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This Is How It Always Is

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Goodreads Choice Award
Nominee for Best Fiction (2017)
An alternative cover edition for this ASIN can be found here and here.

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

338 pages, Kindle Edition

First published January 4, 2017

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About the author

Laurie Frankel

9 books2,754 followers
Laurie Frankel is the New York Times Bestselling author of four novels, ONE TWO THREE, coming June 8, 2021, 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!!

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 16,231 reviews
Profile Image for Emily May.
1,921 reviews290k followers
December 11, 2017
“Well. Usually boys don’t wear dresses to preschool,” Rosie admitted carefully. “Or tights.”
“I’m not usually,” said Claude. This, Rosie reflected, even at the time, was true.

I've been going back and forth on whether I wanted to read this for a while. On the one hand, the premise interested me, the critics' reviews have been gushing, and the average GR rating is impressive. On the other hand, the few negative reviews have been calling it words like "sentimental", and even Kirkus begrudgingly admitted that it is "cloying at times". Those are two things that can turn me off a book right away.

But, for whatever reason, This is How It Always Is was the exception to the rule.

Is it sentimental? I mean, sure, maybe... but it was also a deeply emotional reading experience for me, too. Is it sweet, nice, neat? I would argue not. There is much in this book that warmed my heart, but to dismiss its struggles as too easy, too nice and too easily solved is to dismiss the gender dysphoria and violent transphobia as something that is easy.

At its heart, This is How It Always Is is a book about all seven members of the Walsh-Adams family. I love family drama/saga style books so this was right up my alley. They are a loving, hilarious, complex and dysfunctional family, all trying to do right by one another (and screwing up many times along the way). I was utterly charmed.

After four boys, Rosie and Penn are sure their fifth child will be a girl... until Claude arrives. It will be a few more years before they realize that their first predictions weren't exactly wrong. Drawing from her own experiences, the author explores how the family reacts to the realization that Claude (now Poppy) is transgender. Rosie and Penn instinctively try to protect their child by moving to the supposedly more liberal Seattle. However, instead of celebrating who Poppy is, they keep it a secret and urge her brothers to do the same.

Like most secrets, the weight of hiding Poppy bears down on all of them, especially Poppy herself. The characters note the irony that they are hiding the "fake" Poppy, and the real Poppy is the one her schoolmates and neighbours have known all along. Eventually, of course, everything blows up in their faces.

I found it very easy to become absorbed in the story. I became angry at the transphobic and homophobic comments made by kids and adults, and frustrated at the smaller acts of misunderstanding as the Wisconsin teachers tried to accommodate a trans student whilst still enforcing the gender binary:
“Little boys do not wear dresses.” Miss Appleton tried to channel her usual patience. “Little girls wear dresses. If you are a little boy, you can’t wear a dress. If you are a little girl, you have to use the nurse’s bathroom.”
***
“Meaning if he is a girl, he has gender dysphoria, and we will accommodate that. If he just wants to wear a dress, he is being disruptive and must wear normal clothes.”

Frankel highlights an ongoing problem in which schools try to recognize trans students but still demand they check one box or another, and adopt the expected characteristics of the selected "male" or "female". The ultimate issue is about more than accepting someone with XY chromosomes as a girl; it is also about being able to accept someone with facial hair and a deep voice as a girl, or as both a girl and boy, or as neither.
“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.”

This is How It Always Is is an emotive read, but it also explores a lot of practical issues. Like the decisions parents can and cannot, should and should not, make for trans kids. Or kids in general. Throughout, Penn keeps up a long-running fairytale of Grumwald and Stephanie, painting in some rather obvious messages and parallels for his kids, which I suppose is what some would consider "sickly sweet" but hell, if he isn't the best dad ever.

I loved them all. I loved Rosie and her scientist's logic as a way of dealing with problems. I loved Penn and his sweet romanticism and hopefulness. I loved messed-up Roo and all his mistakes. I loved precocious Ben and how much he cares for Poppy. I loved the goofy twins who offered so much light and cheer in this book. And I loved Poppy. Of course I loved Poppy.

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Profile Image for Brooke.
274 reviews137 followers
April 17, 2017
I'm really conflicted on the rating for THIS IS HOW IT ALWAYS IS because on the one hand it's great that this book has so many positives & doesn't end on a pessimistic tone; we need LGBTQIAP+ stories that don't end in tragedy. (We need more of these books in general.) On the other hand, at times, there were such unrealistic situations taking place that I was wondering if the author was living in fantasyland- you'd have to suspend disbelief to enjoy it. It's clear that this is a personal story for Frankel, even though she makes it clear this isn't based off one specific person (her daughter) or her own experiences. With that in mind, perhaps this is truly what Frankel wishes for herself & the world which is wonderful, but it's not peachy keen for many families, & that's where I got a bit distraught. At its core though I did like this story so 3* it is.

The greatest thing that felt unrealistic to me:
- Rosie & Penn. They are such supportive parents! (I wish this was the case for everyone!) They are protective & move the family across state lines for safety reasons. Many families cannot afford to just leave when the going gets tough; safety reasons include a father who discloses he doesn't want his son to play with f***. (Other than this family, there is no blatant violence against them that is really threatening, for the most part people understand or don't know.) Then when Claude's secret is revealed, Rosie takes Claude to Thailand. Again, most people can't just pack up & go across the globe. It is for Rosie's job, but still. It doesn't ring authentic.

The ending wrapped up way too nicely for me, like everything was going to be hunky-dory. I liked how Claude decides they are nonconforming & they are more than what has been offered, but honestly, to get to that point wasn't worth it. Frankel's prose wavered my interest- I thought the middle was strong while the beginning & end were on the verge of a snooze fest. I would have liked to see more from Roo & Ben & a more thorough discussion on hormone blockers.

THIS IS HOW IT ALWAYS IS is a good start. By no means is it perfect but it opens the door for important conversations. More books like this need to make their way onto shelves & into hearts. Slowly but surely, we are doing just that.
Profile Image for Larry H.
2,440 reviews29.4k followers
February 6, 2017
I'm about 4.5, maybe 4.75 stars.

Penn and Rosie fell in love almost instantaneously. Penn was a writer forever working on his "damned novel," while Rosie worked as an emergency room doctor forever on the night shift. When they decided to have children, especially as their family grew to four boys, they adopted a tandem approach to parenting—"It was just that there was way more to do than two could manage, but by their both filling every spare moment, some of what needed to got done."

One final try for a girl landed them Claude. Claude was precocious—he crawled, walked, and talked earlier than his brothers, but he also was tremendously creative. He liked to write, draw, play music, even bake. He was warm, friendly, and truly a special child. But as Claude approached his fifth birthday, he became obsessed with dresses. What he wanted more than anything was to be a princess, and be able to wear a dress to school.

Rosie and Penn aren't sure what to do. Do they nurture their youngest son's wish, stares and cruel comments and jibes at their parenting be damned, or do they explain to Claude that boys don't wear dresses, and he is a boy? For a while Claude settles for dressing as a boy for school and changing into girl clothes when he returns home, but that really doesn't make him happy. He wants to be a girl.

"How did you teach your small human that it's what's inside that counts when the truth was everyone was pretty preoccupied with what you put on over the outside too?"

As Claude grows, and becomes Poppy, they encourage her to be true to her feelings and who she is. But is that the right parenting choice for a child so young in age? What are the next steps in this journey, not only for Poppy and her parents, but her brothers as well? At some point the burden of keeping Poppy's secret becomes too much to bear for everyone, and then everyone needs to figure out where to go from there.

What choice is the right one? How will Penn and Rosie know if they're acting in their child's best interests, or the best interests of all of their children? How do they protect their child from what they know the world always seems to have in store for people who are different?

Laurie Frankel's This Is How It Always Is is a truly wonderful book. She draws you into the Walsh-Adams family so fully, that you really see how things affect each of them. The book isn't preachy or heavy-handed (although those who believe transgender people to be less than human, and that no matter what you always must remain the gender you're born into will probably not agree), but it also doesn't pretend the whole situation is perfect, for anyone. She emphasizes that it's just as easy to make mistakes by not doing or saying things as it is by doing or saying them.

Frankel is a tremendously talented writer who imbues her books with beautiful emotion. Her previous book, Goodbye for Now (see my review), had me in tears (and I read it a few years before my father died). Frankel even brings emotion to her author's note. But this small exchange in the book moved me the most:

"Tears crawled out of Claude's eyes and nose, and besides he was only five, but he tried to comfort his parents anyway. 'I just feel a little bit sad. Sad isn't bleeding. Sad is okay.'"

Maybe sometimes things happened a little too easily, but I still loved this book. Read it.

See all of my reviews at http://itseithersadnessoreuphoria.blo....
Profile Image for Heather.
160 reviews
January 23, 2018
The only reason I finished this is because I think the topic of discussion is important and I wanted to give it my attention.

This book is a character study, and not just of Claude/Poppy, but the entire family. I made no real connections with any of them individually, but did feel the love amongst them as a whole. Character studies are just not my thing. I don't enjoy it. I don't want to study fictional characters this closely.

The writing style was horrid and I hated it.
There was so much unnecessary page filler and every single sentence was long-winded almost beyond comprehension. I'm frustrated even thinking about it. These two factors alone definitely influenced how I felt about the story as a whole.

I did not enjoy reading this book and I will not recommend it to anyone.
Profile Image for Kelly (and the Book Boar).
2,393 reviews7,253 followers
April 17, 2019
FLOAT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Because this has been selected as"REESE'S BOOK CLUB" pick for October, 2018. I'm pretty sure Reese chooses her books by reading my blog because I seem to always read them first (j/k). Anyway, many congrats to Laurie Frankel and her ever-so-lovely novel. This must be like the book version of winning the lottery.

Find all of my reviews at: http://52bookminimum.blogspot.com/

Dear Book:



Also, be forewarned I highlighted pretty much the entire thing.

I usually am a person who opts not to read a synopsis before starting a book (as was the case here) and encourages others to do the same. However, since we are living in a world where Nazis . . . . oh excuse me . . . . “Alt Righters” feel free to spew hate wherever they see fit and although I know I have none of those people on my friend list I’m not naïve enough to believe those types of deplorables won’t crawl out of their baskets in order to troll every review of this book they possibly can and dump their ignorance on the masses I’m going to tell you the basics.

This is the story of Rosie and Penn’s family. Five spirited boys who each have their own delightful personalities. While this is the story of the entire brood, the focus in This Is How It Always Is is mainly on the youngest, 5-year old Claude . . . .

“He said he wanted to be a chef when he grew up. He also said he wanted to be a cat when he grew up. When he grew up, he said, he wanted to be a chef, a cat, a vet, a dinosaur, a train, a farmer, a recorder player, a scientist, an ice cream cone, a first basement, or maybe the 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.”

Penn and Rosie encourage Claude to be any and all of those things whenever they are brought up. But one of his “when I grow up” wishes seemed to stick a bit more than the others . . . .

“When I grow up and become a girl, will I start over? . . . . Will I have to start being a girl from the beginning and grow up all over again? Or will I be a girl who’s the age that I am when I’m growed-up and become one?”

Claude’s persistence regarding his desire to become a girl grows to the point where Rosie and Penn are faced with the decision of allowing him to do just that which lead them to question whether or not they’re doing the right thing . . . .

“You never know. You only guess. This is how it always is. You have to make these huge decisions on behalf of your kid, this tiny human whose fate and future is entirely in your hands, who trusts you to know what’s good and right and then be able to make that happen. You don’t get to see the future. And if you screw up, if with your incomplete, contradictory information you make the wrong call, well, nothing less than your child’s entire future and happiness is at stake. It’s impossible. It’s heartbreaking. It’s maddening. But there’s no alternative.”

So Claude gets a new wardrobe and handles the dreaded “bathroom” dilemma like a pro and ceases to be a sad little shell of a person, instead becoming a vibrant and wonderful Poppy. And when their town proves to be not quite as forward-thinking as Rosie and Penn would like it to be, they pack up and move across country where Poppy is only Poppy and no one knows about Claude. But a secret so big can’t remain a secret forever . . . . .

This book was everything. As I said in a status update, I want to marry it. Either that or I want to track down this family and become a fly on their wall so I can be a part of their life. I want to dress as Grunwald for Halloween and become a night fairy in charge of all the stars after I’m sure my own children are asleep.

These characters were perfection. Rosie and Penn were so real - parents with the best of intentions that somehow ended up fucking up anyway, because that’s what parenting is all about and really as long as your kids know one thing, everything else is cake . . .



Poppy was absolutely brilliant . . . .

“What are you then?”

“I’m all of the above. And I’m also more to come.”


Carmy was the grandma every child should dream of having . . .

“You’re too old to be open-minded and tolerant,” said Rosie.

“I’m too old not to be.”


And although I’m pretty sure I’d put triple locks on my door if she lived next to me, Aggie was a hoot . . . .

“Weird,” said Aggie. “What do you think it means?” “I dunno.” Poppy shrugged. “Something. There’s always some kind of secret message.” Aggie considered the matter. “I think your dad wants us to know it’s okay to use drugs. And not to tell anyone about it.”

When I started this story I was having a very much this type of experience . . . .



At some point things changed . . . .



Making my kid look at his brother with an expression that clearly stated . . . .



This Is How It Always Is shows that . . . .



But you gotta do what’s true to you, and for anyone who doesn’t like it????

“Fuck the bastards.”

I will confess the ending of this one kind of went off the rails, but I loved the story so much I’m not deducting anything for it. I will also say there’s a solid chance if you are not a parent (or at minimum old enough to have experience with your friends' and relatives' kids) you might not be able to fully appreciate the beauty contained within these pages. All the Stars.
Profile Image for Justin Tate.
Author 7 books861 followers
January 5, 2019
This is the first novel I've read that explores raising a transgendered child (note: "transgendered" may not be exactly the right word). About 6 years ago I did read Raising My Rainbow by blogger extraordinaire Lori Duron. Having that background knowledge helped me appreciate this book even more, especially in the ways that Frankel focused on unexpected challenges in the family. While they devote so much energy into supporting their son's need to be a girl, they must also navigate the needs of having four other boys to raise.

At the heart of the novel is also the question of whether or not it's beneficial to be upfront about Claude/Poppy or to keep it a secret. Should they live life trying to conform to the needs of society? Or should they live their life based on how society should be? Treat their child like someone with a disease or like someone with a unique gift? Treat her like she's totally normal, or celebrate her differences? How, also, do these decisions impact the other people in Poppy's life?

Like all parenting situations, there's never a perfect solution. Even the dad's urgent desire to rush toward gender reassignment surgary, which seems supportive, is complicated by the issue of whether or not that is a decision a parent should make, whether or not Poppy will even want to go in that direction, or how long they should wait to even have that conversation. Perhaps she will just want to grow up exactly as she is.

