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.
This Is How It Always Is is a novel about revelations, transformations, fairy tales, and family. And it’s about the ways this is how it always is: Change is always hard and miraculous and hard again, parenting is always a leap into the unknown with crossed fingers and full hearts, children grow but not always according to plan. And families with secrets don’t get to keep them forever.
I’m really conflicted on the rating for THIS IS HOW IT ALWAYS IS because on the one hand it’s great that this book has so many positives & doesn’t end on a pessimistic tone; we need LGBTQIAP+ stories that don’t end in tragedy. (We need more of these books in general.) On the other hand, at times, there were such unrealistic situations taking place that I was wondering if the author was living in fantasyland- you’d have to suspend disbelief to enjoy it. It’s clear that this is a personal story for Frankel, even though she makes it clear this isn’t based off one specific person (her daughter) or her own experiences. With that in mind, perhaps this is truly what Frankel wishes for herself & the world which is wonderful, but it’s not peachy keen for many families, & that’s where I got a bit distraught. At its core though I did like this story so 3* it is.
The greatest thing that felt unrealistic to me:
– Rosie & Penn. They are such supportive parents! (I wish this was the case for everyone!) They are protective & move the family across state lines for safety reasons. Many families cannot afford to just leave when the going gets tough; safety reasons include a father who discloses he doesn’t want his son to play with f***. (Other than this family, there is no blatant violence against them that is really threatening, for the most part people understand or don’t know.) Then when Claude’s secret is revealed, Rosie takes Claude to Thailand. Again, most people can’t just pack up & go across the globe. It is for Rosie’s job, but still. It doesn’t ring authentic.
The ending wrapped up way too nicely for me, like everything was going to be hunky-dory. I liked how Claude decides they are nonconforming & they are more than what has been offered, but honestly, to get to that point wasn’t worth it. Frankel’s prose wavered my interest- I thought the middle was strong while the beginning & end were on the verge of a snooze fest. I would have liked to see more from Roo & Ben & a more thorough discussion on hormone blockers.