This Is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel
2017 Flatiron Books
Finished on March 17, 2018
Rating: 5/5 (Excellent!)
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 was an outstanding novel! Frankel's writing is so engaging, reminding me of that of Anna Quindlen and Marissa de los Santos. I started reading the book late one night and couldn't put it down. This is one you'll want to discuss with others and I plan to recommend it to my book club. Now I'm eager to read more by Frankel and delve into her blog archives. Sadly (maybe she's busy writing another novel?) her blog posts ended a year ago.
Penn knew in his heart that Claude should be who he was. But he also knew that Claude would be happier if neither his clothes nor his sandwich nor the bag it came out of attracted anyone's attention because another thing his heart knew was this: it was more complicated than that. Five years of Orion wearing all manner of weird stuff to school had occasioned not so much as a raised third eyebrow from anyone. "What an imaginative boy Orion is," his teachers said. "His spirit brightens everyone's day." If an eyeball sticker was creative self-expression, surely Claude should wear what he wanted to school. How could you say yes to webbed feet but no to a dress, yes to being who you were but no to dressing like him? 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?and
Rosie felt only fear. Rosie felt deafened by the voices howling in her head that she was mad to consent to this, that it was her judgment which was not to be trusted. And underneath that cacophony she could just make out the narrator who pointed quite peaceably to the fork in the road before them. The path on the right was paved and shady, rolling gently along a childhood filled with acceptance to an adulthood marked by requited love, grandchildren, and joy, whereas the other path was rock-strewn and windblown, uphill both directions, and led she had no idea where. Here she was at the crossroads letting her baby boy run blindly down the path on the left (in a skirt and heels) while the narrator looked on reprovingly.
"Never," Penn agreed. "Not ever. Not once. 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, 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."Told with great compassion and sensitivity, This is How It Always Is is one of the best book I read this year. While at times heartbreaking, all in all it's a very powerful and uplifting story. I loved it.
"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."
―Amazon Best Book of January 2017
"Brave, complicated, occasionally horrifying and frequently very funny…Frankel is a first-rate storyteller."
―The Seattle Times
“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