OVERALL: I loved every moment of this book. I loved that it focuses so much on complications outside of prejudice. Poppy's parents are ultra-supportive from the beginning, and that proves to create its own issues. Yes, even being too good of a parent can be a sign of bad parenting. I love that the plot doesn't shy away from gritty reality--some moments are truly heartbreaking--but it's not overblown or outlandish. Also, it captures the many wonderful moments too. Whether or not you care about LGBT issues, this is a fascinating book about family. A total page turner from beginning to end. Can't wait to discuss it with the Book Club!
Profile Image for BernLuvsBooks .
680 reviews4,625 followers
September 3, 2019
This is How It Always Is was emotional, touching and at times a bit saccharine but I loved every page!

This is a story of love, family and acceptance. It is also the story of young Claude who has gender dysphoria. Claude is the youngest of Rosie & Penn's five children and the result of their final attempt at having a daughter after 4 boys. Claude was a special child and a perfect addition to the family. He walked and talked at 9 months and was baking 3-tier cakes and writing and illustrating mysteries at age 3. By the time Claude was 5, what he wanted more than anything was to "grow up and become a little girl".

"You can't tell people what to be, I'm afraid. You can only love and support who they already are."

Rosie and Penn's lives had never been what would be considered "traditional" by most people. They saw that Claude's desire to wear a dress wasn't a curiosity or a passing fancy. Together the entire family forges ahead on the emotionally wrought path to support Claude as he becomes Poppy.

Although Frankel chose to make the family almost overly accepting (thus my comment about it being saccharine at times) the story was balanced by the honest confusion, fears and emotion displayed. It wasn't easy - the decisions made were fraught with worry from both Penn & Rosie, Poppy and even the other children. We see heartbreak and prejudice and mistakes made along the way.

There were lessons to be learned within the pages of this story. I applaud Frankel for not shying away from them but for presenting them with love and honesty. Frankel herself has a transgender child and you can clearly see this story was an honest work written from her heart and rooted in personal experience.

I leave you with one final thought made by Laurie Frankel in the Author's note: "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." Me too, Laurie! Me too!
Profile Image for Susanne.
1,153 reviews36.2k followers
February 26, 2020
5 Extremely Emotional, Heartfelt Stars!

My Heart is Bursting with Love for this Incredibly Well Written, Insightful Novel.

Over the last few years, I had seen several incredible reviews for this book and I knew that I wanted to read it. A year ago, I bought the book but I just hadn’t gotten around to it. You know how it goes, there is never enough time! At the beginning of this year however, I decided that I must make time for books I wanted to read (arcs can wait a little while! Shh!). “This is How it Always Is” was one of the first on my list. Even though I owned the book, I reserved the audiobook at my library because I’ve been taking long walks on the weekends and voila!

There were so many moments upon listening to this family where my heart ached and tears formed. Rosie and Penn, parents to four boys, always wanting a girl and never having one, decide to try one last time and then, have yet another boy. Claude. Gorgeous, sweet, kind, special Claude. Claude, who at 5 years old, tells his family that he wants to wear a dress, and wear barrettes in his hair and be a girl when he grows up. Claude, who at 5 years old decides that he wants to change his name to Poppy.

Parents Rosie and Penn grapple with how to support and accept their child who has different wants and needs than their other children. What do you do when one child needs more than the others? Can you sacrifice more for one than you do for the others? How can you determine what is fair? Every aspect of what is fair and what is right is explored with sheer perfection.

For me, what brought it all home is the character development in this novel, which is stellar. I was immediately drawn in and completely captivated by Rosie and Penn and by Claude/Poppy and all her/his/their siblings.

“This Is How It Always Is” by Laurie Frankel is a novel that deserves to be cherished and savored. It is wholly important and I am so glad that I listened to it. There is such love between this family that I am in awe of how this novel was written. Even in moments of despair, there is light.

A huge thank you to Jan B and Liz for your stellar reviews and bringing this novel to my attention!

Thank you to Laurie Frankel for writing this incredibly important novel! Thank you also to BookOutlet for my copy and to my local library for loaning me the stellar audiobook.

Published on Goodreads on 2.23.20.
Profile Image for Skyler Autumn.
224 reviews1,377 followers
January 28, 2019
3 Stars

This is How It Always Is, is a book I don't usually gravitate towards call me a chicken but when I read a blurb about a transgender child coming into their own I right away go to all the negative and horrible people that child will have to endure in their adolescents. Then I start thinking how societies the worst, the obstacles the little kid is going to have to face so early on in life, and then Im weeping in the middle of Indigo all because I read the back blurb of this book. But that's what book clubs do, they make you read outside your comfort zone and I am glad they did.

This is How It Always Is revolves around Penn and Rosie's family made up of not one but five boys. As much as they wanted that daughter it never seemed to be in the cards for them that is until their youngest boy, Claude (and then Poppy), tells them when he grows up he wants to be a girl. This novel was a great introduction to the dialogue surrounding transgender and raising a transgender child. The multitudes of steps, obstacles and arguments on the proper way to handle it were all thoroughly examined in this novel. Spoiler alert there is no proper way to handle the severe transformation of a child. Everyone is just trying to do their best and you as a reader at no point are able to judge the parents in this novel because you realize the decisions made are never easy ones.

This book was interesting at the beginning and gave me information I never was aware of before like about hormone blockers, vagina shopping and other things that just made me realize and appreciate how much people have to go through to be their authentic selves. The first part of this novel had me completely engrossed and curious but unfortunately the last part lost me.... got a bit wishy washy and fairytale in the end (especially since there was a running fairytale story throughout). You know one those "it's all ok now! We solved the problem of our lives" kind of endings. I think with topics like this it'd be better with more of an ambiguous ending because isn't that just life anyways, ambiguous.

I also was surprised with the choice the author made with the family. I thought it might be more realistic to have at least one family member hesitant about Claude's transformation to Poppy. I love that Poppy hit the jackpot when it came to family but it felt unrealistic. Really not one person slipped up in a fit of anger and said something regretful or there's not one relative that's a tiny bit ignorant? Am I the only one with Grandfather that told me I was going to Hell when I read Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code when I was fourteen?

The book also took the easy out choosing not explore actual surgical transformations or hormone blockers. Keeping Poppy in adolescence this whole time instead of exploring the messier side to such extreme physical transformations.

And last issue (I promise) the third part of this book took part in Thailand and I found it boring and took the story off course. I know Thailand has one of the biggest and open communities of transgenders in the world but the storyline with Poppy finding herself in Thailand felt a bit forced and honestly dull. I was almost tempted to skim these chapters. The whole book revolved around the family and Poppy's dynamic with them and her classmates and then the author decided to remove all these characters we were invested in and plant Poppy in a new country with new characters. To me it took me out of the story for a bit and I lost that emotional attachment I was having for the novel up to that point.

All and all This is How It Always is, is not a perfect novel but it is a good introduction into this world. I'm glad I decided to read outside my comfort zone and will definitely be looking to read more diverse books that involve the LGBTQ community in my future. Reading a book like this make me so aware how under represented this community is and I'm glad there are authors like Laurie Frankel out there that are sharing these stories.
Profile Image for Elyse Walters.
3,846 reviews34.9k followers
January 1, 2018
Happy New Year!

A gorgeous eye catching book cover....
A story with a lot of heart...
Kept me reading into the New Year early morning hours. I enjoyed this novel very much - but it’s not without flaws.

The ‘very-VERY’ beginning ....”Once Upon a Time Claude Was Born”, I felt the writing was ‘too busy’- ‘too wordy’...
But then....
It got FUNNY...really hysterical: We get a glimpse of Rosie and Penn’s dating life,(inspiring dating life...I was impressed), sex life, work schedules, - marriage - and how they manage their lives with 5 boys. Very moving parenting - loving open parents.....ALTHOUGH THEY MIGHT HAVE REACHED OUT FOR LEGITIMATE GUIDANCE. Plus....later in the book, I wasn’t convinced a family secret that developed (withhold really), was the best choice to insert in the storytelling. All the children in the family needed some counseling. I would have liked to have seen how that dynamic might have played out.
The family live in Madison, Wisconsin- so ‘snow’ was to consider when driving to kids to preschool. Hectic mornings getting everyone out of the house. Later in the story the family moves to Seattle....a reason for the move!

