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Profile Image for fatma.
900 reviews570 followers
December 20, 2019
The Most Fun We Ever Had grew on me like a rash: the more I read this book the more I grew firm in my opinion that not only did I dislike it, but that I in fact actively hated it. Its bloated length⁠—532 pages⁠—is almost designed to make its every fault as glaring and grating as possible. (i started listening to its audiobook at 1.25x speed and finished it listening at 2.5x speed so make of that what you will lol)

Here's a very extensive list of some of the things about Lombardo's writing that irritated the shit out of me. Enjoy!

The amount of times Lombardo mentions how much Marilyn and David love each other. OHHH MYYY GOOODDD. we!!! get!!!! it!!!!! marilyn needs david like she needs air to breathe !!!! david worships the ground marilyn walks on !!! they have sex like 4097234 times a day and touch each other all the time and somehow communicate paragraphs' worth of information with a single look and wE GET IT YOU HAVE MADE YOUR POINT PLS STOP

The amount of times characters watch other characters having sex. I'm honestly sorry I just made you read that⁠—hell, I'm sorry I just made myself read that. There's at least 3 instances in this book where a character stumbles upon 2 other characters on their way to having, or actually having, sex. wtf ? a single time is one too many times⁠—BUT 3 ??? one of those times involves a 15-year-old character watching some guy giving his aunt oral sex and the other a teen girl watching her parents on their way to having sex on the sofa and that is, on both counts, some deeply disturbing shit, to say the least. and the scenes are described in detail too and I just...did we really need this kind of disgusting voyeurism ?

The amount of times Lombardo uses the phrase "sitting Indian-style." JUST FUCKING SAY SITTING CROSS-LEGGED AND MOVE ON. why use dumb and offensive antiquated language when you can just use the perfectly serviceable alternative of "sitting cross-legged" ???

Lombardo doesn't seem to have considered what she decided to include in this book because so much of it is questionable at best and extremely problematic at worst. Here are some particularly egregious examples:

"His name...[is] Jonah Bendt, unfortunately; like, cool, why not just cement the kid's fate as a pipefitter?"

isnt it funny to shit on people's jobs lol how hilarious
"Lathrop House had gotten cable specifically so this one fucked-up kid with Asperger's could watch it."

why include the "fucked-up" ???? why not just say "a kid with Asperger's" ??? i swear im getting riled up writing this because this book is so unnecessarily shitty so many times
"We're in a weirdly speedy schedule tonight. Mom's in schizoid mode."

this one's especially hilarious because this book tries⁠—and miserably fails⁠—to sympathetically portray mental illness and then turns around and has a character basically shit on any kind of positive mental illness representation by saying a dumbass thing like "mom's in schizoid mode."

while we're on the subject of this book's shitty mental illness rep, i wanna talk about how the book portrays one of the characters—Ryan, Liza's husband—who has depression. i don't have depression so definitely take my opinion with a grain of salt, but the rep was, in my view, Not Good. in fact, it was Bad, Really Goddamn Bad. the moment Lombardo introduced him i knew it wasn't going to go down well. because all he is in this book is a huge burden to his wife. that's literally it. he's a pathetic "man-child"⁠—and I'm quoting straight from the book here⁠—who sits at home all day and plays video games and thwarts his poor wife's every attempt to get him to do something productive. i don't even know where to start unpacking the shitstorm that is his portrayal. first of all, HE IS DEPRESSED. i think that would qualify as a HUGE extenuating circumstance. it's not like he's some lazy slob who's sitting at home all day for no reason. but more than that, the way he's represented makes it seem as though it's his fault he's depressed. like if he'd just get up and make an effort, everything would be okay. like oh his poor wife is working sooOoO much and trying soOoO hard to be good for him and he's refusing to cooperate or do anything for her sake !!! isnt he such a huge burden !! if only he would just, like, do better !! not only is all this bullshit, but it's extremely reductive. mental illness is complicated—giving me a depressed character and telling me he's a "man-child" because he's depressed is not gonna cut it. not even fucking close.

second of all, NO ONE DOES LITERALLY ANYTHING TO HELP HIM. it's quickly mentioned at one point in the novel that's he on Prozac, but that's about it. no one suggests therapy, or better medication, or new medication, or literally any help of any kind. does his wife think his depression will just disappear ?? that if he works hard enough he'll beat it or something ?? oh yeah, and his wife has a degree in PSYCHOLOGY—the irony could not be more painful. i s2g im so done with this book and its bullshit i need to move on from this point or else im just gonna keep rage-typing

~~ok back to your regularly scheduled programming of examples of shitty and offensive writing!~~
"Who's that horrible Judd Nelson boy who was sitting in the back row? He looks like a school shooter."

completely unwarranted and such a shitty thing to say, but at this point ive stopped expecting decency from this book's writing
"Jesus, Viol, he's not r*tarded."
"Her r*tarded eraser collection means a lot to her."

ah yes, here we are at the crème de la crème of the shitty things included in this book. it's 2019. there is ZERO reason why anyone should feel compelled to use such an offensive and problematic term, much less use it TWO TIMES, in anything they write. did no one read this book over???? did no one think to, i dont know, NOT INCLUDE THE R-WORD IN IT ???

Aside from the mess that I just outlined, I also didn't like any of the characters. Most of them were annoying more than anything else, but ooooooooh boy one of them, Wendy, might be the shittiest character I've read so far this year. I hated her with a burning passion. she was an absolute dick 99.9999% of the time and no amount of tragic backstory can convince me that she wasn't.

PS: oh and also the writing was incredibly pretentious most of the time and the dialogue was so fragmented bc characters interrupted themselves like 2937213 times before actually saying something that made any amount of sense

Anyway, a family saga is only as good as its family, and when you don't give an iota of a shit about the family that said family saga hinges on, then that's not an especially good sign....

ok im gonna go do some deep breathing exercises or something rn because writing this review has riled me up, if you couldnt tell lol
Profile Image for BernLuvsBooks .
773 reviews4,642 followers
August 2, 2019
So this one was (maybe) a 3.5 ⭐️ read for me. It took me almost 2 weeks to finish this 500+ page family saga. If I'm to be honest I found myself bored at times and absolutely enthralled at others. There were times when I put the book down and read another book in its entirety before picking this one back up. Yet, I felt compelled to see it through and finish. I could see glimpses of myself in Marilyn and that was one of the main reasons why I continued turning the pages.

The Sorenson family was messy, full of both heartache and triumph and quite relatable in their interactions. If family drama is your thing - this one will pull you right in.
Profile Image for Angela M .
1,286 reviews2,205 followers
September 21, 2019
3.75 stars rounded up.
I’ll get it out upfront. At over 500 pages, this novel is just way too long. Granted, it’s a family saga covering decades with multiple narratives of a husband and wife, their four grown daughters and a fifteen year old grandson who comes into the mix. It felt like a made for TV series. I was reminded so much of dysfunctional TV families like the one in “Brothers and Sisters”, where the characters are always in each other’s faces, in each other’s business all of the time or maybe it’s more like “This is Us” because there is so much moving back and forth among characters, moving back and forth to various times in the past to the present. Even though it was too long, felt tedious at times, I kept reading because I was so engaged with these flawed characters and to stretch the TV analogy one step further, it was like binge watching a show.

David and Marilyn Sorenson are very much in love, but their marriage is not a perfect one. They have raised four daughters, now adults and none of them are having a happy life. Through their alternating narratives we get a good picture of who these characters are and what the family dynamics are. It’s introspective in a lot of ways and we learn their intimate thoughts on their lives as well as what they think of each other. A lot of ground is covered as the past is divulged - alcoholism, grief, depression, infidelity, jealousy, resentment and secrets that come to light.

