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This Is How It Always Is

Cover: 'This Is How It Always Is'

Staff Review: "This Is How It Always Is" by Laurie Frankel


Rosie and Penn are a happily married couple living just outside Madison with a house full of delightfully eccentric sons (four, to be exact). In hopes of having a daughter, the two decide to have one more child, which turns out to be…another boy, whom they name Claude.

But around the time he starts kindergarten, Claude begins to question his gender identity. He longs to wear the frilly, colorful clothes that other girls his age wear, and explicitly voices his desire to be female when he grows up. After thinking it over, Rosie and Penn decide to let Claude explore his feelings and live as Poppy, the daughter they never had.

The family continues life as normal and is transparent with Poppy’s school and her friends about her transition until a moment of violence causes the family to pack up and relocate to Seattle. There, they decide to keep Poppy’s gender identity under wraps, where the secret eats away at each member of the family in different ways until it inevitably comes out and threatens to upend their lives once again.

This is How it Always Is is engaging for so many reasons. The book is timely and topical without being heavy-handed or schmaltzy. It’s smartly written, and features a bevy of uniquely, well-written characters that are likable and relatable. It’s also compelling to see how Poppy’s gender dysphoria affects her and her family, and to see where the book takes her on her journey of self-discovery.

Audience: adults | Genre: fiction, contemporary fiction

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