Tag Archives: Book Club Reading List

Review: This Is How It Always Is

This Is How It Always Is

This Is How It Always Is
By Laurie Frankel
Flatiron Books, 9781250088567,  January 2018, 336pp.

The Short of It:

A good book to discuss with a group because you will definitely want to talk about it after reading it.

The Rest of It:

This Is How It Always Is is a novel. It reads like a true story, and the author does in fact have a transgender child but it is a work of fiction. I had to remind myself of this many, many times while reading it.

Penn and Rosie have five sons, two older boys, a set of twins and then Claude. From a very young age, Claude is highly intelligent and interested in things that his brothers are not. Dressing up, for one. While young, this doesn’t appear to be an issue. In fact, his grandmother takes great pleasure in buying Claude tea-length dresses and girly things to wear at home but eventually, Claude wants to wear these things in public.

Rosie, a doctor, doesn’t see an issue with it. She figures he’s young and should be able to express himself however he sees fit. Penn, doesn’t have an issue with it either but he is more aware of the problems that it could cause. Perhaps, they should meet with the school administrators to discuss it. Once they do, they realize the challenges involved.

Claude becomes Poppy, but how much do they share? Do they make it public? Tell Poppy’s friends? The neighbors? Co-workers?  If you had a child who was Poppy’s friend, would you want to know? Think about sleepovers, shared restrooms, etc.

Poppy’s story is hard to put down. As a parent, it would be a tough situation to be in. I’m not sure how I’d handle the situation myself. There were decisions made that made me want to scream at the parents but then I’d turn a few pages and feel empathy for their situation. Most of all, I felt for Poppy.

Because one of the parents is a doctor, we get the medical aspect of Poppy’s transformation but only a taste of it since she is so young. Hormone blockers are mentioned. Surgery is hinted at for a page or two. At the age of ten, is it right for a parent to consider surgery when the child could easily change their mind? That brings up another topic entirely. Is gender something you can change your mind about or something bigger?

There were aspects of the novel that I didn’t care for. I didn’t like that they ended up in Thailand even though much was revealed there. It seemed a little too convenient and not something that could actually happen. I do feel that the author did a really good job of presenting the issues in a clear way. I was conflicted the entire time I was reading it. I don’t know if a person can love a book like this because Poppy experiences so much heartache and angst but I love that the author put the topic out there because I am still thinking about the story now.

If you are stuck in a reading rut and need something to get you reading again, This Is How It Always Is will definitely get you reading and thinking.

Source: Borrowed
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.

Review: The Bridge on the Drina

The Bridge on the Drina

The Bridge on the Drina
By Ivo Andric
University of Chicago Press, 9780226020457, August 1977, 314pp.

The Short of It:

An excellent book to discuss with a group.

The Rest of It:

Publisher’s blurb:

The Bridge on the Drina is a vivid depiction of the suffering history has imposed upon the people of Bosnia from the late 16th century to the beginning of World War I. As we seek to make sense of the current nightmare in this region, this remarkable, timely book serves as a reliable guide to its people and history.

This is the book that ruined me for all reading, at least, while it was being read. It’s choppy, full of superfluous details and it’s impossible to remember any of the character’s names, but for a discussion book, it was excellent. It just wasn’t excellent for the other reading I had committed to. I could not read anything else while reading this one.

The Bridge on the Drina  is the type of book that has to be discussed and picked apart. You simply can’t digest it without discussing it in some way. Parts of it put me to sleep but then every now and then there would be this beautifully structured sentence or this profound thought. Ivo Andrić won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1961 so the man can write, but as a group we all decided that the book was not written for us. It was a translation, so perhaps some meaning was lost there but it was just a hard story to get through and to feel anything for.

Plus, I didn’t know much about the history of Bosnia and Herzegovina and although there were plenty of details, I felt that many of them were related to the bridge itself, not so much the timeline of events. The author focused on the longevity of the structure and how it remained unchanged while the people who lived in that village came and went with the ebb and flow of their day-to-day life. Things change but they don’t change. You know?

The book includes some violence but not as much as you’d expect. There is one particularly grotesque depiction of a man being skewered alive. Oh! The details. One thing I know, I never would have picked this book up had it not been chosen for a discussion. I also know that it’s incredibly hard to come by. It’s currently out of print and I had to order it through the university I work for. But, if you need a book to discuss, The Bridge on the Drina will definitely get your group talking.

Source: Borrowed
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.