Reading this was not the most fun I ever had, but I definitely enjoyed it. One hell of a dysfunctional family and I had a love-hate relationship with all of the characters except 15 year old Jonah whose appearance into their lives was what this family needed and they were what he needed. A notable debut which could have been better if it wasn’t so long, but I’ll still give it 4 stars. Recommended for those who enjoy family sagas. I’m late in reading and reviewing this but glad I finally got to it.

I received an advanced copy of this book from Doubleday through Edelweiss.
Profile Image for Nilufer Ozmekik.
2,203 reviews40.8k followers
January 9, 2021
Another dysfunctional family book , 500 pages long, 4 daughters who are mostly annoying and unbearable, bring it on, this is one of the most challenging experience for me! ( Reading Goldfinch was not challenge, it was long and all those amazing sentences needed to absorb slowly like sipping a cold, splendid, special drink which burns down your throat and awakens all your senses! Reading this book was challenge like reading Black Leopard and Red Wolf! But at least I mostly enjoyed this one!)

It’s a wordy book, you’re getting lost in them and start praying the author pick a better editor for her next work because at least 100 pages should be omitted which helps the readers to have a neat, straight, truly emotional, sarcastic and some kind of humorous family story.
This book was my accessory for three months. I carried it to my business meeting, friends gatherings, brunch hangouts, dentist and hairdresser appointments. And of course this book is so heavy and taking too much place in my bag resembles a valise. (People who saw my bag thought I was leaving the town!) Because I wanted to finish it. But at least ten times I started and gave up. But one night, my own dysfunctional family memories came to my mind ( and of course my hate-love-hate more- okay still love you relationship with my old –yes I’m insulting her, but don’t worry she’s also calling me retarded- sister!)so I said, let’s give a try!
And a big miracle happened! I forget my sister exist, nope! Kidding, that’s Taylor Swift song name! Miracle happened and the book is finished! And I’m confessing I liked so many parts. I liked the author’s too wordy but wholehearted and genuine way of story-telling and I also got used to the quirkiness and annoying natures of the characters so yes, I was so focused to give three stars but now I’m surprising myself and I’m rounding up my 3.5 stars to 4!

But I’m begging to the writer to create a shorter book with less POVS and back stories and less words, faster pacing!!!
So this is promising, hearth=wrenching, good start. The story consists of too many heavy dramatic stuff like alcoholism, grief, mental illness, betrayal, past resentments. So it is not hearts and flowers book and it is really a long journey but you gotta give a chance and continue your read. But if you’re already depressed for those kind of relationship dynamics and needing a soft, swoony, heartwarming read, this is definitely not cup of your tea!!!

Profile Image for Tammy.
512 reviews431 followers
May 22, 2019
The author of this novel is an old soul. Lombardo deeply understands marriage, sisterhood and plain old ordinary family dysfunction which is present on every character driven page. From the outside, the parents’ marriage seems flawless. Naturally, from the inside it is not without its peaks and valleys. However, it is based upon a deep and abiding love that seems to be unattainable to their four daughters within their own lives. Each of the sisters has their own crosses to bear. For Wendy it is a combination of fate and disposition. Violet has sisterly assistance in bringing about additional anxiety and messiness in her life. Liza is neurotic and indecisive while the youngest, Grace, is simply lost and living a lie of her own making. Other than an event which I found hard to fathom, this is a realistic and intimate look at an affluent Chicago family as they love, laugh, annoy, clash, and support each other over the course of forty-odd years.
Profile Image for Michelle.
604 reviews458 followers
July 9, 2019
An easy 5 stars for me. This is about as good as character driven family sagas get!

I hope you have the ability to clear your schedule. The Sorenson's will instantly grab you and won't let go until the very last page. I love character driven family saga/dramas and this one has plenty of everything. A peek into a seemingly perfect marriage between the parents and the rollercoaster ride that is the lives of their FOUR daughters.

I think what I found so refreshing and relatable about this was how honest the depiction of their lives was. It showed the good, the ugly, and the complexity of family relationships. Siblings don't always get along and children don't always get along with their parents. However, that doesn't mean that there isn't a loyalty and love there than lasts through everything.

