Laurie Frankel has been one of my happy discoveries since opening Thornwell Books. Like James McBride, she writes about serious, even emotional topics with humor and an underlying joy in the diversity of human life. "This Is How It Always Is" is a deeply personal story of a family with a transgender child. While it is fiction, Frankel, who has a transgender daughter, was writing from personal experience. This is not a book about LGBTQ+ politics or even about acceptance of a transgender child. Instead, it is about navigating the world with a transgender loved one and how a transgender person comes to a sense of self identity in a world that doesn't support them. Frankel writes with humor and joy about the human condition.
Frankel's most recent novel, "One Two Three", is set in a town whose residents have been damaged by a chemical spill seventeen years earlier. It is narrated by three sisters, triplets, who call each other One, Two and Three. The chemical spill changed their lives. Their father died, their mother has never given up the fight to hold the chemical plant owners responsible, and two of the three sisters were born with birth defects. In fact, the vast majority of the residents of the town of Bourne are damaged in some way. But Frankel does not tell a story of bitterness and regret. The residents don't measure themselves against a standard of normality. Three, who is nonverbal and wheel-chair bound is brilliant, Her sister, Two, who seems to be autistic and obsessive/compulsive, runs an unofficial library from her home. The entire town is handicap accessible and one of the most important residents is the man who repairs much of the medical equipment and wheel-chairs that is donated by medical supply companies on a regular basis. Frankel forces us, the readers, to let go of our normative standards and see her characters as interesting people not stereotypes and they are delightful. The plot revolves around the reappearance of the chemical company founder's son and family in Bourne on a mission to reopen the chemical plant. It may seem strange to say but this book is an uplifting, inspiring, fun read.
I have fast reached the conclusion that I will read whatever Laurie Frankel chooses to write. I strongly recommend both these works.