I read this book on recommendation from Modern Mrs. Darcy, whose book recs I usually enjoy quite a bit. I found this book to be both enjoyable, and it carried an important message. It was well written, and there were plenty of things about it that were thought provoking. You might sense a BUT here … this didn’t quite hit for me altogether. I’d say if you’re a fan of Jodi Picoult novels (which I generally am! they’re fine!) this fits within that wheelhouse. I have a few bones to pick about a few specific plot points, and I’ll share some of that here – mostly, I think the book is fine, and pretty good if you look at it in some ways. It combines aspects of lighter reading with an important topic, without being too “after school special” about it.
The novel centers around a family, helmed by Rosie, a doctor, and Penn, her stay-at-home-and-work-on-your-novel husband. They have five children, the oldest four a pack of rowdy, loving boys, and the youngest born with a penis but not a boy. When children are born with penises we call them boys, but for Claude, it isn’t that simple – and by the time Claude hits Kindergarten, his family has to make some choices about what it means to support this child. Eventually the family adapts and Claude transitions to Poppy in the first grade. Because of the nature of Poppy’s transition, it’s possible to keep the fact of Claude more or less a secret from their community – and this is what the family decides to do, for as long as they are not challenged by it. The family adapts and grows around and through the transition. There are plenty of mistakes made, but as the title suggests, parenting is never easy – this is just one of the many varieties of parenting that are not exactly easy, but certainly full of promise and love.
My biggest problem with this novel is the way that some elements are presented in such a simplistic way – I know, I know, it’s a story! It really helps when things are not nearly as complex as they are in life, so that there’s more narrative clarity. There were a few situations that frustrated me to different degrees – some minor characters seemed overly one-dimensional and in some cases far too unlikely to even exist. I was especially offended by the presentation of the teacher and school system as essentially idiots of a few different flavors. I am well aware that not all schools are as open and affirming as the one that I’m a part of – but I think that Laurie Frankel must not have a high opinion of teachers generally, based on what she’s presented here. That rankles a bit, if I’m honest.
Overall, I appreciate having this story told, and I think it’s always fun to peek into the life of a family full of love. I think within the first few pages you’d know if this was a book you’d like to keep reading, and for that reason it’s worth a trip to your library.