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This Is How It Always Is

A Novel
Written by: Laurie Frankel
Narrated by: Gabra Zackman
Length: 11 hrs
4.5 out of 5 stars (231 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

“Every once in a while, I discover a book that opens my eyes in a way I never expected. This Is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel has done just that. It's a story about family: childhood, parenthood, and the sometimes-heartbreaking decisions that come with it. As a mother, this story absolutely tore at my heartstrings. I can’t wait for you to listen to it!" x Reese

This is how a family keeps a secret...and how that secret ends up keeping them. 

This is how a family lives happily ever after...until happily ever after becomes complicated. 

This is how children change...and then change the world. 

When Rosie and Penn and their four boys welcome the newest member of their family, no one is surprised it's another baby boy. At least their large, loving, chaotic family knows what to expect. 

But Claude is not like his brothers. One day he puts on a dress and refuses to take it off. He wants to bring a purse to kindergarten. He wants hair long enough to sit on. When he grows up, Claude says, he wants to be a girl. 

Rosie and Penn aren't panicked at first. Kids go through phases, after all, and make-believe is fun. But soon the entire family is keeping Claude's secret. Until one day it explodes. 

Laurie Frankel's This Is How It Always Is is an audiobook about revelations, transformations, fairy tales, and family. And it's about the ways this is how it always is: Change is always hard and miraculous and hard again; parenting is always a leap into the unknown with crossed fingers and full hearts; children grow but not always according to plan. And families with secrets don't get to keep them forever. 

©2017 Laurie Frankel (P)2017 Macmillan Audio

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

The Complexities of Identity

I loved reading this story...about a child's struggle to be who they are...about two parents who had different ideas about how best to support their child...about how all of that was intertwined with their other children and their neighbours and their extended families. Loving each other for who we are is not as easy as it would seem. There's love, and then there's love.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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Get this book NOW! If you don’t have a credit, pay for it!

I will be giving this book as a gift to everyone this Christmas! It’s THAT good.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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heartbreaking story

was a great book and heartbreaking as well... how a loving family triumphs together !

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Not great

I don’t know if the book was sappy or the performance but it was grating after a while. It started off great and interesting and got less so as the story went on.

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A new favourite

I loved this book. It's been a long time since a novel has swept me off my feet as completely as This Is How It Always Is. I highly recommend this brilliant, compassionate, occasionally devastating, funny and gorgeous story - the narration is also perfect.

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Tried too hard

I was initially enjoying this book... BUT it became too contrived. All of the conversations were too perfect, almost poetic, completely unrealistic. The book finished and I was left very dissatisfied. The more I think about it, the more I dislike it.

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LOVELY

what a lovely book. the story was GORGEOUS and the narration was so so great!

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Loved it

Kind, sensitive, a little over written occasionally but that’s OK.
It gives a perspective that feels right. What more an one ask?

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A great read!

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It was my first audible experience, and a very positive one. The narrator did a great job of bringing all the characters to life. The novel was well written; all at once it was heart warming, heart breaking, funny, sad, and thought-provoking... I highly recommend it. In fact, I already have recommended it to my reader friends!

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Beautiful

A beautiful wonderful story of family, heartbreak, acceptance and trials. Loved it. Best book I have listened to in a long while. Worth it

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  • Mark
  • Waltham, MA, United States
  • 2018-03-21

I liked this novel about a non-traditional family

This novel is a about a family with four boys, with the mother a doctor and the father a writer/poet. The fifth child is also a boy, but at age three, Claude just wants to wear dresses. This novel spans Claude / Poppy's life from age 3 to 10, as the child and parents struggle with issues of gender identity. I was a little hesitant about this when I noticed most reviewers seemed to be female. I am a male father of three sons, and a teacher who teaches transgender kids. There was a lot attracting me to this novel. The start of the book felt more like a chick lit romance, and I almost stopped. I am glad that I continued, though. This book and family slowly grew on me, and was filled with many painful and touching moments. This also had flaws. For one thing, I felt like the characters were fictional. They never transformed into the real people who come alive in great novels. Nevertheless, I still cared about them and about the situations I found them in. The "fairy tale" thread, especially at the end, seemed over the top to me. Still, as a whole, I was entertained and drawn in by this family story, and I feel I better understand the issues of transgender children. The story mostly stopped short of being too preachy.

