The Most Fun We Ever Had by Claire Lombardo
Published June 25th, 2019 by Doubleday Books
ISBN: 9780385544252 (Hardcover)
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Trigger Warning: Mention of depression, cheating, an eating disorder, alcoholism, adoption/foster care, mention of body dysmorphia, miscarriage, and possible hint at abortion. (Don’t quote me on that. It wasn’t super clear. I’m putting it here just in case that’s what it was.)
Hello, meet the Sorenson family: David (father), Marilyn (mother), Wendy (oldest daughter), Violet (daughter), Liza (daughter), and Grace (youngest daughter). They live in Chicago but they all lead different lives with vastly different secrets.
Meet the married couple, David and Marilyn, together since college (1975). Marilyn lived with her father in Fair Oaks while she attended the UIC (University of Illinois at Chicago) Circle Campus. She tried to major in English, and David focused on premed. Marilyn thought he was a teacher’s aid when they first met. In 1977, Marilyn struggled to get a degree in English Literature, but she failed and quit college. Later they have Wendy, and that’s when they spiral. Marilyn runs her own hardware store now.
“This was arguably one of the life-saving rationalizations for the institution of marriage, one party consumed with worry so the other could sleep through the night.”
Wendy is widowed, using alcohol and young men to occupy her. Her husband and soulmate, Miles Eisenberg, died of cancer in 2014. Wendy has always been the person to continue down a rocky path, but her family is always there to support her.
Violet and Wendy are less than a year apart in age. Violet is married to a man named Matt, and they have two little boys together, Wyatt and Eli. Violet and Wendy have a very rocky relationship. There is constant tension when they speak to one another.
Liza is with a miserly man, Ryan. She worked a dull academic job, but at thirty-two years old, she became a tenured professor. She ends up pregnant with a baby she is indecisive about, and Ryan isn’t much solace.
Grace and Liza are nine-years apart in age. Grace lies to her parents about working to become a lawyer. She lives farther away from her parents than the other kids. She makes $9.50 functioning as a receptionist at a nonprofit that provides free legal services to woodwind musicians.
“She lived a little bit like how she imagined murderers lived: sparsely, and with shame.”
Jonah Bendt is the son of one of the Sorenson daughters. I don’t want to spoil it and state whose child he is. It shocked me when I found out. When you learn about Jonah, he is living with foster parents, Hanna and Torrence. They are selling their home and moving to Ecuador. His first adopted parents perished in a car accident. He is fifteen-years old in demand of a loving home and winds back up with his biological family. Surprise!
The daughters work to discover the passion that their mom and dad have for each other. Little do they know that their parents have just as many battles. It’s not always rainbows and butterflies. *Sings “She Will Be Loved” by Maroon 5*
“Everything’s so miserable, and we’re all just a bunch of giant narcissistic babies wandering around pretending we know what the fuck we’re doing. Everyone except Mom and Dad, who are so fucking happy they make me want to put my head in the oven.” – Wendy
Don’t forget about their dog, Loomis! That’s the best part of the story. Every family saga needs to contain a dog. Wouldn’t you agree?
This is an emotional roller coaster of a multi-generational family saga. Lombardo split the story into the four seasons and spans over forty-two years (1975-2017). The Most Fun I Ever Had is a novel I couldn’t put down. It’s a lengthy one, but I found it to be worth the time.
I’ve noticed a lot of mixed reviews for this novel, and I understand. It’s tough to read a five-hundred page book about one family. I fell in love at the start. If I were to critique something about it, I would say the switches between the characters and time are abrupt. But that doesn’t bother me much.
David places Marilyn foremost, if not, he apologizes. Being an intern and developing into a doctor is one of the harsher professions while trying to have a family. I don’t blame him for anything, except the mistake he made involving another doctor—Dr. Gillian Levin—and I wanted to slap him so hard.
The most annoying character award goes to Marilyn. She is moody, and with four kids, I would be too, but it just went too far. She is also overbearing. If things don’t go her way, it is the end of the world. She wants perfection and never achieves it—DUH! I couldn’t connect with her as I did with her children. This doesn’t mean that she is a bad person. I just think that her character fell flat when compared to everyone else.
Violet is another least favorite role of mine—snobbish and selfish. The novel implies she’s drawn to the money part of life. Her spouse, Matt, is an absolute fool, too! I can’t describe to you how many times I rolled my eyes when Matt is mentioned. She can achieve better, but they’re perfect together.
Liza struggles to make decisions. I suppose that I relate to her the most. Other than the part where she cheats! I have a boyfriend, and I can admit that relationships are difficult. It’s not easy to get up and leave a person after building a life with them. Some people can manage it, and others will quarrel with themselves for the rest of their lives. I didn’t find her to be super independent, but she wasn’t indigent either. I think she was an excellent example of your average person.
Grace didn’t play a huge role in the story. She struggles a lot with the need for approval. Grace always wants to make her parents proud. There isn’t much to say other than her and Ben are cute together! But she has too much going on in her head to even give him a chance. Sadly, her parents didn’t typically focus on her at all, and neither did I as a reader.
Jonah has a turbulent past, and I realize that’s why he has such an immense attitude. I just didn’t harmonize with him. He is an ordinary teenage boy in another contemporary novel. Another dull character, but not in a manner that caused me to resent the book. Not every role requires to be larger than life. That would make the novel overwhelming, and it’s already a lot to handle.
Not too much of a plot going on in this book. It’s very character driven. The novel is about family dynamics, and talks a bit about the effects of the societal standards. The pressure of having babies, working a job that pays well, having a happy relationship, being healthy one-hundred percent of the time. It’s difficult for this family to stop and smell the roses; pay attention to what matters. They need to concentrate on making Jonah comfortable and making sure that everybody is loved and cherished. It’s a beautiful story, if you give it a chance.
Lombardo knows how to create a family that can connect with anybody. There is wit and humor incorporated, which breaks up the tension and anger. There isn’t a conflict in here that makes it implausible. The language flows with efficiency and doesn’t make it challenging to read. The beautiful prose alone makes me want to pick up everything else the author writes. It even reports she is working on her second novel in the “About the Author” section of the book.
I highly recommend picking this book up if you haven’t already. It’s intricate—a novel you can sink your teeth into. I will reread this as many times as I can in my lifetime. Please go pick this up and try it.
If you already read this, let me know your spoiler free thoughts in the comments.
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