Also - towards the beginning- we learned about Rosie and Penn’s childhood- just enough - which might explain why they had a large family. And - no....it wasn’t because they were of the mormon faith. They were Jews. Jews have no issues about birth control.
Rosie was a doctor/Pediatrician - Penn a stay at home novelist.
Penn’s the family storyteller....as for those novels ... well, he’s living inside his own...busy years of child raising a gender dysphoric child.
“Claude” was the last birth: the baby of the family. He was 3 years old when he
expressed wanting to wear a dress. He also said he didn’t want to be a “big boy”.
His immediate family was very supportive - open-minded - and tolerant of all their kids choices. Even Grandma bought him a pink bikini — when she told him he could pick out any swim suit he wanted for summer to wear to the public pool.

At some point Claude changes his name to Poppy. There was a clear reason for this. Rather touching- but just one of several places in the book where it seemed to me, Claude was much more mature-in-thinking than his actual developmental age.

“This Is How It Is”, by Laurie Frankel is a great book club choice - it doesn’t always move in the directions the reader thinks it might - which is great - showing sides of raising a transgender that many people have not thought about: debate about treating trans kids with puberty blockers, or hormone suppressors for one example.

A little too long...yet....it’s easy to forgive because most important — the author took a complex subject - created a loving family with wonderful child character in Claude/Poppy.
We feel’ empathy for this child.... charming & loving -
and.....
.....isn’t that what every trans child want to feel in the world - loved and accepted?

Recommended....enjoy this family: Claude/Poppy,... the humor, the complexity- compassion - the love.
Profile Image for Liz.
1,915 reviews2,350 followers
December 14, 2019

This was a book club selection and to be honest, I hadn’t bothered reading a description of the book. So, I was initially thrown by the story and wasn’t sure where this book was going. Rosie and Penn are the parents of 5 young boys. Their household is as crazy as you would imagine. It takes awhile before we learn that the youngest, Claude, five years old, likes to wear a dress and wants to grow up to be a girl. The parents and siblings, even his grandmother, are super accepting. But what about the rest of the world? And when the parents fall into a decision not to tell, have they truly thought out the future ramifications?

The book tackles the whole situation with a mix of humor and pathos. I loved that in the beginning, their world is so chaotic with five children that Claude’s desire to wear a dress doesn’t even rise to the top of the priority list.

The book makes you think with each turn of the page. What should one family member be willing to give up for another? What should a parent do in this situation? Is it ok to “play favorites” when children have different needs? And I totally got how what seems like the perfect choice in one year comes back to bite you in the rear later on.

I’ve always had a fascination with Buddhism, so I loved how Frankel incorporated it into this book.

The entire time I was reading this, I wondered what inspired Frankel. Well, let’s just say she knows of what she writes. Make sure to read the Author’s Note.

I’m reading this for my book club and it’s a perfect choice.

Profile Image for j e w e l s.
306 reviews2,326 followers
October 16, 2018
FOUR STARS
This is the October pick for the RW book club. If you look at the books Reese Witherspoon has selected this year since she started her book club, you can almost see her mentally ticking off the subjects/genres she intends to publicize so the world can become a more enlightened place. Hooray for Reese!

This touching story checks off Reese's LGBTQ box. The author was inspired by her own son who decided one day to wear a dress to a party and then every day afterwards. The book feels very relatable, yet decidedly "safe". There is no groundbreaking news here, but there are some thought provoking nuggets sprinkled throughout the book.

This is How it Always Is explores one family's reactions and journey when their little boy declares he wants to be a girl when he grows up. Poppy is the name he chooses for himself and I was absolutely in love with this precious character. He had the very good fortune to be born to modern, open-minded parents who want only for him to be happy. No matter what how he decides to present to the world.

The audio production is 5 star all the way! The author tends towards wordiness and meandering sentences that tend to annoy me, but I still enjoyed the book very much.
Profile Image for Karen.
499 reviews3 followers
December 14, 2018
Maybe just a little too preachy, and a little too neat. I suspect that: 1. a vast majority of transgender children do not have such understanding and accommodating parents and siblings, 2. most families with transgender children can not afford to move a few states away to a neighborhood of their choice in the hopes of escaping discrimination, and 3. it is not nearly as simple for even a young child to "pass" as a different gender in a new school system for several years without being discovered (as this novel would suggest). Also, once that cat is out of the bag, most families won't be conveniently taking their transgender child on an escape to Thailand so they can experience a culture where transgender is more acceptable, and that child is unlikely to be immediately accepted back so casually at the school dance once he or she returns. But this is a work of fiction. And it's probably time for more books that address this difficult subject.
Profile Image for Min.
99 reviews6 followers
November 29, 2017
Note: People who have read my book reviews either here or on my blog will note that this review is a departure from how I generally review books. I feel this is necessary because of my strong reaction to this book.

I wish I hadn't read the Author's Note letting me know how deeply personal this story was to Frankel because she has a transgender child, as it makes me hesitant to write a thoroughly honest review (as if she's ever going to read this!).

Let me first emphatically state that I'm glad a contemporary book exists that showcases a family with a child who is anatomically male but decides, at a young age, to begin identifying as a girl. I'm hesitant to say that this book has a transgender protagonist, as I'm not sure who the protagonist of this book actually is. Is it Rosie, the mother and wife of the Walsh-Adams family? or is it Penn, her husband, a writer and stay-at-home father? perhaps it's PoppyClaude (note: I'm referring to their youngest child this way for reasons that reveal itself at the end of the book; it's also a nod to the way French people refer to people whose gender they cannot parse ("Monsier/Madame")), their fifth child who is anatomically male but begins identifying as a girl sometime during toddler-hood. If this were a television show, I could envision an ensemble show making it difficult to tell whether any of children has more of a leading role over PoppyClaude.

While I enjoyed the overall gist of the story, I wanted to like this book much more than I actually did, and I won't be able to recommend this book to anyone. As a member of the LGBT community, this saddens me an enormous amount.

The book begins with Rosie doing various things she's read and heard of that will "guarantee" a girl baby. She already has four boys; who can blame her for wanting to add some estrogen to the mix? This, however, was problematic to me for two reasons, which are related: (a) while Rosie never directly drew a line from those things to asking herself if this was why PoppyClaude was transgendered, it was heavily implied, and (b) later in the book, she uses medicine and science in her arguments with Penn, which go against doing things like putting a spoon under an east-facing bed in the hopes of getting a girl over a boy.

I know there are families who are incredibly loving and accepting and Rosie and Penn were the parents every LGBT person has dreamt of. Not only do they never raise an eyebrow at PoppyClaude when they begin to express a preference for dresses, but it's actively encouraged. Rosie's mother, Carmy, buys PoppyClaude the first bathing suit, which ends up being a bikini (and, somehow, in this day and age, the fact that it's swimwear for a female is an issue but that fact that it's a bikini for a young child is never an issue in this book full of incredibly forward-thinking, liberal people). No one in any of PoppyClaude's schools has an issue with the gender dysphoria (as titled by the first school). In fact, the kindergarten teacher nearly calls a summit over a peanut butter sandwich but is supportive of PoppyClaude's gender expression.

