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This Is How It Always Is: A Novel by Laurie…
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This Is How It Always Is: A Novel

by Laurie Frankel

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I just loved this book - the sweetness of it; the love within the family; the very raw and overwhelming issues of having and being and being sibling of a child who is transgender,; the fairy tale told by the dad to inform his family; the humor, the honesty, the amazing, challenging yet life affirming and spiritually awakening experiences in Thailand - having just completed the wonderful nonfiction book Becoming Nicole about a transgender child, this was such a worthy followup -

It was also inspiring to read that the author is raising her own transgender child - what a lucky little girl to have such an awakened mother as is evidenced by the magnificent story that Laurie Frankel has created. ( )
  njinthesun | Sep 2, 2017 |
Rosie and Penn are a bit of an amazing love story. They both knew they'd fall in love before they even met. Now they have five rambunctious kids, a farmhouse in Wisconsin, and a crazy, wonderful life. Things get a little more complicated, however, when their youngest son, Claude, starts wanting to wear a dress to preschool. Claude wants long hair with barrettes. Claude wants to be a princess when he grows up. Rosie and Penn are supportive of Claude: they just want their children to be happy, after all. But they soon realize Claude isn't just going through a phase. Claude has gender dysphoria, and their son wants to become a little girl named Poppy. The family is willing to support Poppy, but Rosie and Penn make the decision to do so in secret. But secrets don't stay kept forever.

This is a fascinating, heartbreaking, and beautiful book. It's filled with endearing characters, and I will certainly be recommending it to many people. I had a few issues with some of the realism aspects (more on that below), but I loved its details about raising children (of all kinds) and its humor. Penn, Rosie, and their kids are real.

Woven and embedded throughout this novel is a fairytale that Penn tells his children--starting with when his first boys were babies--and in some ways, the novel itself has its own fairytale moments. Frankel mentions that she does have a child who used to be a little boy and is now a little girl, but the story is not about her daughter. It is, she writes, "an act of imagination, an exercise in wish fulfillment." Still, you can imagine her as a supportive parent. That's certainly not everyone's experience. Does that mean everyone has to write a novel where the child's parents throw them out and society shames them? No. Would I have liked to have a seen a little more of a realistic take on how Poppy and her parents would deal with her secret and how those around her would take it? Maybe. It's not that the family doesn't have hardship, because they do, and Frankel does a good job showing that it takes a bit of a toll on her clan of brothers, as well. But--and I don't want to go into too much, as I don't want to give spoilers--I felt the resolution to the story was a bit pat. Much like Penn's fairytales, it seems to allow things to just wrap up quickly easily. So that was a little problematic for me. But, I didn't feel as irritated after reading Frankel's afterword, because I realize that this novel--for her--is indeed an "exercise in wish fulfillment." This is what she wants in the world. I won't lie: it's what I wish for as well. And perhaps reading novels like this, featuring a wonderful, precocious little boy who can become a wonderful, beautiful, mostly accepted little girl, is a great first step.

The novel is intricate and very detailed, though quite well-written. It's heartbreaking in Penn and Rosie's realization that Claude wants to be a girl and what that will mean for him and the family. They only want for their children to be happy. Frankel does an excellent job at portraying how adults and children can see the world so differently--in terms of gender and much more. As a parent, I often found myself wondering about what I'd do in their situation: it's a book that gets you thinking, for sure. In the end, I loved the family very much and was quite invested in their happiness. Again, another reason why I would have liked a slightly more developed ending after having gone through so much with them.

Still, this is a lovely, timely book. No matter some of the issues I had, I still enjoyed it and certainly recommend it.

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  justacatandabook | Jul 21, 2017 |
The beginning of this novel reminded me of Shirley Jackson's Life Among the Savages and Raising Demons - the rough & tumble joy of a large family. At its core, the subject is tough: how do you support a child who is different? The author observes that ..."parenting always involves this balance between what you know, what you guess, what you fear, and what you imagine." There are no easy answers, in life or in this book. ( )
  seasidereader | Jun 27, 2017 |
I love books about family life, especially when the family functions with love and acceptance. The Walsh-Adams family is not dysfunctional, but it is quirky to the point of being weird. Penn and Rosie have four boys in their Madison, Wisconsin farmhouse and decide to try once again for a girl. Instead they got Claude who was immediately loved for who he was and became an integral part of this boistrous family headed by their physician mother and stay-at-home father who wrote his book when he had free time from parenting.

Those of us who are parents know how exhausting and exasperating it can be at times. Penn and Rosie had more than the usual problems, however, and it was so refreshing to see how they worked together as a team to make almost impossible decisions. After a series of unfortunate events, they moved the family to Seattle where a "little" secret soon dominated their lives. This was a very thought-provoking book about how one family member's needs can affect the entire family. Despite some heavy issues, the writing style is mellow especially when circumstances take Dr. Rosie and Claude to Thailand with its Buddhist influence. This is a book that I won't forget. I think I'd better take a look at Frankel's previous two books to see if they will speak to me as loudly as this one does. ( )
  Donna828 | Jun 25, 2017 |
osie and Penn's fifth child, Claude, wants to be a girl. This story is about how Rosie, Penn, Claude's four older brothers and Claude's school deal with this as Claude chooses the name Poppy, grows his hair and wears a dress/skirt.

I found this an entertaining and thought-provoking read, although it ends before Poppy reaches puberty, which is obviously a time when hard decisions need to be made and potentially irreversible options considered. I enjoyed Poppy's siblings and the humour present throughout most of the story. I was less enthusiastic about the Grumwald/Princess Stephanie fairytale sections, and the part set in Thailand jarred. ( )
  pgchuis | Jun 10, 2017 |
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Epigraph
Is it always "or"?
Is it never "and"?
---STEPHEN SONDHEIM, INTO THE WOODS
Do I contradict myself?
Very well then I contradict myself,
(I am large, I contain multitudes.)
---WALT WHITMAN, "SONG OF MYSELF"
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For D.R.M.H.M.F. my someone
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But first, Roo was born.
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There's a fork in the road.  It seems like there are only two choices.  It seems like the task is to figure out which way to go, left or right, forward or back, deeper or safer, but in fact any if those choices is easy compared to the real trick.  The real trick is you have to forge your own way straight ahead through the trees where there is no path.
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