“This Is How It Always Is” by Laurie Frankel is the story of a family in crisis that should not be in crisis. The seven members of the Walsh-Adams family should be happily living their eccentric and peculiar lives, but one member, Claude, is not sure what his life should be, Claude, who at five years of age, likes dresses, tights, and purses. The book is the story not only of Claude and Poppy, but also of the entire family. How do parents Rosie and Penn pick friends and acquaintances for their children and particularly for Poppy? How do they keep secrets and tell secrets?
“Poppy’s story (was) too awkward and complicated, too intimate, too risky to share with new acquaintances. But by the time those acquaintances became close friends, it was too late. “
The family is supportive and at the same ill equipped to deal with the complex gender identity issues of a very young child, being barely able to deal with their own multifaceted issues. They attempt to be compassionate, but they are also terribly impractical and unrealistic.
There is a nice shout-out to book clubs that will endear Poppy to them forever.
“She was in a book club?” said Poppy.
“Everyone’s in a book club”
“Like with wine?” Poppy was intrigued.
“It’s not a book club if there isn’t wine.”
In the end, gloom rises to the surface and, change abounds everywhere.
“Why would change make you sad?”
“Because it doesn’t mean different,” said Claude. “It means ruined. Why can’t one thing just stay the same?”
“This Is How It Always Is” is funny and tragic, poignant and heartbreaking, emotional and practical. Readers will hate Rosie and Penn Walsh-Adams for what they did not do and love them for what they did. It will make readers angry, happy, and sad. Most of all, it will make readers think, and that is always a happy ending.