At it's heart, the book purports to be about what happens when a family conspires together to keep the PoppyClaude's secret. To that end, Roo(sevelt), the eldest son in the family, is the most pragmatic person in the family. Though he's only in middle school when everything begins, he's the only person with the foresight that perhaps the fairy tale life Rosie and Penn have set up for PoppyClaude won't work out quite as neatly as hoped. In fact, if it wasn't for the fact that Roo has a few incidents that are, frankly, stereotypically high school teen boy antics, one would think this book was written about the perfect family.

When PoppyClaude's secret is revealed, the way in which the person responsible for the leak takes responsibility is heartrending, perfect, and, by this point, predictably trite. Other than the secret being revealed, the other things that go wrong in the Walsh-Adams' lives are the incident that serves as the catalyst to move them from the Upper Midwest to the Pacific Northwest, Rosie being harassed at work by the founder of the practice, and some typical childhood issues (Ben, the second eldest child feels pressure by a girl he has a crush on, for instance). In other words, the Walsh-Adams' live a pretty charmed life.

Despite having five children and a single income, there is nary a mention of financial strain, which stretches the imagination, even though Rosie is a doctor. The children all get along to well, they all sit together every night and do homework together, then gather together every evening for bedtime story. Orion and Rigel, the twins born before PoppyClaude, are energetic and lively; their biggest sin seems to be that they say "ass" every once in awhile. Ben is intellectually gifted and skips a grade in school. Neither Ben, Orion, nor Rigel suffer from Middle Child Syndrome.

Frankel's writing style is also a gross detriment to the book. It's unclear whether she's trying to convey the narrative mindset of one parent or the other (the book is entirely in third person), but the tone is, too a fault, too stream of consciousness. Sentences go on far too long, becoming difficult to parse, with commas and emdashes scattered around liberally and almost nonsensically. Frankel also uses words in ways that seem to serve no purpose other than show off her vocabulary; she uses SAT words when perfectly suitable everyday words would suffice. It isn't just that she uses high-level vocabulary, but she does so in ways that leave no context clues. While she clearly researched health and medicine to flesh out Rosie's character, she often left the reader in the dark here, too (for instance, referring to a greenfield fracture, but not bothering to explain to the reader what that is). One is too often left with the feeling with Frankel enjoyed showing off her knowledge, rather than merely sharing it.

While this could have been a compelling story about family, love, faith (not in the religious sense), and coming out, the story too often got lost in its own eagerness for showcase compassion and acceptance. Readers who are unfamiliar with the struggle that transgender individuals face will come away from this book still alarmingly unfamiliar with the struggle, which is why I hesitate to so strongly criticise what is clearly a personal story for the author.
Profile Image for lucky little cat.
545 reviews100 followers
August 18, 2017
Speaking as the mom of a mildly autistic child, I'm recommending this book as a valuable emotional resource for any parent of a child with differences from the norm. (Whatever the heck "norm" is.)

I am not a perfect parent. I yell, I swear, and worst of all, I have to blink and think twice before defending my child from random blatant unfairnesses the world visits upon her. I hate that I hesitate.

For example, when a teacher assigned my daughter Tater a failing grade for not eating in class as a component of a major-grade project. I defended Tater after it all went to hell, and we got her points back for her, but I'm still embarrassed I didn't declare war from the first minute I heard about the assignment.

And that's just one instance from my child's life, and one tame enough that I can stand to share. Parents of exceptional children spend much energy trying to anticipate where that next fire is going to spring up, and still we're pulled up short. Just like "normal" kids' parents. Just way, way more often.

In This Is How It Always Is, Rosie and Penn, the parents of Claude, who is transgender, are nearly perfect parents. They listen to Claude, they don't judge her, and they never, ever swear. They admit when they don't know answers, and they search for new, creative, and fair solutions. And still it's not enough, not really. Claude's life does not run smoothly because it can't. Life, especially exceptional-kid life, is way too complicated for that. For kids with differences that go against the grain in our culture, ugly surprises drop from a clear blue sky, and are then frequently followed by even uglier consequences.

So, perhaps oddly, I found it enormously comforting that even fictional super-parents couldn't fix everything. But it didn't mean they ever stopped trying.

And now I need the world's longest charm bracelet so I can have all my favorite quotes from this book engraved on a few hundred little hearts that I can jingle whenever I get the least bit scared, sad, or worried. Or confused. Or when anyone *else* does. What a lovely book about the human condition which is, of course, change.

Signed lucky little cat
who attended her exceptional daughter's first day of college right along with her today
Profile Image for Holly.
1,391 reviews925 followers
April 1, 2019
How does a loving family reintroduce their youngest son as their youngest daughter? It's not like genitalia naturally comes up in conversations very often. When does respect for medical privacy become protecting a secret? When does the needs of one child out weigh the desires of your other children?

I am always drawn to character study novels, and this one is no exception. But what is exceptional is how well this book tackles gender-diversity without being too preachy or saccharine (though it is at times definitely both of those things, to be honest). As a parent, I absolutely could relate to the woman/wife/doctor/mother Rosie and her man/husband/writer/father Penn (subtle name lol), despite not having five(!) children, but rather only two and both of mine are cisgender. But parenting is universal in that we all are trying our best not to screw it up, but it's not always easy - this is how it always is.

My main criticism of this book lies in the trip to Thailand - it felt very shoehorned in. Look! Here's a country that has a culture that is somewhat more accepting! Here's a completely random way to introduce our American characters (and readers) to it! My secondary criticism lies in the children's fairy tale delivered by the father in this book - at first it was cute and endearing and lovely. But by the end of the novel (and of the fairy tale) I felt like I was being hit over the head with a hammer, it was so heavy handed in it's delivery.

Overall though, I greatly enjoyed this book - it was like taking a peek into the lives of a real family. Reader voyeurism!
Profile Image for Jennifer.
1,721 reviews6,661 followers
October 9, 2018
“You never know. You only guess. This is how it always is. You have to make these huge decisions on behalf of your kid, this tiny human whose fate and future is entirely in your hands. Who trusts you to know what's good and right and then to be able to make that happen. You never have enough information. You don't get to see the future. And if you screw up - if with your incomplete contradictory information you make the wrong call - nothing less than your child's entire future and happiness is at stake. It's impossible. It's heartbreaking. It's maddening."
Ain't it the truth. When I was growing up, my father would always stress that there was no greater responsibility in the world than parenting. I think it was his way of relaying why he was so equally anxious and strict with me. But now that I am a parent, I get it. I understand it ten times over. I'm living it. Keeping a vulnerable and dependent human alive, emotionally and physically healthy, and safe from themselves and others will have the most confident person shaking in their boots.

This book is first and foremost about parenting. It's about the internal and external stressors of it all, and how there are no easy answers. An equally important layer of this book is the subject of gender identity and how harmful social norms in the US can be when an individual wants to explore who they really are, and when a parent wants to let them. This is How It Always Is is beautiful and heartbreaking. The writing is nothing short of stunning, and I was fulling invested in this reading experience. Absolutely recommend.

Note: I can see how this book may be controversial to some given the age of the child but I think this exact element showcases the theme of parenting that much more. There are no easy answers. Your bond with your child tells you one thing and society says another. I know which I would want to choose. ♥

My favorite quote:
“For my child, for all our children, I want more options, more paths through the woods, wider ranges of normal, and unconditional love.”
Profile Image for Lucy.
411 reviews595 followers
January 29, 2019
3.5***

Heartfelt and magical. A fascinating story of a modern family. It explored themes of protecting a child from harm, questioning what is right for the child and acceptance... both self-acceptance and acceptance in a community.
This family was supportive of one another and this was an uplifting, enlightening read.
Profile Image for Nancy .
233 reviews
July 5, 2018
I really wanted to like this book, and after the first couple of chapters I thought I'd love it.

It turns out this book was just one big stereotype after another.

