Updated: Mar 30, 2020
This Is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel was the July pick for Random Readers Book Club. I have had this one on my shelf for awhile and have seen all the raving reviews, so I was excited that this was a book I could read and share with others. After the first few chapters, I knew the conversation would be incredibly thought provoking. The subject matter this book covered is relevant and engaging.
This Is How It Always Is follows Rosie and Penn and their clan of children. They have five sons, the youngest of which is Claude. Claude is a precocious little boy who loves to wear dresses and fairy wings, and wants to be a girl when he grows up. His comments and questions start at a young age and Rosie and Penn soon discover that it is more than a childhood phase. They want Claude to be whoever Claude wants to be, but are new to navigating this journey. They are very accepting, but they are not sure how others will feel. Unintentionally, Claude's "secret" stays a secret within their family, until one day everyone finds out.
Rosie and Penn are the perfect set of parents to help Claude navigate this journey in life. Rosie is a doctor and Penn is a writer. They compliment each other in the best way and approach parenting with their own styles. Rosie is more clinical and factual, treating parenting dilemmas like she would a gun shot victim in the ER, with precision and swift decision making to quickly solve the problem. Penn is more whimsical and left brained creative, thinking more about the emotional impacts of decisions will make years down the road. Both Rosie and Penn want to support Claude in whatever way they can, even if it means not making a complete decision. Which can be said for many aspects of life. I reflect on my own life experiences and the times where I have wanted to make a quick decision to fix the problem, much like Rosie, but had to be content with not making a decision and knowing that was the right decision. Wow, that was a mouthful!
Rosie and Penn supported and encouraged Claude to be who Claude wanted to be and wear whatever Claude wanted to wear. Claude came to his parents one evening and told them they wanted to be called Poppy. Rosie and Penn saw their child blossom. Poppy was a social butterfly and their child's full potential came shining through. The concept of allowing your child to be fully who they want to be and were meant to be is such a touching topic. As a parent myself, I only want to encourage my children to be the best versions of themselves, whatever that is or whatever that looks like.
This Is How It Always Is also touched on the concept that as parents, we must allow our children to experience pain and go through hard times, because that is where they forge their path in life. As hard as this is to comprehend now, being that I have toddlers, I know I will have to face this eventually and I will have to step back, love and support them, but ultimately allow them to work through it. I'm terrified, but I also know this will make them better people. This was a concept that Rosie and Penn butted heads on, but ultimately came to the same conclusion so that Poppy could make her way in life. I really loved that concept in the book.
I facilitated our book club discussion last night and the conversation was great. We had a lot of engagement and insightful comments. We discussed Rosie and Penn's parenting styles, how the book defines being a boy vs. girl/man vs. woman, different cultural views on gender, and the author's note. It was insightful and interesting to hear input from everyone, being that we are essentially all strangers on the internet who connect over our love of reading. (This is why I love reading!!) The general consensus was that the story was interesting and relevant. While some gave it five stars, other gave three or four stars, because of the writing style and the storyline towards the end. I was somewhere in the middle of those reviews. I gave This Is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel ★★★★ and highly recommend it if you are a parent. I found it insightful and I learned so much from this story. The writing is almost fairytale-esque, which ties into the ending, but that was what held me back from giving it a higher review. I am a speed reader and the writing made me really slow down, but in hindsight, that was probably good for me. The author's note at the end was fabulous and really gave me new perspective on the book.
Below is a quote that stuck with me well after I finished the book and I hope sticks with you:
"Fitting in and being normal does not exist."
This Is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel