BookPage Top Pick in Fiction, February 2017
After four sons, Dr. Rosie Walsh and her husband, writer Penn Adams, thought maybe—just maybe—their fifth child would be a girl, Poppy, named for Rosie’s deceased sister. But instead, the baby was another boy, Claude. Until he decided he wasn’t.
The revelation didn’t shake the Walsh-Adamses. Claude would be allowed to wear a dress. Claude would be allowed to change his name. Claude would become Poppy. Laurie Frankel’s third novel, This Is How It Always Is, doesn’t center on a family’s struggle about how to handle a child’s transition from a he to a she. It’s about everything that follows.
Rosie and Penn find peace in Poppy’s kindergarten class, but Rosie worries about Poppy’s future in their relatively sheltered Minnesota town. After much research, the family is off to Seattle, which they’re sure will be a more supportive environment for Poppy.
And it is. But they also have four other children to consider. Their new friends in Seattle know Poppy only as a girl, and over time, it becomes obvious that keeping the secret is taking a toll on the rest of the family.
This Is How It Always Is isn’t only a novel about the challenges of life with an atypical child. It’s a story about the challenges of parenting and love, period. Frankel draws from her own experience as the mother of a second-grade girl who was born male. In writing, she offers a piece of advice: “Secrets make everyone alone.” But she also believes that we find one another by telling our stories. This beautiful story is deeply personal, a heart-rending glimpse of an author writing her way to understanding.
ALSO IN BOOKPAGE: Read a Q&A with Laurie Frankel for This Is How It Always Is.