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This Is How It Always Is: A Novel Hardcover – January 24, 2017
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An Amazon Best Book of January 2017: In recent years we’ve seen an increasing number of memoirs from transgender individuals and from parents forging uncharted waters in order to help their transgender children live happy, healthy lives in a society that still largely defines gender by what’s in your pants. In her novel This is How It Always Is Laurie Frankel takes those real-life experiences and puts them into a big-hearted story of family and secrets. Penn and Rosie are a close, loving couple, living in Madison, Wisconsin with their five boys. But it becomes evident before long that their youngest, Claude, feels like he should have been born a girl. So how do these strong, supportive parents go about helping their son live as the person he wants to be? It’s a fascinating thing to behold. The nuances and unforeseen pitfalls of trying to protect your child from fear and hate while nurturing a sense of acceptance is daunting. What is private and what is a secret, and what is, really, nobody’s business? Sometimes secrets have a way of materializing in the blink of an eye or the span of an innocuous question, and this novel is about the lengths we will go, as parents and siblings, to protect each other. And how we react when our secrets are exposed. This is How It Always Is in an incredible read that speaks to the heart of what it means to love and be loved by family. --Seira Wilson, The Amazon Book Review
“It’s early days, but this big-hearted novel about a family with a transgender child is in the lead for the most sensitively and sincerely told story of 2017…Frankel’s portrayal of even the most openhearted parents’ doubts and fears around a child’s gender identity elevates this novel.”
―People, “Book of the Week”
“Deeply satisfying…An intimate family story…Day-to-day parenting dilemmas are where Frankel shines.”
―The New York Times Book Review
“Brave, complicated, occasionally horrifying and frequently very funny…Frankel is a first-rate storyteller."
“Frankel has tackled this controversial topic in a warm, funny and honest way and one that will undoubtedly spark thought and conversation.”
―The Fort Worth Star-Telegram
“Frankel’s writing is witty and wise, and her characters are reminiscent of those in family capers such as the film The Royal Tenenbaums or Commonwealth, Ann Patchett’s recent novel about an eclectic brood…This is a fascinating, gut-wrenching, timely and enjoyable read―and a must for your next book-club discussion.”
“This Is How It Always Is isn’t only a novel about the challenges of life with an atypical child. It’s a story about the challenges of parenting and love, period...This beautiful story is deeply personal, a heart-rending glimpse of an author writing her way to understanding.”
“A novel of great empathy and compassion that transcends politics…This is a family that you will take into your heart and―like all friends―you will welcome the changes that they bring to your life.”
―The Seattle Review of Books
“Sly and charming…Comes at the perfect time…This Is How It Always Is explores the travails of a modern family, where challenges about a child’s gender are the same as any other struggles of growing up.”
“A bold, honest, heartbreaking story about the choices parents make, and how life goes on, but not always according to plan. This must-read novel… is the perfect pick for book clubs.”
“One of the most timely and big-hearted family stories I have read in a long time…This is a beautiful novel about the unexpected curve balls of parent and sibling relationships, and the limitless boundaries of family love.”
“This wise and often funny novel is a compassionate lesson in discovering and welcoming what makes each of us unique.”
“Illuminatingly nuanced and heartfelt, This Is How It Always Is is the story of how a family evolves―and grows―together."
“Sharp and surprising. This is a wonderfully contradictory story―heartwarming and generous, yet written with a wry sensibility.”
―Publishers Weekly ("Pick of the Week," starred review)
"Well-plotted, well-researched, and unflaggingly interesting...As thought-provoking a domestic novel as we have seen this year."
―Kirkus (starred review)
“I was lucky enough to receive an advance reading copy of this very special book about a family with a secret. It made me laugh, it made me cry, it made me think. Preorder your copy now.”
―Liane Moriarty, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Truly Madly Guilty
“Laurie Frankel writes with more heart than anyone I can think of...With emotional acuity, admirable bravery, utter compassion, and complete understanding, she’s created a family attempting to forge a path through one of life’s most mystifying challenges: how to define what it is that makes your child who he or she is: unique, beloved, and whole. 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
“In This is How It Always Is, Laurie Frankel spins a beguiling tale of a sprawling, loving, ever-changing, unconventional, and yet completely typical modern family as they make their way though a world with no easy answers and no magic solutions. How does Frankel pull off such a story? With great humor and candor. With a powerful narrative voice, and a forthrightness so compelling, we are drawn into the family circle to laugh and cry with them, and to ponder issues great and small. An intimate, wonderfully moving novel that is especially relevant in today’s world.”
―Garth Stein, New York Times bestselling author of A Sudden Light and The Art of Racing in the Rain
“This is a perfect book club book, a book that should be read in schools, and one of my favorite reads of the year. A challenging subject handled with honesty, grace, humor, dignity, and most of all, love.”
