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 feNote: 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....more
While I enjoyed the premise, the protagonist was so unlikeable that it made the book unlikeable.
The book follows a couple, Beth and Matt, who moves fWhile I enjoyed the premise, the protagonist was so unlikeable that it made the book unlikeable.
The book follows a couple, Beth and Matt, who moves from NYC to Washington, DC, when Matt gets a job in the Obama Administration. Despite him telling Beth early in their relationship that he wanted to run for office one day, she never took his ambition seriously but she begins to now that he's working in the White House and everyone is comparing security clearance levels and golf time with the President.
Beth hates DC, Matt's new job, his coworkers, the neighbourhood, the weather, the stores, the traffic, the roads, the traffic on the roads, the weather on the traffic on the roads... Pretty much the only thing she doesn't hate is her own hate of everything.
And this is what makes Beth and the book so unlikeable. I can understand her needing some time to adjust to a city that she moved to not because she wanted to, but for her husband's job. I can understand her needing time to make friends and adjust to the ultra-politic atmosphere of DC, especially since she's painted as someone who's pretty apolitical. At some point, though, one needs to stops wallowing in self-pity and be proactive.
She finally makes friends with Ash (whose husband works with Matt) she likes, but the relationship seems extremely co-dependent, and when the couple ends up following their own ambitions, Beth's reactions are all too predictable and exhausting.
I finished this book because I found Matt's character interesting (although getting to know him through Beth's eyes was, I'm sure, a biased perspective), and I wanted to know what ended up happening to him. Had his storyline not been so interesting, though, I would have given up on Beth about a fourth of the way through the book....more
Amazing book that kept me hooked throughout. I generally don't like books that jump back and forth in time, but the author did it so seamlessly that IAmazing book that kept me hooked throughout. I generally don't like books that jump back and forth in time, but the author did it so seamlessly that I didn't mind.
A review I had read before led me to believe that the book would delve into the lives of each person on the airplane in subsequent chapters after the airplane crashed in the first chapter, so I was a little confused when that wasn't exactly how the book unfolded. Once I figured out that the review had misled me, though, I was able to just sink into the book and enjoy the ride.
The story mostly follows the two survivors of the airplane accident, as well as giving information about various people who were on board the airplane at the time of the crash. A few chapters are devoted to people who investigate the crash, as well, which becomes even more interesting. The way these lives intersect are intriguing and made the book more of a thriller than I anticipated, since I thought the book would be more of a literary character study....more