70 of 75 people found this review helpful

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  • 1mom3kids
  • Philly area
  • 2017-11-14

Story mirrors our life -- to a point -- spoilers

My transgender daughter transitioned between first grade and kindergarten, just like Claude/Poppy in this book. I couldn't believe someone had written a story about a situation like ours -- although we know many families with trans kids, I had never read a work of fiction like this. So, to Laurie Frankel, thank you.

The book rang true on many, many levels. The effects of the transition on siblings, the struggle with secrecy. But in some ways, it was different from our story. For example, my child never said she "wanted" to be a girl. She was adamant from as soon as she could talk that she "is" a girl. "I is a girl, mama." Laurie Frankel hit the nail on the head with the depression and the trepidation of the parents.

That's where our stories diverge. My child is 100% a girl. But this book portrays a child who is a little more on the gender spectrum. That is, not 100% girl or 100% boy. Somewhere in the middle. I find that a great number of the kids we've come to know are on that spectrum. So kudos for shedding a light on those who don't fit into a bucket.

The characters rang true, and I was on the edge of my seat trying to figure out what they would do. The Thailand part is a little far-fetched, although also educational.

Thank you again, Laurie Frankel, for legitimizing (but not sensationalizing) the world of those who do not quite/yet fit with society's norms.

139 of 151 people found this review helpful

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  • wdarling
  • Hayden, Idaho
  • 2018-10-11

Great.. for the most part..

I loved the beginning of this book. The character development. The story felt current and plausible. In fact, I enjoyed all of the book until the last hour or so.
I thought the Thailand trip was a bit ridiculous and it felt like a super rushed way to END the book. How I wish it had a better ending. I wish she had dug in, like she did with the rest of the book. Tying up all the ends seems like a short cut and I finished feeling mostly dissatisfied.

8 of 8 people found this review helpful

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  • Tina Hichens
  • 2017-06-28

Beautiful story. Beautiful performance.

This book has enlightened me and given me courage to stand firm in what I know to be the most important thing I can do in the face of "different," show love. Be love.

31 of 35 people found this review helpful

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  • Bonny
  • 2017-02-01

Change is hard, especially if it's your child

This Is How It Always Is is a novel about a transgender child, Claude/Poppy, born into a large and loving family, how that family comes to accept that Claude wants to be a girl when he grows up, what they do to help that happen, the missteps they make, and secrets they try to keep.

"This is how it always is. You have to make these huge decisions on behalf of your kid, this tiny human whose fate and future is entirely in your hands, who trusts you to know what’s good and right and then to be able to make it happen. If…you make the wrong call, well, nothing less than your child’s entire future and happiness is at stake."

I'm not sure your child's entire future and happiness is at stake with parental wrong calls (at least I hope not), but parenting is full of tough calls, and dealing with transgender issues must be one of the toughest. That's part of what makes writing this book so brave; it's a reality for Laurie Frankel.

Frankel has made it clear in interviews that this book isn't specifically about her daughter, but it does present in fictional form issues and feelings that parents of a gender dysphoric child may have to deal with. I wish this novel had been slightly less preachy, and there is a therapist character that I'm not sure provided any useful therapy, but I enjoyed reading This Is How It Always Is mainly because it made me think and delve further. Is gender dysphoria a sort of spectrum, ranging from people who simply enjoy dressing in clothes of the opposite sex, to people who truly want to be the opposite sex? I don't know, nor am I sure there are really answers to that question, but this novel made me want to find out more, and also hope that I've been an accepting, loving, and protective parent myself.

32 of 37 people found this review helpful

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  • Stephanie Ousley
  • 2017-07-31

Amazing story

I listen to a lot of books and this narration and story are so amazing. Very enjoyable and worth your time!

18 of 21 people found this review helpful

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  • 3boymama
  • 2017-08-09

Didn't think I would like it but loved it instead!

