Among the many great things about Laurie Frankel’s novel This Is How It Always Is are the chapter titles. Each one makes you wonder how the story will unfold. From the first “Once Upon a Time Claude Was Born,” each title gives a little clue as the next part of the story. My favorite is “Annus Mirabilis.” The chapter begins like this:
Penn found himself thinking a lot about John Dryden. Dryden was one those poets you read in graduate school but not in life. No one’s email signature was a Dryden quote. Anyone whose email signature was a Dryden quote hadn’t read the rest of the long, dry verse it came from. But Dryden had a poem: “Annus Mirabilis.” The year of wonders. It was a poem about England in 1666. England in 1666 was decidedly not having a year of wonders. England in 1666 had war, plague, and a three-day fire that destroyed most of London, plus Isaac Newton invented calculus, thereby making the lives of mathematically ungifted students immeasurably worse forever. But Dryden’s poem was about what a great year it was because it could have been worse. They lived to see 1667 after all. At least, everyone who read the poem did. [From This Is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel, p 163]
This is a story about a family’s experience with their transgender son/daughter. Their joys, sorrows, struggles, and conversations are those of any family working through any particular issue. The gift of this novel is how it shows the care, love, and ease with which even the most unusual and seemingly difficult matters can be lived.
This is a funny, poignant, and powerful book, and I highly recommend it. Frankel takes this au courant topic and makes it part of all of our daily lives and culture.