This How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel

My Rating: #####/5

GoodReads Rating: 4.26

Published by Flatiron Books

Tags: Fiction, Contemporary, LGBT, Adult

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. – Goodreads

It took me a long time to sit down and write this review, or rather, this review for this book. The whole year I have been going on and on about Crawdads and The Great Alone… Delia Owens this and Kristin Hannah that; and then I picked up This Is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel.  I cannot even remember how or where I found it, and no one recommended it or anything like. I can only believe that I was meant to read this book and the universe dropped it, and Claude and Poppy, into my lap. On that note, this book should be on the GoodReads Choice Awards for Fiction every year since it’s release date – it deserves, no, it demands a spot.

Rosie is a surgeon and Penn is a stay-at-home-dad-author of TDN (that damn novel). It’s the typical, but not boring, boy-meets-girl-falls-in-love-girl-says-she-is-a-surgeon-doesn’t-have-time-to-date-boy-persists-woos-her-with-romance-they-get-married-story. 2 boys, a couple of years of residency and still no published TDN (that damn novel) later, Penn and Rosie decide; “let’s try for one more, maybe this time it will be a girl?”   A set of twins (also boys) later and Rosie and Penn are ready to give up. But Rosie desperately wants a little girl and maybe fifth-times’ a charm… maybe. So why not? Rosie falls pregnant again and 9 months later, another healthy, bouncy, baby BOY is born. Enter Claude.

But here’s the thing about Claude. Claude is a boy, raised in a household with 4 brothers. But Claude wants to wear dresses, hair barrettes, and rainbow tights and play with dolls. Claude wants to be a girl. Claude wants to be Poppy… and Claude is only 5-years old.

“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?” – Lauria Frankel

So how do you teach your child, that they can grow up to be anything they want to be, but they cannot (yet) wear dresses to kindergarten? How do you explain to them, that even though it doesn’t hurt anyone, they cannot be a princess, because they were not born a girl? Do you keep the secret, move away, hide it from your neighbors and friends or do you let your precious child wear a dress with fairy wings to school and “let life sort itself out”?

The story is interesting, fun, funny, relatable and heart-wrenching… all of these on one page! The characters are vivid and realistic. You feel the frustration as a parent, the concern and protectiveness as a sibling and your heart breaks with and for Claude as he realizes the truth of the world.

The writing is beautiful and clean. The story flows without lagging or hiccups. And yes, you are going to need tissues.

Frankel addresses several controversial issues and hypocrisies. We would like to believe we have come a long way with some of these issues, but have we truly? Frankel lays it all bare; from gender identity, gender equality and sexual orientation and what it must be like for a parent, who just wants their child to believe they can become anyone or anything they want to be and that all their dreams can come true.  Even if they dream of becoming a night-fairy.