately after finishing Stay With Me because ya girl has a nightstand TBR of approximately 8 books right now).
First, let me say,
THIS BOOK HAS A 4.25 RATING ON GOODREADS.
That should tell you something. Just in case it doesn’t, I’m going to tell you lots of somethings that will hopefully convince you to read this book as fast as you can get your hands on it. Move it up in your TBR. Steal it from your friend (no, don’t, because that would be mean-but promise to do it if they aren’t finished with it in 48 hours). Buy it on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, your local bookshop-WHEREVER you can get it fast enough because this is a book worth owning.
I was immediately charmed by this book. The love story unfolding between Rosie and Penn was the stuff of #relationshipgoals. The reversal of the old-fashioned gender career choices was a great addition to the story line Frankel has woven. Penn is a poet, an author who sees the world in a romantic, __ way, whereas Rosie is an ER doctor, seeing more realistic, black and white, life or death views on life. The lovebirds start a family and are #blessed (using a lot of hashtags here..blame the wine) with 4 BOYS. Lord help these two. What do they do? Decide to try one last time for a girl. They get Claude. Claude is…interesting, unusually perceptive and bright for a toddler. One day, Claude decides he wants to be a girl scientist when he grows up, and can he wear a dress under his lab coat? Thus begin the adventures of Claude/Poppy. What follows is a heart-breaking, eye-opening, intelligent story about the transformation of a family and a little boy.
I myself, come from a VERY small western NC town of 99% Southern Baptist Republicans. Not that there is anything wrong with that at all, but it definitely caused my 21 year old self to experience mild culture shock and “living under a rock” tendencies when I moved to the very liberal Chapel Hill, NC. I had never met someone who was openly gay. Now, there were a lot of people I knew who were secretly gay, but my hometown was not what you’d call welcoming to the LGBTQ community. With that said, I didn’t even know what transgender was, it just wasn’t something that was talked about. Thankfully, 9 years later, I am much more educated on sexual orientation and gender identification. However, nothing prepared me for this book. It was enlightening and powerful and just..stunning. Afterwards, I learned the author has a transgender child-it is so obvious now because her writing is so realistic, who else is better to tell this story than someone who has lived through the experience?
“This is a medical issue, but mostly it’s a cultural issue. It’s a social issue and an emotional issue and a family dynamic issue and a community issue. Maybe we need to medically intervene so Poppy doesn’t grow a beard. Or maybe the world needs to learn to love a person with a beard who goes by ‘she’ and wears a skirt.”
I was completely blown-away; the writing was superb and beautiful and the subject matter was so realistic and important in today’s cultural environment. I was engrossed and connected and fascinated with the characters and each one of their stories, they felt completely authentic. I thought about them all the time, like they were close friends of mine and I needed to know how they were doing, what could I do to help them through this complicated, sensitive time. We all like to think that we’d do “the right thing” in “unconventional” situations, but I definitely felt that Claude’s parents handled his struggle in a very relatable way. Regrettably, keeping Claude a secret becomes what most secrets do…troublesome. It creates an unfortunate weight and responsibility on Claude’s siblings that they’re not prepared for and at times, it is very unfair. Placing one child’s happiness above the others can be just as devastating and detrimental as allowing one child to be miserable so their siblings can have a less worrisome life. What’s the right answer here? I don’t think there is one. I hope that one day, if I have children, I will have the ability to decipher between bad and worse and make the best decisions for my family..to the best of my ability.
“Parenthood is like that…the harder the choice, the less likely any of the options are good ones”
The one thing that bugged me throughout the book is just how advanced Claude/Poppy seemed. I know that Claude/Poppy undeniably had more life experience and lessons learned by the age of 7 than your average 1st grader, but the conversations and wisdom implied here, they just seemed way too old for a kid. It definitely got the point across that Claude was a special child, way ahead of the curve for kids that age, it just nagged at me a little during the book. However, it was incredibly heart-breaking, imagining this special child knowing that she’s different and will be ostracized but not knowing what can be done to change that, other than hiding her history? How sad is that?
“I wish for my child, for all our children, a world where they can be who they are and become their most loved, blessed, appreciated selves.”
Overall, if you haven’t gotten my point yet, I loved this book so hard. It should be required reading for all humans. It touched my heart and my mind and I will not forget about it for a long time, mostly because I plan to tell everyone I know they must read it and then proceed to nag them until they do..at which point, they will love me and praise me forever.
From Goodreads: “Laurie Frankel is the author of three novels, THIS IS HOW IT ALWAYS IS, GOODBYE FOR NOW, and THE ATLAS OF LOVE. She lives with her family on a very steep hill in Seattle, but she’s an east coaster at heart. She is also a baseball fan, a soup maker, a theater lover, a yoga practicer, a comma expert, and a huge reader. Welcome!!”
You can read more about Laurie, including her personal blog, on her website here!
Buy your own copy of This Is How It Always Is here!
I’ll end with this, because, let’s be honest, I could have highlighted the entire book, but this was my absolute favorite quote and I hope that my life will reflect that.
“You can’t tell people what to be, I’m afraid,” said Rosie. “You can only love and support who they already are.”
Love to you all,