Magical and eye opening and should be mandatory reading for the whole hunan race. I especially liked the story within the story.

26 of 31 people found this review helpful

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  • Joannne
  • Stamford, CT, United States
  • 2017-08-17

This is Me

Would you listen to This Is How It Always Is again? Why?

Yes. Narration was perfect. Story touching in so many ways.

What other book might you compare This Is How It Always Is to and why?

This book stands proudly alone, no comparison. Must be experienced.

Which character – as performed by Gabra Zackman – was your favorite?

Penn

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

Cry, laugh, often

Any additional comments?

This is a wake up call for happiness, truth, and life as it is.

11 of 13 people found this review helpful

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  • BassOMatic
  • 2017-11-30

No, Ms. Frankel, this is NOT how it always is

What disappointed you about This Is How It Always Is?

As a parent of a transgender child (though with differing circumstances to that of the family in the book), I really wanted to like this book, but the more I listened, the more the story and characters felt increasingly inauthentic and stereotypical, building to an ending that felt truncated, simplistic, and clichéd.

What was most disappointing about Laurie Frankel’s story?

The inauthenticity of the characters. (Warning: there are spoilers ahead.) The physician mother, Rosie, acted completely out of character for someone of her education and disposition, displaying an unbelievable lack of knowledge and nuance concerning her child's transgender issues. Had the story been set 25 years earlier, this might have been a little more understandable, but any modern medical professional today would not be so ignorant. I was also very disappointed in Rosie's reaction to facing her trans child Poppy's issues...in two distinct points in the plot, she literally runs away from their problems rather than facing them, and the second time, when she and Poppy flee Seattle to Thailand following the child's traumatic outing at school, Rosie basically becomes one of the world's worst parents, endangering Poppy's life by taking her to a remote jungle, spending almost no time with Poppy while they are there, and completely abandoning her husband and other four children. This occurs about 3/4 of the way through the novel, and I really struggled to finish it after being so annoyed by this abrupt turn in the plot.

I should have stopped at that point, because the ending was a disaster, where fleeing mother and daughter return to Seattle to reunite with their family as if nothing had happened, and culminating in Poppy only days after returning home attending a middle school dance where the meanest of the bullies who drove her away asks her to dance. I could not help rolling my eyes and facepalming after such a such a ham-fisted and abrupt tying up of loose ends.

Which character – as performed by Gabra Zackman – was your favorite?

Poppy's father, Penn, was probably my favorite...he seemed the most reasonable and fleshed out character, though the parallel fairy tale he tells the children throughout the story reflecting Poppy's journey grew a bit tiresome by the end.

What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?

Disappointment, mostly. There was a great opportunity here to really explore the lives of families with a trans child, and it really missed the mark. Perhaps most disappointing was the treatment of Poppy herself. Throughout most of the story, she was treated more like what is called a McGuffin in film, a largely irrelevant plot device used to steer the story, rather than as a real character with heart and motivation. This improved somewhat as the novel progressed, but by this time the narrative had gone so far off the rails that it was lost.

Any additional comments?

This novel felt very poorly researched to me. The acts of discrimination perpetrated against Poppy and her family were massively exaggerated, particularly those from younger characters. My child is transitioning in as conservative and bible-banging of a midwestern small town as you could find in the U.S., and the reaction from most people--but especially peers--has been overwhelmingly accepting and supportive. Ms. Frankel treats Madison, Wisconsin, like it's an epicenter of hate and intolerance, and that is simply not accurate. She also has characters who are professionals advising the parents with very bad advice, particularly keeping Poppy's transition secret from almost everyone after they move to Seattle. This is not how it always is...not at all...and this book gives a soap opera treatment to a topic that deserves better.

22 of 27 people found this review helpful

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  • ROBIN
  • 2019-05-21

This one needs to be LISTENED to !!

This is an excellent book, but I believe I got so much more out of it because I listened to it. This narrator is remarkable, and I will miss every single person she was a voice for in this real life fairy tale .

2 of 2 people found this review helpful