Author: Laurie Frankel
Publication Date: January 24, 2017
Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (5 stars)
“So these kids just get to pick who they are?” Frank searched for an apt metaphor and finally settled on, “It’s like a video game.”
“No, it’s like a fairy tale,” said Penn. Rosie rolled her eyes at him. “Maybe you look like a filthy scullery maid, but inside, you’re really a princess, and if you’re good, you find the right grave to cry on or the right lamp to rub, and you become a princess on the outside too.”
This Is How It Always Is is, without a doubt, one of the most emotional and important books I’ve ever read, and it’s going to resonate with me for a long, long time.
At its core, this is a story about family, about learning to embrace and celebrate change, and about fairy tales and how happily ever after might not exist … but that’s okay because it isn’t a happy ending you should be striving for, but a happy now.
There’s something instantly recognizable in the hectic Walsh-Adams family. The anecdotal nature of the storyline makes it easy to find something to connect with, whether it’s the challenges of parenthood or the endless frenzy of a bunch of siblings. Aspiring novelist Penn and resourceful doctor Rosie already bring diverse personalities to the table as parents, and the chaos of having four boys in the household creates an loving environment equal parts open and unpredictable. There’s surly Roo, precocious Ben, and the wild twins Orion and Rigel. And then, of course, there’s Claude.
When Claude begins to express his desire to grow up to be a girl, it’s refreshing how willingly his family embraces the idea and allows him to become Poppy. But the safe haven of their household can’t blanket the entire world, and closed minds and brushes with violence prompt the family to relocate to more liberal Seattle. Suddenly, the promise of a fresh start and the question of whose business is Poppy’s history anyways has the Walsh-Adams unintentionally keeping a secret that feels weightier and riskier with every year that passes. Until suddenly it’s not a secret anymore.
I loved everything about this novel: the push-and-pull of Penn and Rosie’s personalities, both of them wanting the very best for their daughter; the fierce protectiveness of Poppy’s older brothers, loyal at times almost to a fault; the harsh truth that even the best of intentions can be hurtful.
My absolute favorite part was the ongoing motif of family story time, a tradition born out of the fairytale Penn crafted to woo Rosie in the first place. I loved how the story grew to incorporate the kids’ problems, and how Poppy eventually came to take the reins and make it her own. It was incredibly rewarding to watch the story spend a lifetime growing and changing and adapting – not unlike Penn and Rosie’s relationship, their children, themselves – until it became so much more than just a bedtime tale for their family alone.
This Is How It Always Is tackles so many important and relevant issues and serves as a reminder that you never have any clue what the person, the family, next to you is going through. An open heart and mind can go such a long way. I simply can’t recommend this book enough. 5 stars. Without a doubt, 5 stars.