This Is How It Always Is discussion questions

  1. What was your initial reaction when you started reading? Did it hook you immediately, or not? Why?
  2. The title comes from this passage: “This is how it always is. You have to make these huge decisions on behalf of your kid, this tiny human whose fate and future is entirely in your hands, who trusts you to know what’s good and right and then to be able to make it happen. If…you make the wrong call, well, nothing less than your child’s entire future and happiness is at stake.” Do you think this pronouncement is accurate? How do we see this theme throughout the story?
  3. The author says of her novel, “This is how a family keeps a secret…and how that secret ends up keeping them.” How do Rosie and Penn begin their secret-keeping, and why? How do they put that plan into action? Do you agree with the latter part of the statement? How do we see it play out in the story?
  4. How does the secret finally emerge? What happens when it does? What about the reveal surprised you, and what didn’t?
  5. In the novel, we see how secrets both bring people together and put distance between them. How do we see both dynamics in the book?
  6. Penn spins a running fairy tale throughout the story. Why do you think Frankel includes this? Where is she leading her reader? Does it work for you?
  7. Discuss the ending: were you satisfied with Frankel’s resolution, and where she left her characters?
  8. Frankel draws heavily on her personal experience in this novel. As reader, was this obvious to you, or not? Do you think the author’s personal experience made a difference in the way the story was written?

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