―Jamie Ford, New York Times bestselling author of Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet
“A lively and fascinating story of a thoroughly modern family and the giant, multifaceted love that binds them. This Is How It Always Is sparkles with wit and wisdom.”
―Maria Semple, New York Times bestselling author of Where’d You Go, Bernadette
“Laurie Frankel has written one of those very rare, special novels that examines the way we live―in our homes, in our families, in our bodies―with an astonishing balance of humor, complexity, and above all, kindness. This Is How It Always Is teaches us to look beyond the traditional binary oppositions of boy vs. girl, right vs. wrong, real vs. make-believe, and to find courage and beauty in the in-between.”
―Ruth Ozeki, New York Times bestselling author of A Tale for the Time Being
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Publisher: Flatiron Books
Release Date: January 24, 2017
Length: 336 pages
Single Sentence Summary: A quirky family tries to navigate unfamiliar territory with compassion and humor when their youngest son wants to wear dresses and be a princess.
Primary Characters: Rosie Walsh – Mother in this clan of seven. Rosie is a physician and the monetary support of her family. Penn Adams- Rosie’s husband, father to the boys. Penn is an always involved stay-at-home dad and a writer. Claude/Poppy – The youngest of Rosie and Penn’s five sons. Claude feels from a young age, that he wants much of what girls have.
Synopsis: Claude is a sweet little boy, the youngest in his family of five boys. Claude is a happy well-adjusted, precocious child who knows what he wants. He wants to wear dresses, carry a purse for a lunchbox, play princess, and be a girl when he grows up. Rosie, Penn and his brothers want Claude to be happy with whoever he is, but there is no road map for how to do this. Soon the whole family is keeping secrets to protect Poppy. Secrets too big to be secrets for long.
Review: In This Is How It Always Is Laurie Frankel beautifully told a timely story that some might consider controversial. Frankel herself has a transgender daughter, which gives her some gravitas in the telling of Poppy’s story. In the author’s notes at the end of the book, Frankel made clear that this is not her family’s story. This is the Walsh-Adams’s story, and what a wonderful family she created!
Any child would be lucky to grow up in the Walsh-Adams household because they are the most unusual of families. Made up of parents who love and respect each other, five boys born in a span of ten years, all unique yet still comfortable in their own skin. This is a fully functional family. I wanted to live with the Walsh-Adams family! There was no better setting in which to place a sweet little boy who yearned to be a girl.
“When he grew up, he said, he wanted to be a chef, a cat, a vet, a dinosaur, a trainer, a farmer, a recorder player, a scientist, an ice-cream cone, a first baseman, or maybe an inventor of a new kind of food that tasted like chocolate ice cream but nourished like something his mother would say yes to for breakfast. When he grew up, he said, he wanted to be a girl.”
As Rosie and Penn’s fifth child, they had learned to take their children’s many quirks in stride. When it became apparent that Claude’s yearning was more than a phase, they didn’t panic as many parents might. Instead, Rosie and Penn did all they could to help Claude be the person he felt himself to be, Poppy. When it became too difficult in the small Wisconsin community where they lived, they moved their family to Seattle for a fresh start. I so loved the way the entire family took everything about Poppy in stride. Her brothers were amazingly off-handed about it, but never to the point where it didn’t ring true. Poppy was just another piece of their busy lives.
I though Frankel’s story telling was especially fine in the exploration of some of the more difficult issues for transgender children and their families. Every member of the Walsh-Adams family kept Poppy’s secret without ever explicitly being asked to do so. The toll of such a big family secret was extremely hard on everyone, just as it would be for any family hiding something so large. Frankel particularly explored the brothers’ stress at hiding Poppy’s truth. Similarly, the different sides of what to do for a transgender child as they approach puberty were clearly studied and explained.
Two additional elements in This Is How It Always Is were used to move the story along. One was a fairytale that Penn told the children throughout their lives. As Claude/Poppy got older, it became a vehicle to explain aspects of life to her and help Poppy to feel more normal. Overall, I really liked this part of the story, but there were a few times when I wanted Rosie and Penn to talk to Poppy more openly. In a difficult time, Rosie took Poppy on a trip to Thailand. I didn’t think this was really needed. Frankel did such an amazing job of building a powerful family unit. I was a little disappointed she chose to step away from that even for a short time. Despite that, This Is How It Always Is is a book that everyone who has anything to do with children needs to read, and that many others should read. You’ll be glad you did. Grade: A-
I chose this book for our book club. We started talking before I could get the wine poured and stayed until after midnight. A first! It was amazing how often this subject had touched our own lives. I guess that's "How It Always Is".