Family lives in the mid-west. Parents have a little boy, Claude, who wants to dress as a girl 24/7. Parents support child, and don't care when people in community point and snicker that he is wearing a pink bikini at the town pool. Mother (Rosie) is a doctor, father is writer who works from home. Of course Rosie is told repeatedly by her friends that her "husband doesn't work." Because if a man doesn't actually work in an office, he is not really working, of course!

Child is 5, goes to sleepover where the father of the other child calls him a "faggot" and surprise, surprise, this homophobic midwestern man has a GUN! This father threatens the child/parents of child with the gun because the 5 year old is a "faggot" and because that is what mid-western gun owning people do! So the family packs up and moves to Seattle where they feel the population will be more accepting of Claude. What a great opportunity and place to start over!

Except, when they get to Seattle, they decide to not be truthful, and have Claude pass as a girl, rename her Poppy and intentionally keep it a secret. Claude's mother is a doctor? She should know better. Of course this leads to anxiety when the now 10 year old Poppy has girlfirends over for a sleep over.

What also bothered me is how the siblings in this story continued to have "butt" and "ass" joking conversations with each other. Was this supposed to make me feel like this family was just a normal family? Was it supposed to make me laugh and say "that's just like my kids!"? Because it didn't. It was juvenile and distracting. What really bothered me most about this book was there was such great potential to tell a story about a very important topic, maybe even to address bullying.

The author tells us in the afterward that she has real-life experience with this subject because she has a daughter that actually used to be her son. She says the details are not actually based on her story. I believe it, because nothing about this book was realistic to me. The last lines in the afterward: "I know this book will be controversial, but honestly? I keep forgetting why." My feeling is the author wanted it to be controversial, and thought that because of the subject matter, it didn't necessarily have to be well written. This book tries too hard to be profound, tries too hard to be a book club selection, and it actually has the opposite effect.

I chose to read it because I wanted to read something LGBTQ and this one had great ratings. Maybe my expectations were too high, but I was disappointed.
Profile Image for Lilli.
116 reviews29 followers
March 13, 2022
This. This has been one of the most rewarding reading experiences of my life so far. This will stick with me every day and never leave me and I could kiss Laurie Frankel I am so grateful for her words and the wisdom in these pages. I can't wait to buy my own copy so I can highlight and underline and annotate and return to these people I love so dearly again and again and again.

Doctor-wife Rosie and author-husband Penn build upon the foundation of their fairy-tale romance a wild brood of 4 boys. Anyone and everyone might call them crazy for trying for one more child in the hopes that it will be a girl, and maybe they ARE crazy—Rosie, after all, is eating certain foods, trying certain positions, and even arranging the furniture in a certain way all in the hopes that it will produce a daughter in the moments leading up to their fifth child's conception. She lost her little sister Poppy to cancer when Poppy was just 10, and dreams of naming her daughter for her lost sister, the other love of her life. But lo and behold, she finds herself with another son, Claude. However, not long into curious and bright Claude's life, he starts questioning everything around him and inside of him, including and especially his gender. Rosie and Penn just want Claude to be happy, but they also want to protect him from the ugliness in the world outside their comfortable home. Eventually, to the dismay of others around the family, Claude becomes Poppy, youngest son becomes only daughter, and the entire family uproots from Madison, Wisconsin to Seattle, Washington in search of a safer and more supportive setting to bring up their children, especially Poppy. We follow Rosie, Penn, and their five children Roo, Ben, Rigel, Orion and Poppy as they adapt to the world they live in created by circumstance.

This book is pitch perfect. The family feels so real, the tension and confrontations with hatred and transphobia deeply painful, the enduring love a saving grace and a generous and healing salve for all the wounds caused. It's a meditation on so many things: parenthood, gender dysphoria, self-acceptance, finding your way in the world, sacrificing one person's happiness and well-being for the safekeeping of another and trusting that everything will work out anyway. I love this family so much. I laughed (particularly every time Penn said, "Don't say ass, Roo," my favorite recurring joke in the novel), I cried—SOBBED—in a way that very rarely happens for me in books, I was wildly angry, I was terrified, I was relieved, I was tentatively hopeful, I felt and became every single emotion with every single member of this family. They have a very, very special place in my heart that will always hold. I will return to this story and the phenomenal writing time and time again.

My only, ONLY qualm with this is not even really one, but the dialogue is so beautiful and so thoughtful that it's ALMOST hard to believe it could really come from real people. Almost. If I didn't have many eloquent speakers in my own personal life, I'm not sure I could believe that the way the characters speak and interact with one another is real in some parts of the book. Again, almost. But this is actually a strong point of the book more than a weak one. It just may bother some readers who dislike that sort of thing in dialogue between characters and find highly intelligent children in fiction to be slightly unbelievable. I don't find this to be true in my own life, but could see where others might.

I took my time with this book in contrast to my usual reading speed. A novel surrounding a family drama takes me at most a week to read, but I usually gobble them up in 2-3 days. I spent two months reading this because I knew I needed to really absorb it. I can’t wait to spend that much time with this rambunctious clan again.

Laurie Frankel is clearly one of the most intelligent writers out there today. She makes me want to write. Her vocabulary and the way she puts thoughts and words together are clearly demonstrative of that. But she's not just intelligent in that way—she also boasts immense emotional intelligence that is suffused into every sentence of this miracle of a book. In the vein of Marisa De Los Santos’ Love Walked In (also a perfect book in my opinion,) Frankel has given us all a gift with this. I am so very forever grateful to her.
Profile Image for JanB .
1,113 reviews2,150 followers
June 26, 2018
This book takes on the subject of transgender children, a subject the author knows of personally, as one of her children is transgender. But really, there are lessons here for everyone about unconditional love and acceptance of anyone who is different.

Penn and Rosie have 5 boys. Claude is the youngest and at a young age it becomes clear he feels he should have been born a girl. The title refers to the struggle all parents face: "This is how it always is. You have to make these huge decisions on behalf of y0ur kid, this tiny human whose fate and future is entirely in your hands, who trusts you to know what's good and right and then to be able to make that happen. You don't get to see the future. And if you screw up, if with your incomplete, contradictory information you make the wrong call....it's heartbreaking. It's maddening. But there's no alternative."

This book navigates these waters as the family tries to do what is best for Claude/Poppy. How do they support him while also trying to protect him? Should this information be kept private, a secret? And what happens if the secret, as secrets tend to do, is revealed? The family grapples with these hard questions. They sometimes fail with heartbreaking consequences, but they pick themselves up and start over.

There are lessons within these pages, not just for parents of transgender children, but for parents everywhere. Let's face it, we all fly by the seat of our pants when it comes to raising our children. I've seen a criticism in some reviews that the parents and family were too perfect. But I've been mulling this over for a few days and decided to view it as a blueprint of how parents SHOULD be. An ideal to live up to. They don't always get it right but they try.

And if you're not a parent, there is still much to enjoy about this book as it relates to unconditional love, compassion, and the circumstances many transgender individuals face every single day.

Parenting is hard, and transgender or not, we all have hard, tough things to deal with at one time or another. There are no easy answers but all children deserve parents who will love, support and guide them through tough circumstances. And no, not every family can pack up and move or traipse off to Thailand when things get tough, but wouldn't it be lovely if everyone who struggles could move to a place where they find acceptance and support?

I have two minor criticisms: I'm not a fan of fairy tales inserted into books and I grew tired of the father's re-telling of one to his children. I know there was a lesson he was imparting to his kids but I began skimming past them. Second, the book went on a little too long. I would have preferred it if the story wrapped up before the trip to Thailand. I appreciated the research the author did in Thailand but I didn't enjoy reading about it.

