Tag Archives: Families

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: Henry, Himself

Henry, Himself
By Stewart O’Nan
Viking, 9780735223042, April 9, 2019, 384pp.

The Short of It:

Thoroughly enjoyed visiting with these characters again.

The Rest of It:

There are three books about the Maxwell family:

Wish You Were Here
Emily, Alone
and lastly, Henry, Himself

In the first book, we already know of Henry’s passing and witnessed its effect on the family he left behind. In the second book, we focus on Emily, Henry’s wife and how everything has changed and how she suddenly finds herself on her own. In Henry, Himself, we go back to Henry’s last time at the lake house, before Wish You Were Here.

Are you still with me?

In Henry, Himself, O’Nan makes it clear that Henry’s days are numbered which adds a layer of sadness to the story. In fact, even Henry is aware that the day is coming.

What you should know about these books is that they are day-in-the-life type reads. Henry and Emily go about their days making sandwiches, painting window trimming, taking Rufus for a walk. When a holiday weekend comes up, they pack it up and head for their house on Lake Chautauqua and all their adult kids and their kids descend upon the place for a few days. As with any family, there are family struggles to deal with and nothing brings them out like togetherness.

I have to tell you, even though there isn’t a lot of action to speak of, I adore these books. There is something comforting about routine. The whole process of packing up one house to go to your lake house and vice versa is so soothing. I’m not even sure why. Henry’s willingness to be the “yes” guy to all of Emily’s requests, although sometimes grudgingly, is sweet. But aging can be a beast too and O’Nan reminds us of that.

In summary, all of the books together tell the story of a family that has been through  many challenges but somehow manages to always come together when they need to. I’ve loved all of the books in this series and I have hope that Rufus (the dog) will get his own book soon.

Source: Review copy provided by the publisher.
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.