Every once in a while, a book comes along that inspires me to sing its praises to anyone who will listen. It is so special that long after reading the last sentence and closing the cover, the story stays wrapped around my heart.
I recently discovered such a book by luck. After dropping items off at my favorite charity store, I stopped by their used book section. The book’s blue and yellow cover attracted my attention despite its rather awkward title. I pulled it out, read the blurbs on the cover, and decided that it was going home with me. Normally, I happily pay the few dollars for a book, read it, then return it to the shop so it can be resold. I’m afraid this book won’t be going back anytime soon.
This is How it Always Is, by Laurie Frankel is a book about family. It is also about secrets, fairy tales, and acceptance. It is about life not always turning out the way we envision, and how we deal with the challenges we face.
Frankel’s novel is often laugh out loud funny even as it deals with a very serious subject: raising a gender non-conforming child. I fell in love with the parents, Rosie and Penn, and their four older boys but, most of all, their fifth child, Claude/Poppy, stole my heart.
“He said he wanted to be a chef when he grew up. He also said he wanted to be a cat when he grew up. When he grew up, he said, he wanted to be a chef, a cat, a vet, a dinosaur, a train, a farmer, a recorder player, a scientist, an ice cream cone, a first baseman, or maybe the inventor of a new kind of food that tasted like chocolate ice cream but nourished like something his mother would say yes to for breakfast. When he grew up, he said, he wanted to be a girl.”
Frankel tells the story of this family with such warmth and honesty that it invites thoughtful discussion and consideration. I personally know two families who have a transgender child. These parents and their kids are real people who love each other and are doing well despite the challenges society throws at them. Rather than fearing or disparaging those that don’t conform to our “normal,” maybe this novel can help to open hearts.
Beyond the novel’s overarching theme, there are also lessons here for everyone about unconditional love and acceptance of those who are different. We don’t have to completely understand to treat others with empathy and compassion.
This is How it Always Is has won multiple awards since it was published in 2017, including Amazon’s Best Book of the Year, and the 2018 Washington State Book Award. If you read this book—and I hope you do—please don’t skip the Author’s Note; it made me love the novel even more.
This post is linked to the monthly #whatsonyourbookshelf challenge hosted by Donna, Deb, Jo, and Sue. Head on over to share what you are reading and see what others recommend.
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