REVIEW | This is How it Always Is

This is How it Always is Book Review

Laurie Frankel

This is How it Always is

Goodreads | Book Depository | Amazon

I’m going to make a list that’s titled ‘books that hit me in the feels’ and this will be incredibly high on that list.

“You can’t tell people what to be, I’m afraid,” said Rosie. “You can only love and support who they already are.”

I’m not going to write an emotional pitch for this book because I feel that the plot speaks for itself.

Rosie and Penn have always been deeply in love, which has resulted in a beautiful family with their four and a half sons. Their youngest, Claude, has shown signs of gender dysmorphia since he could talk. This is the story of how Rosie and Penn deal with the changes in family dynamics, the judgement from society and with young Claude, trying to figure out who he/she is at such a tender age when he/she doesn’t know anything about the world. How can they protect Claude from the world? How can they put Claude in a comfortable enough position to decide who ‘Claude’ really is?

This book is a deeply emotional experience. It’s hard to not put yourself in Rosie and Penn’s shoes, desperately trying to protect Claude from all the bullying and harassment. Having to make changes for the entire family that ensure all of their other children were comfortable with. Having to support Claude at such a young age – an age when Claude is simply too young to be making major life decisions. It’s difficult for even an adult to deal with the moral implications of being ‘different’ in some places!

“For my child, for all our children, I want more options, more paths through the woods, wider ranges of normal, and unconditional love.” 

It goes without saying that the characters in This is How it Always is are incredibly relatable. From the parental need to protect, to Claude trying to find his/her place in the world, to Claude’s siblings having to put the things they want aside to protect Claude. Every character is so real, and I think this is what makes the novel really special. It’s hard to not feel for each and every member of Claude’s family and the kind of sacrifices they all have to make for the youngest in their clan.

The plot follows the development of their family as they grow. The book can be clearly divided into two parts – Claude before school and Claude after starting school and the dynamic between the two is quite different. With each stage of Claude’s childhood, his parents are forced to make some big decisions which may impact Claude for the rest of his/her life. Should they be open about Claude? Will Claude be bullied and excluded because of the way he/she is? Will Claude be ashamed? Will Claude never truly be who he/she wants to be? These heavy questions and so many more are explored through the novel and you can’t help but think about what you would do in their shoes. I was practically pouring with empathy for this family!

The audiobook was lovely. I covered this in one sitting during the 14 hour flight from Sydney to San Francisco and it went by in a breeze because I enjoyed this SO much. If you’re looking for a diverse, feelsy read, I would not go past This is How it Always is. I haven’t felt this much love for a book in a really long time. ❤


Like I mentioned, I’m in San Francisco for a month for work so the quality and frequency of posts might be a little shoddy for a while! My apologies! If anyone has any recommendations for food or sights in the SF area please do let me know!

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