Skip to main content
Font size options
Increase or decrease the font size for this website by clicking on the 'A's.
Contrast options
Choose a color combination to give the most comfortable contrast.

This Is How It Always Is

by Laurie Frankel

GENRE: Mainstream Fiction, Domestic Fiction

The Walsh-Adams are a typical loving and messy family until the youngest of the five sons, Claude, declares her name is Poppy and wants to grow up to be a girl. The family must deal with their own confusion, and balancing Poppy’s identity with her safety.

Download Discussion Guide


Please fill out the form below to request this bundle. Give us 24-48 hours to check availability of title.

Author Biography

Laurie Frankel is the New York Times bestselling, award-winning author of four novels. Her writing has also appeared in The New York Times, The Guardian, Publisher’s Weekly, People Magazine, Lit Hub, The Sydney Morning Herald, and other publications. She is the recipient of the Washington State Book Award and the Endeavor Award. Her novels have been translated into more than twenty-five languages and been optioned for film and TV. A former college professor, she now writes full-time in Seattle, Washington where she lives with her family and makes good soup.  - Author's website

More titles by this author.



Rosie and Penn Walsh-Adams and their five sons live in a sprawling farmhouse full of chaos, love, and fairy tales. One summer, youngest son Claude begins to wear dresses and bikinis around the house. Rosie and Penn encourage Claude to be himself, and he decides he would be more comfortable as Poppy. While Poppy's brothers and parents accept her, they also all worry about the world she faces. The family deals with fallout from friends and teachers who struggle to understand a nonbinary child. Though their city is generally accepting, Rosie wants to move the family to somewhere they can all feel safe. The family moves to Seattle and soon confronts new challenges. They acknowledge that Poppy is their daughter's true identity, so is there any need to tell her new friends that she used to be Claude? The novel follows family members individually as they struggle with their own secrets and histories. Inspired by her own daughter's transition, Frankel tells Poppy's story with compassion and humor.--Chanoux, Laura Copyright 2016 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly

Frankel's third novel is about the large, rambunctious Walsh-Adams family. While Penn writes his "DN" (damn novel) and spins fractured fairy tales from the family's ramshackle farmhouse in Madison, Wis., Rosie works as an emergency physician. Four sons have made the happily married couple exhausted and wanting a daughter; alas, their fifth is another boy. Extraordinarily verbal little Claude is quirky and clever, traits that run in the family, and at age three says, "I want to be a girl." Claude is the focus, but Frankel captures the older brothers' boyish grossness. She also fleshes out his two eldest brothers, who worry about Claude's safety when Rosie and Penn agree that Claude can be Poppy at school. But coming out further isolates this unique child. Encouragement from a therapist and an accepting grandma can go just so far; Poppy only blossoms after the Walsh-Adamses move to progressive Seattle and keep her trans status private, although what is good for Poppy is increasingly difficult on her brothers. The story takes a darker turn when she is outed; Rosie and her youngest must find their footing while Penn stays at home with the other kids. Frankel's (The Atlas of Love) slightly askew voice, exemplified by Rosie and Penn's nontraditional gender roles, keeps the narrative sharp and surprising. This is a wonderfully contradictory story-heartwarming and generous, yet written with a wry sensibility. Agent: Molly Friedrich, Friedrich Literary Agency. (Jan.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Library Journal

Rosie is a busy ER doctor; her husband, Penn, is a writer and stay-at-home father to their four sons. They welcome a fifth son to their boisterous family, and when Claude is three, he starts to wear dresses and says he wants to be a girl. Although his parents and older brothers unconditionally love and support the little one, now called Poppy, troubles arise in the wider world, even in their famously liberal hometown of Madison, WI, and later in Seattle, where they move when Poppy is ten. Then Rosie takes the unhappy and troubled child with her when she volunteers for a stint at a desperately poor clinic in the jungles of Thailand, which turns out to be a life-changing experience for them. In a letter to her readers, Frankel (The Atlas of Love; Goodbye for Now) explains that her own second-grader, born male, now identifies as a girl, so she writes her fictional story with some personal experience. VERDICT This novel offers a timely and thoughtful look at the life of a transgender child. It is also a touching and sympathetic account that is brimming with life and hard to put down.-Leslie -Patterson, Rehoboth, MA © Copyright 2017. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc.


Raising My Rainbow
by Lori Duron
Discusses the author's experiences raising an effeminate son who may be gay.

We Sinners
by Hanna Pylvainen
Describes a large family in modern-day Michigan who belong to a church that doesn't permit drinking, dancing, or television and discusses their individual reactions when two siblings leave the faith for the temptations of modern culture.

Sacred Country
by Rose Tremain
Certain that she is really a male trapped in a female's body, Mary Ward pursues this elusive identity, much to the consternation of her mother, her brother, and a neighbor's son.