This won't be a five star read for everyone because it does start to feel a little long (although I can't really say what I would cut out so it was fine with me) and I've seen some reviews that gave up on the audio version. I can see where this could be tedious at times to listen to (plus, keep track of all the characters), but I think for a DEBUT, this was absolutely fantastic and I will be sure to continually recommend it!

Review Date: 7/8/19
Publication Date: 6/25/19
Profile Image for jessica.
2,535 reviews32.6k followers
April 26, 2020
this imperfect story realistically captures the essence of the imperfect complexities of marriage, parenthood, sisterly bonds, and familial ties.

and reading this long family saga felt very much like a family - quite entertaining at times but has its boring moments, you want to be near it and then desire some distance as soon as possible, and sometimes it frustrates you to no end but you still love it anyway.

i dont tend to read many of these kinds of stories as im a reader who is motivated by plot and family sagas are known for their lack of plot to prioritise and focus on the characters. but i can say, out of the few i have read, this is definitely one of the best.

i think it helps when you become super attached to a character and i had three - marilyn, david, and jonah were my favourites. they stole every scene they were in, especially the flashback chapters for marilyn and david. their marriage is remarkably heart-warming and i love how the title is a reference to them.

im really surprised by how much i enjoyed this (and super impressed this is a debut!) and i cant wait to see what the author comes up with next.

4 stars
Profile Image for Chris.
Author 35 books11.3k followers
September 2, 2019
My Lord, did I love this novel. Imagine a perfectly crafted mash-up of LITTLE WOMEN and THE CORRECTIONS. Hilarious one moment, haunting the next, and always -- always -- so authentic and deeply felt. Claire Lombardo has given us all a spectacular gift: the Sorenson family.
Profile Image for Hannah Greendale.
703 reviews3,281 followers
March 13, 2020
Second read from the 2020 Women's Prize for Fiction longlist.

The most engaging aspect of this multi-generational drama is the authenticity of its characters. Complex and imperfect, simmering with jealousy, impulsive and turbulent. Some actively engage in avoidance while others rush headlong into conflict, offering readers more than one shocking moment of thinking, Did she really just say that??

Character dialogue is genuine, demonstrating incomplete thoughts and natural breaks in speech. And there's a subtle brilliance to Lombardo's ability to weave the characters' personalities into the narrative, despite it being written in the third-person perspective.

Verdict: The Most Fun We Ever Had is a despairing account of a family burdened with tension and toxicity as it struggles to keep secrets hidden and navigate uncharted pathways to love.
Wasn't that every sister's dream from the beginnings of consciousness, to have your siblings under a spell?

But this was the thing: sometimes being a sister meant knowing the right thing to do and still not doing it because winning was more important. Victory was a critical part of sisterhood, she'd always thought. And she was not winning today, by any conceivable stretch, so why the fuck not seize an easy conquest when you could?
Profile Image for Victoria.
412 reviews319 followers
March 17, 2020
If this book were a meal it would be a 10-course dinner with quite a few savory morsels, but settle in because you’ll be cutting through a bit of fat and gristle and there’s going to be a lot chewing.

There is a good story here, but it is buried under an avalanche of run-on sentences and a surfeit of words. One sentence clocked in at 157 words and at more than 500 pages, reading often became arduous. And then there were the tortured sentences:

The vulpine abilities of his body, incongruous with the benign aesthetic magnetism of his persona.

This is the kind of stylized writing that I often find with debut authors from vaunted MFA programs and I want to say stop it, you don’t need to use all of your words or tricks in one book. Just tell me a story and tell it to me well.

That’s the bad news.

The good news about this exhaustive feast is that if you’re into family dramas and don’t mind them being on the side of overwritten, then this one delivers in numerous ways, both painful and heartwarming. The characters are well-drawn and the daughters are all irritating in different ways. I know that doesn’t sound like a selling point, but I do appreciate an author’s ability to make me feel, even if that feeling is one of exasperation.