Highly recommended for fans of fiction focused on timely issues, complicated families, and tough topics dealt with in a compassionate and heartfelt way.
March 19, 2017
Rosie and Penn are parents of five boys in Madison, Wisconsin. From a young age it was clear that their youngest son Claude was different from the other boys in the family. At three years old, when asked what he wanted to be when he grows up, he replied “a girl”. During the next few years his family observes him wearing dresses and barrettes in his hair.

Acting in the best interests of their child, Rosie and Penn are supportive of Claude’s feelings. He begins to transform into a girl named Poppy. Her parents make provisions with the school so that Claude can be Poppy outside of their home. Conflicts and hostilities develop from their community causing them to move. They relocate to Seattle where they seek a fresh start for Poppy and their family. In Seattle, they decide to keep her transgender status a secret. Ultimately, this causes stress and grief to the entire family.

This novel is about two parents seeking optimal choices for their family where one of their children is transgender. It is a strong reminder that we should judge less and embrace the differences in people. Laurie Frankel writes a heartfelt novel and has a transgender child.

1 copy giveaway on my blog until 3/22 https://www.facebook.com/suzyapproved...
Profile Image for Hamad.
972 reviews1,285 followers
October 12, 2019
This Review ✍️ Blog 📖 Twitter 🐦 Instagram 📷

“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.”


★ I did not know this book or this author before my friend recommended we do a BR of this book in his birthday month, my friend also does not know anything about the author or book, he just decided that we should jump in and that’s what we did. He DNFed it and I am disappointed!

★ I had mixed feelings toward the book from the start as the writing style was not up my alley. I saw that this book talks about Gender Dysphoria and Transgender people which I have never read before and it was a great opportunity to learn more about these topics. I love to discover the world through other people’s eyes and books make this very available. I come from the Middle East where we do not have many transgender people so I can not say that I am an expert at this subject. I think I ended up more confused after reading it.

★ I bet the author would be one of those teachers that would ask “All of the following are false except one answer”, but the author’s writing suffered from circumstantiality in a trial to sound poetic while failing to do so. I liked some quote to be honest but for the majority of the book, it did feel weird and sentimental!

“There are few children more treasured than ill-behaved ones who belong to someone else.”


★ The writing style made me feel or should I say not feel many things. I did not like the characters but I did not hate them, I was in this neutral zone where I understood their problems and suffering but did not empathize with them.

★ I know after reading the book that some of it is based on the author’s real life and I understand that this is a confusing process for both parents and children. I think that the book was a bit too long and there was repetition that made it boring. As mentioned above, I do understand some things but I am also a bit confused. I did not find the answers I hoped I would get from reading this!

“parenting always involves this balance between what you know, what you guess, what you fear, and what you imagine.”


★ Summary: I understand why this book is successful and I hope it helps the right people understanding things better. My experience with this one was dampened by the writing style which I did not like and on top of that affected my connection to the story. If the writing style is not a problem for you, then I think it is not a bad book at all! And I want to ask you for a recommendation rather than giving one this time: What are great books about Transgender people?

You can get more books from Book Depository

BR with Yousef.
Profile Image for Mary Ruthless.
66 reviews14 followers
February 23, 2017
I enjoyed this book but definitely had some issues with the narrative.

This novel is about a family. Not just any family though, but the absolutely fairy-tale perfect family. Penn and Rosie meet in college and it's basically love at first sight. Even before first sight because they both had weird feelings before their first date. *heavy eye roll*

Penn is studying to be a writer and Rosie is studying to become a doctor. Her schedule keeps her from really being able to date so she breaks things off with Penn. He's so romantic though that he sits in the ER waiting room (where she's doing her residency) every night, waiting for her to finish work just so he can see her for breakfast before they go home. *another heavy eye roll*

Penn & Rosie get married. Of course. And everything is totally perfect. Her job, their relationship, the house they live in, literally everything is glittery perfect. So they decide to have kids. They're all boys and then you learn the first not-perfect thing about Rosie: her sister, Poppy, died when she was 10 & Rosie was 12. It devastated Rosie but she decided then that when she had a daughter, she'd name her Poppy and they'd do all the things together that she and her sister never got to do. So, poor Rosie, has no daughter out of FIVE boys. All perfect boys, by the way. They're generally respectful, polite kids and they all have some talent or trait that makes them the perfect addition to Penn & Rosie's perfect family. (Can you tell that the perfect thing got a little old for me??)

UNTIL.

Claude, the youngest boy, begins to show signs of being transgender. He wants to wear girl things and play with girl toys. He wants to be a princess. He wants to wear high heeled shoes and get manicures and pedicures. Rosie & Penn, of course, respond to this perfectly. They accept Claude as he is, which is great, truly, if the author didn't spend so much time telling us how well they accepted Claude. When Claude goes to school, he decides that he wants to be a she and, without prompting or suggestions, decides that he wants to be named Poppy. Look, that's cute and all but there's NO WAY something like that would happen--except in a fairy tale.

So, Claude-turned-Poppy goes to school and everything is *mostly* fine. The kindergarten teacher is a bit of an asshole and tells little Poppy that she has to pick (NOW, IMMEDIATELY in kindergarten *really heavy eye roll*) whether she wants to be a boy or a girl because no one will understand if she's both or neither. The 5 year olds I know and have known sometimes think they're animals or aliens or wacky plants or robots or things you've never heard of. Pretty sure they wouldn't care one way or another about gender. This teacher's resistance to Claude/Poppy's transition is pretty much the realest thing in this book.

Anyway, Poppy continues living out her life with her perfect family. Things are confusing but no one ever fights or argues. If there's a disagreement, they talk calmly and rationally to reach a solution that works for everyone. All the siblings get along and have fun together. It's PERFECT.

Then, Poppy's friend's dad tells Poppy that she's gross and disgusting and "queer". He has a gun and almost gets into a fist fight with Penn. It's a shitty situation, to be sure, but the reaction to it is a little dramatic. And by a little, I mean...

THEY MOVE TO ANOTHER STATE.

Rosie does a lot of research and basically decides that Seattle is the most liberal, accepting place they could go and that her kids won't be in danger there so they pick up and move.

Look. I get that your kid's safety is paramount but to move an entire 7 person family seems a little much. But, Rosie wanted Poppy to be able to start over and be just Poppy, without everyone knowing that she used to be a boy. So, they move and don't tell ANYONE except their new neighbors who then make them feel uncomfortable about it and so they stuff their secret down even deeper.

In Seattle, Poppy finally blooms (see what I did there?). She can be the little girl she is and meet and play with friends who like her and the things she likes too. Poppy deserves this but the move is really hard on her oldest brother, who gets into fights with homophobes (because SURPRISE there are shitty people NO MATTER WHERE YOU GO) and fails history because he makes a controversial project and will not redo it. Seriously, these are the most difficult problems this family has to deal with. I'm not saying that having a transgender kid is a walk in the park but it's genuinely hard for me to believe that there are five kids and only 2 have issues. Anyway, as secrets are wont to do, Poppy's secret is discovered and everyone at her school finds out that she used to be a he. Poppy is mortified, runs away from school, and her mom picks her up.

Poppy then refuses to go to school. And her parents just let her skip and don't try very hard to get her to talk about everything that's happening. Then Rosie decides to take Poppy with her on a work trip to Thailand. Penn's feelings are hurt by this because they had a little disagreement and he thinks Rosie just wants to get away from him. Rosie is just running though, because Rosie always runs away from her problems. It's just hard to tell because the woman doesn't have any GD problems.

