A couple weeks ago, Seattle novelist Laurie Frankel talked with me about the difference between a hardcover and a paperback book launch. In hardcover, she said, the readers tend to seek out the book specifically because of reviews or word of mouth. They know what they’re getting into. But in paperback, she said, the book is priced for discovery—people see the book on a table at a bookstore, for instance, or their book club decides to read it.
If that assessment is true—and I believe it is—Frankel’s novel, This Is How It Always Is, definitely belongs in paperback. This is a novel that should be discovered and read by a very wide audience—preferably one that has no idea what it’s getting into. Always is a novel about a family that must change and adapt when one of the children realizes she is transgender.
Unlike most American families in literature, the family in Always is supportive and kind and loving. They adapt to the change, mostly, with good humor and an abundance of love. This is a book that can change hearts and win over minds precisely because it’s so warm and friendly that it throbs empathy like a beating heart.
Tomorrow night at the downtown branch of the Seattle Public Library, Frankel debuts the paperback collection of Always to a warm hometown crowd. Frankel confided that the paperback edition was causing more than a little anxiety in her life, precisely because it is likely to be read by a wider, and more unsuspecting audience. She told me that the book had already inspired “a not insignificant amount of hate mail and death threats and that sort of thing,” and she expected the lower price point to draw out more of the same.
I suspect that a lot of that hate mail came from people who didn’t read Always; most of the haters likely read that the book was about a transgender child and responded with outrage. I also suspect that if most of those so-called defenders of decency actually bothered to read Always, they might likely find themselves won over to Frankel’s side. Always is a book about a mother’s love for her child, and even in these hyperpartisan times, that’s still a relatively uncontroversial subject. This is a book that will likely charm a lot of people who need to be charmed, and for that reason it’s a book that deserves to be in front of a much wider audience.
Seattle Public Library, 1000 4th Ave., 386-4636, http://spl.org, 7 pm, free.