This is How It Always Is

This is How It Always Is

Alternate cover edition of ASIN B01HW6Z3FGThis 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...

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Title:This is How It Always Is
Author:Laurie Frankel
Rating:
Edition Language:English

This is How It Always Is Reviews

  • Kelly (and the Book Boar)

    Find all of my reviews at:

    Dear Book:

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

    I usually am a person who opts

    Find all of my reviews at:

    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

    . . . . oh excuse me . . . . “Alt Righters” feel free to spew hate wherever they see fit and although I

    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

    is mainly on the youngest, 5-year old Claude . . . .

    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 . . . .

    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 . . . .

    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 . . . .

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

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

    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 . . . .

    shows that . . . .

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

    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.

  • Emily May

    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

    begrudgingly ad

    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

    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,

    was the exception to the rule.

    Is it sentimental? I mean, sure, maybe... but it was also a

    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,

    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).

    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:

    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.

    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 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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  • Justin Tate

    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

    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 h

    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

    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!

  • Larry H

    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

    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

    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,

    (

    ), 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

    .

  • Elyse Walters

    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

    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.

  • j e w e l s

    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 r

    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.

    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.

  • BernLuvsBooks (Mom to 2 Posh Lil Divas)

    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 illustrat

    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".

    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:

    Me too, Laurie! Me too!

  • Trevor

    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 stor

    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.

  • Skyler Autumn

    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

    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.

  • Heather

    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

    closely.

    There was so much unnec

    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

    closely.

    There was so much unnecessary page filler and

    almost beyond comprehension. I'm frustrated even thinking about it. These two factors alone

    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.

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