Thursday, July 23, 2020

This is How it Always is by Laurie Frankel

Book club book #12

This is a wonderfully written, lyrical story. It's full of smart sentences and carefully chosen words. From a writer's perspective, it reads beautifully, and I really enjoyed that.

This is How it Always is is also a well-rounded story, that tries to hit a big issue from all angles. The book follows a rather large family -- two parents, five children -- as they navigate raising a transgender child. Claude, the youngest, born the fifth boy, ultimately decides his name is Poppy, and he is a she. Each member of the family must deal with this news, as they all learn the right way to behave. It's about how a family faces change, comes together, breaks apart, and goes off in multiple directions, all to come back together around the family table.

The critical error is keeping Poppy's difference a secret. This idea of secret-keeping weighing on a family is just as significant of a theme in the book as raising a transgender child in today's world. It helps broaden the struggles in this book beyond Poppy's. It's more than just how to find identity when your body parts don't necessarily match the gender of your soul. The complexity of this book adds power to the story, makes it more real, and makes it better.

The only issue I had was toward the end. Without spoiling anything, because you do get invested in how this family will figure it all out, the end starts to feel a little rushed. It also gets a tiny bit preachy. I almost felt like the author was coming up on her page limit, so had to wrap up the story quickly. It was especially awkward to feel rushed as you're reading about how this is a story that never ends, that the journey of a trans individual is like any other life journey; it keeps moving forward. As long and thought-out the rest of the book is, this last section moved like dominoes falling rather than an individually-paced race. 

Regardless, this book is a beautiful, emotional story with insight into a family so unlike my own. It's a special journey for a family full of personalities and experiences that drive home the common theme that life is hard, but hiding doesn't always make it better. I would highly recommend this read.

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