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THIS IS HOW IT ALWAYS IS by Laurie Frankel

Wooh boy. I am behind!

I finished a book last week but haven’t reviewed it yet (that’s what this post is for). And I am in the middle of four other books. (This is what happens to me with non-fiction… I get a little mired.) I’m doing the Bruce Springsteen memoir on audio, and it’s a bit slow and meandering (although I love commuting to work with The Boss every morning). I’m savoring The War Bride’s Scrapbook, which is really fun. I’m reading an overdue (gasp!) library book called Too Slutty, Too Fat, Too Loud and it’s a week overdue, which is stressing me out. And I am also reading The Leavers, which I said was going to be my first book of 2018,  but which still isn’t done.

AND I am leaving on an international trip next week and have to pick books for the trip, which is going to be a challenge because there are Just. So. Many. Books.

Whew.

So let’s get to the way overdue review. My book club read This Is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel over the break and we discussed it last week. It’s about a family (parents Rosie and Penn) who have four sons and then a fifth one. But their fifth son is a girl inside a boy’s body. From an early age, Claude wears dresses and insists that he is a girl. How should parents react when their son insists he’s their daughter? If they support his dressing like a girl , how much should they intervene at school? Who should they tell, and at what age?

This Is How It Always Is explores the tough decisions faced by Rosie and Penn, who want nothing more than to support Claude – then Poppy – and make her as comfortable and happy as possible, while still tending to the needs of their four other children. They move from Madison to Seattle when Poppy is 6 to give her a fresh start where she isn’t known as “the transgender child”, but that decision proves fateful too. Without giving it much thought, Rosie and Penn decide to keep Poppy’s birth gender a secret when they arrive in Seattle, so while Poppy settles in well with a group of girls and is happy in her new home and school, there is a constant undercurrent of fear and tension while the family waits for the secret to get out. And of course, it does.

Reading has made me a better parent, or at least a more understanding parent, in that it has introduced me to a lot of situations and parenting challenges that I haven’t faced and shown me how complicated they can be. It’s so easy to judge from the outside. But when you get inside the house and get to know the kids and see the uniqueness of every situation, you really start to understand what it’s like. This Is How It Always Is is one of those books that makes you ask yourself, over and over again, how you’d handle the same situation.

Like in Goodbye For Now, Frankel’s writing is smart, funny and full of empathy. My book club loved this book – they found it very moving and compelling. It’s not preachy… it’s human. Totally realistic. Messy at times, but well-intentioned and full of love. Recommended!