Rosie and Poppy are in Thailand (which is known for its acceptance of transgender folk because of their Buddhist attitudes) where they both have emotional epiphanies. Almost immediately Rosie realizes that she's not really that mad at Penn (duh) but she finds perspective in her work. In a country where childbirth can kill you or bugs or landmines or infection, Rosie realizes that, hey! she's actually pretty lucky and her problems aren't really that bad. *extreme eye roll* I'm sorry (not sorry) but I find the trope of "extremely privileged people being miserable ass hats until they are taken from their situation and can appreciate how great they have it" to be boring and tiresome. Poppy has almost the exact same realization: school is a privilege (even if everyone knows about your penis), family is important, being trans isn't something to be ashamed of, etc. This comes about of course because she met some poor, third-world kids and feels bad for taking her life for granted.

Then they go home and get to work at fixing the "damage" caused by Poppy's secret (seriously, the worst thing that happened was Poppy's bff stopped talking to her for a minute because she felt like Poppy didn't trust her).

I, obviously, had some issues with this story. I guess if it had started from the beginning like a fairy tale, I think I would have been less frustrated with the book. However, I was hoping to read an insightful, honest take on what it's like to raise a transgender child. I wanted hurt and anger and pain and confusion--from *all* the characters. All the trans people I know had a hard childhood, for various reasons, and still have a difficult time functioning in our bigoted society. But that's not what this book is. Everyone is open-minded, thoughtful, kind, reasonable, logical, and works hard to make Poppy feel like a normal little girl. There are no fights, just discussions. There are no disagreements, just differing opinions. There's no bitterness or irritation in the marriage only openness and communication. True love. And these are all great things but no one acts like that, at least not in my life. So every scene was just a little unbelievable for me. It wasn't until the end of the book, when Penn is talking about the fairy tale he's getting published that I realized that I was taking the whole narrative structure too seriously. I thought I was reading a literary fiction but I was reading an adult fairy tale. Even once I realized that though, I wanted the darkness of a Brothers Grimm fairy tale and, instead, I got a Disney story.

This isn't a bad book, by any means. The story was funny and touching. I laughed out loud quite often while listening to it and, even though it's a little too cookie cutter, Frankel got a lot right about parenting. I really enjoyed the bedtime story that Penn tells the kids throughout the story and how that all ends up by the end of the book. I thought it was a cute touch and I can appreciate meta-stories. I think this story could probably be useful for a lot of people, especially if you don't understand how someone could be trans or love trans or accept trans people. For me though, it felt a little self-congratulatory (the author has a trans kid) and unrealistic. If you want to learn more about transgender people but don't necessarily want to hear about the horrible reality of being trans in America, then I recommend this book. Or, if you want a little fluff in your reading pile, this is for you.
Profile Image for Jane.
384 reviews602 followers
December 23, 2018
4.5 very enthusiastic stars!

Oh, this book! Author Laurie Frankel manages to somehow beautifully capture the quirks and silliness and love that is part of being family. Each of the five children in this book had such unique personalities, and at times their antics came close (but never quite crossed the line) to being too outrageous. Every single vignette pulled me in and made me want to know this family (albeit perhaps from afar -- they seem a bit noisy).

The main story for this novel follows Claude/Poppy, a little boy who thinks maybe he'd be happier as a little girl. We follow this family for several years, seeing fears faced, struggles wrestled with, and family being family -- everyone just doing their best to love and protect each other.

In the end, this lost a tiny half star because it was wrapped up just a bit too neatly for me -- this is a messy family and they needed a messier happily ever after. That said, I'd certainly love to read more about this family and maybe even see more in-depth stories about the brothers. Every character in this book was fascinating and I'd love to spend more time with them!
July 16, 2019
*****4.5 STARS*****

Have you ever read a book that changes your outlook on life? Well, I have a time or two.

More importantly for this review, This Is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel, changed a piece of me that I never knew needed growth.



I’m not going to go into details or specifics of this book, but I will tell you how it affected me. Often times great books don’t need their details displayed. Instead they need your emotions to bleed into life.

I learned that transgenders hurt on a level many do not understand. I always knew people were born gay or straight, but this book taught me that’s it’s deeper than that. Transgenders are born in the wrong body and often times they suffer so quietly that they are willing to take their own lives. I also learned that this is an important conversation that parents need to have with their children. It is up to us as a society to educate ourselves on how our ignorance and silence is just as harmful as bigotry.

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Profile Image for Margitte.
1,142 reviews485 followers
August 24, 2017
From the blurb:
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.
There are many enjoyable and certainly well presented elements in the book, which kept me reading most of it. I would say around 80%. Everyone who reads this book will be unable to not feel compassion and empathy for a little boy with an identity crisis and the pain of the family in their struggle to protect him. The wit was fantastic. The characters were all true to self and lovable within the context. I really enjoyed K, the medic in Thailand, and the super perfect dad. I felt immensely sorry for the family in their struggle to survive in their social environment.

However, I was not convinced that a ten-year-old boy could have the insight in his dad's stories as presented in this book.

It is a themed-book. Although the characters were great, the choice of professions for the parents were just too convenient to make this book work. I had the impression that any other profession would have made the story too challenging. For instance, the dad had to be a writer, so that the fairytale could unfold. The mom had to be a doctor so that information could be dumped. The medical and literary world cross-pollinated each other perfectly in the book.

This is a story built around a topic which must be explored in as much detail as possible, including the social and emotional impact transgender issues have on people. It is written to elicit as much emotional reaction as possible from the reader while presenting as much information from different viewpoints. For me it resulted in too much information dumping, the overkill element, despite the excellent skill with which the book was written. The twist to live a fairytale was surprising, and the denouement equally so. Very convincing indeed. Really great.

A person can either read reports, or watch detailed interviews and documentaries on the subject, and get the real situation, or get informed through a book like this in which the reader is soft-soaped in a way. Sometimes very obviously so. It depends on the person how to get acquainted with this subject. Some prefer it in novel form. What is important though, is to get to know the people around the situation, and this book is brilliant in that context. The author wrote a compassionate story with gentle kindness.

I will go with a four star rating, but would have loved to give it 3.5. Word-dumping simply does not work for me. I prefer a story which leaves my curiosity alive and well, and my imagination roaming free and wild. I want to discover the magic, and not being force fed to me. But that's just me. Show-don't-tell is number one in my book!

Overall a good read.
Profile Image for Sue Dix.
509 reviews20 followers
February 7, 2017
I don't want to give any hints as to what this book is about. Don't read about it first, don't read the blurb on the dust jacket. Don't read a recap. Just read it, as I was told to do. You won't regret it.
Profile Image for Britany.
941 reviews415 followers
May 27, 2019
This book is one that I want to press into people's hands.

Finally picked it up for a bookclub, and so glad I did. This is a book that inspires conversations and makes you really think about a topic and situation. How would your family handle this? How would you approach some of these questions? I think the point Frankel is making is that it is so unique, sometimes the answer isn't clear.

Rosie and Penn have a love story for the ages. Rosie is a Doctor working long nights in the ER and Penn is a writer- sitting in the waiting room writing, waiting for her to have a break. They end up married and have five boys. Life within this family nucleus is challenging at times, but they bond they have is enough to make you want to call your siblings and tell them how much you love them. If you grew up with siblings, you will reminisce over the catty fights, the struggles, and the memories only you share with each other.

The writing took me a minute to settle into, but once I could start deciphering, it resonated with me. The writing is strong- not an easy, quick book to read, but writing that makes you appreciate being a reader. Frankel created characters that were fully developed and wonderful individually. I appreciate the secondary characters and what they bring to this story, and most of all I love how Frankel made me think. I have so many thoughts as I was reading this book, I found myself wanting to bring this topic up with everyone I ran into. If only our world can get to the same place as this book. I'm purposely being vague because you really should go into this book not knowing anything about it.
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