Being a typical English major, books were quite high on my 2019 Christmas list, and the addition of Laurie Frankel’s “This Is How it Always is” to my bookshelf certainly did not disappoint. While I started it thinking it would be a relaxing piece of heartwarming entertainment to distract myself from school starting up again, it actually ended up being deeply thought-provoking, holding within its covers so many lessons vital to our modern lives.

The novel is told through the lens of loving, progressive parents, Rosie and Penn. Raising five children, five boys especially is an impossible feat, but somehow, they’re managing to a damn good job. Each of their sons is exceptional, special, and a little odd. So, when five-year-old Claude, their youngest and brightest little boy, wants to dress up in princess clothes, high heels, and bikinis, it’s not too high on their list of concerns. As long as he’s safe, they’re fully on board with letting him do what makes him happy.

As Claude begins to grow up, starting kindergarten and joining the outside world, it becomes increasingly clear that his dream of being a little girl is much, much more than a fantasy. And that makes things complicated. Penn and Rosie’s love for Claude is unconditional, but so is their desire to protect him, and unfortunately, the world is much tougher on people who are different. Claude is only five when the story begins, and it’s amazing to watch the phenomenal growth and strength of such a young, passionate child develop throughout the book.

At its core, this is a story about family. One big jumbled mess of love and secrets; willing to do anything to protect one another. Whether that means moving across the country, across the world, or bulldozing a brand-new path through a future that once seemed so easy, only to discover something much more beautiful was in store for them all along.

This book took my breath away. There were so many moments when I was paralyzed by how real everything in the novel is, even if the story itself is fiction. It honestly taught me so much, but most of all it showed me that learning and growing never ends, we can always be better and do better. Above all, it made me think in ways, and with new perspectives, that I never had before.

This book genuinely is something everyone needs to read. It’s funny and entertaining, tear-evoking and painfully honest, but most of all it has enormous implications in our society and in the way we should all be treating one another: with pride.

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About Renee Bunszel

Renee Bunszel is a sophomore from the Bay Area, and an English major and SLAMM minor. Renee loves reading, writing, and eating all the delicious food in New Orleans!