All happy families are alike... but happy can be complicated

From the very beginning, so many adjectives are melded together and come drifting off the pages to meet you. I am hooked!

This is How it Always Is by Laurie Frankel is a beautifully crafted story about an ordinary everyday modern family who becomes rather extraordinary. It is the story of Claude who is the fifth baby boy born to parents Rosie and Penn. It is the story of love and marriage followed by five births; of already having two boys; hoping for a girl and having twin boys and then willingly having one more try to be delivered baby Claude. It is the story of juggling careers, babies, schooling, personalities and everyday needs. It is the story of family love, interaction, growth, adjustment and adversity.

All this is conveyed with dashes of humour that keep the reader delighted and in turn, laughing and ‘welling up’.

Social, moral and cultural issues and expectations are realistically part of the interplay of the family as it quietly grows in to accepting that clever loveable Claude, from a very young age, wants to be a girl. Rearing five children is a huge task in itself. Chaos sometimes reigns, but this added complication will see the family uprooted from one location to another, hopefully, more amenable city, Seattle. Rosie in particular has a very good reason for wanting a ‘safer’ haven to rear her family.

It is very easy to slip into the lie (encouraged by the new parents next door), which becomes the families’ challenging secret. So challenging that we are taken from trauma on the home front into another culture (Thailand) where a remarkable healing process begins. This even extends to the family back home in Seattle.

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I have to confess that Rosie and Claude/Poppy’s experiences in Thailand, especially in a culture where being male, female or transgender is not as important as the person within, was enlightening to me, as well as thought provoking, as is the whole book.  My attitude, on several levels, has undergone a definite change.

The writer expresses a remarkable depth of understanding of individual behaviour, of teaching, parenting, sibling and peer group feelings and of cause Claude who is Poppy. I was convinced that I would arrive at the end and read in an author’s note that it was based on a real life story.

A must read for every individual, every family, every teacher, every medical person, every traveller and for all.  

This is How it Always Is, by Laurie Frankel (published by Hachette Australia) is available from Dymocks. Click here to learn more.

Books at 60 is sponsored by Hachette Australia. Opinions are the reviewer’s own.