The whole changeover process is surprising and not at the same time. It’s gradual and swift at once.
When you have five sons, mornings before schools are never easy. Even without any incident, they’re hectic and messy. The event happens in one of them when Claude, Rosie’s youngest, is in kindergarten. That morning, Rosie is busy trying to get her kids ready for school. Claude is upstairs, and Rosie’s not sure what’s taking him so long to get ready. He is normally a responsible boy. After all, he’s Rosie’s bright, sweet and precocious little son. But it’s still annoying, that he still hasn’t come downstairs even after Rosie’s repeatedly called him for some time now. He’s not even answering. Something is happening upstairs, which at this second, Rosie’s still unaware what it is. But when her son finally presents himself, that’s when Rosie sees it.
Once you see it, you can’t unsee it.
That morning, Claude shows up wearing something unmistakably a girl dress. He says that he wants to go to school in it. He seems sure of his wish, but Rosie is baffled. This is not the kind of things that you decide during rush hours like this. It’s something that you take time to think about. So Rosie tries the easy way first, she tells Claude to change. He refuses. Rosie tries to convince him that he should change for school, and he still can wear the dress at home. No, it’s not what he wants. He wants to wear the dress to school. Again, Rosie tries to coax him. But he’s having none of it. He throws tantrums, which is very unlike his usual self. Pause. Rosie is perplexed. It’s not so much that she won’t accept a daughter who used to be her son, but how would other people react?
Letting Claude wear his dresses turns out to be the easiest thing. The things the school demands? That’s a whole different thing. For starter, the school mandates the family to decide on one unambiguous gender for Claude. Who does Claude want to be? The boy Claude or the girl Claude? Rosie asks why is it important to decide that now? Can’t they decide later when they’re more sure what’s what? To which the school retorts, no, they can’t. It has to be now because a lot based on it has to be arranged. For instance, they need to know which restroom Claude would go to. And that doesn’t mean that the girl Claude can go the girls room, because that would make others uncomfortable. But still, who does Claude want to be?
How would Rosie answer a question like that?
This book is really not to my taste.
It has this way too metaphorical storytelling.
The father in the story, Penn, is a writer. He starts creating and telling a fairy tale when he begins dating Rosie, a tale which meanders freely forever open ending. The story is read first for Rosie, and then for their sons. In an imaginative way, Penn reinvents his family into characters in the narrative. This proves to be resourceful. During unsure times, Penn resorts to his story to pass conversations which are hard to engage in real life. Like telling your son, that it is okay to be a daughter, and he still would love her no matter what, but the world might harshly disagree. For this very reason, the ever-continuing tale Penn invents is deeply intertwined with Penn’s life story.
You can say that it’s meta. Sadly though, it’s a quality that I personally don’t enjoy in a story, and I believe that’s the biggest reason why this novel just didn’t click with me. But hey, it might be your thing. Cause after all, I don’t think so much as this book is written poorly than it’s just not my taste.
Still, here’s my opinion.
The frame of the story is really fluid, hence now and then, the narrative jumps between future and past, and swaps between metaphors and real life. This probably would feel imaginative and interesting to people who run on the same frequency, but to me, it only comes across as confusing and not straightforward.
To say that I was lost in the story is an understatement. I was lost, like, really lost. It took me forever to finish reading this book, because I needed to take loads of respite from getting lulled to sleep. And everytime I got back to it, I always forgot something. And when I did, I was too disinterested to go back and refresh my memory. So a lot in the story I missed, and the thing is, I am not sorry that I did.
It’s a shame really that I disliked the writing style so very much, because I thought the premise was real promising. I was all ears to what a child who’s in a gender dysphoria has to get through. It’s something that I have never personally encountered in my life, while at the same time it’s also one thing that intrigues me terribly. It’s just that the book didn’t let me believe in their world. In conveying its message, the book is also not always making sense. At many points I found myself confused where they were going with the story, and the thing is, it’s hard to agree or disagree with something if you can’t even grasp the idea offered.
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