Now pass the Tums.
Profile Image for Paromjit.
2,605 reviews24.8k followers
June 20, 2020
Claire Lombardo's debut is a fascinating epic character driven, multi-generational Chicago family drama with all its complexities through the decades from the 1970s. Marilyn Connelly and David Sorenson's love for each other has more than survived the decades, they have 4 now adult daughters, Wendy, Violet, Liza and Grace who have felt pressured to emulate the loving example of their parents. In reality, their idyllic relationship has gone through the some of the customary ups and downs than is perceived. In a narrative that shifts between past and present, there are complicated, flawed and tangled relationships, resentments, jealousies, births, marriages, deaths, turbulence, messiness, infidelities, mental health issues, secrets, lies, love, loss, surprises and life's challenges that their wealth cannot insulate them from. Into this family arrives Jonah, the son Violet had given birth to and then had adopted, whose presence is much needed by the family as can be seen in the impact he has. This is a emotionally engaging read, if overlong, well written, with great character development, and which resonates in its detailed and often realistic depiction of family life and dynamics. Many thanks to Orion.
Profile Image for Elyse Walters.
4,010 reviews18 followers
October 8, 2019 by Emily Rankin...
Synced with reading the ebook.

....Family saga

....The messy, funny, sincere & pathetic, flawed & textured characters....were not particularly sympathetic characters, yet they are somewhat realistic.

....Impressive ambitious debut...but at times I thought the dialogue was exhausting and tedious. Other times I thought it was brilliantly fascinating.

....a little too wordy
and definitely too long...
....the writing was witty, interesting & engaging —giving a decent perspective on family dynamics...
I don’t feel this boisterous family will have lasting power with me over time.

....I understand mixed reviews.
A reader could be over-it- already!
I had mixed thoughts myself...
....I mostly enjoyed this contemporary modern family saga.

I just couldn’t decide if I thought human frailty was comic or unbearably painful.

About 3.7 stars

Profile Image for Nicole.
732 reviews1,837 followers
October 3, 2021
2.5 stars

In a nutshell: this book was like a bad soap opera I couldn’t stop reading. The characters were annoying (especially Wendy), the book had too many pages, and the story was just not that interesting. Further, there wasn't much going on throughout the book. Also, not worth the high ratings.

I listened to the audio on a staycation so I'll remember it for a while as the book that kept me company, especially since the audio wouldn't end. I had no idea why Lombardo decided this family saga needs to be 500+ pages. There was a lot of repetition and I honestly wanted to skip some pages when the characters really got on my nerves. I read Everything I Never Told You this year and I really liked it although the characters were heavily flawed. But this book? The characters were flawed sure but also horrible. Not all of them but Wendy, Violet, and Lisa in particular. I couldn't relate, emphasize, nor care about them.

I also didn't like the timeline jumps. We had lots of flashbacks and secrets that didn't get revealed till later on in the plot but the flashbacks were just too many to my liking.

✘ David and Marilyn love each other madly. We get it. Trust me. WE GET IT. My head hurts from hearing about all that love repeatedly.

✘ The usage of the word "retard" was questionable and I don't know how it was made through the rounds of editing.

✘ Why do we have someone watching a couple have sex/make out so often? Why do we need to know about it?? So disturbing..

✘ If this book meant to convey that the characters have mental health problems and how it affected their lives, the fact that Ryan openly had depression and no one helped at all.. instead his partner cheated on him and called him man-child knowing she could've afforded to help him see a therapist..

✘The fact that barely anything happens and the children are so mean to each other and their mother.. (with the exception of Grace, she was okay).

I can't say enough how much I couldn't stand Wendy especially followed by Violet. They're so vain. There was nothing redeemable about them. I don't have to like the characters to appreciate family dramas but I need to like something about this book. For me, they were a bunch of pretentious rich people with little love for each other (again the kids). Their problems and lives were full of needless drama and issues. Their personalities are shitty. Their parents were good with them but I guess, too good. I just don't like spoiled characters.

Briefly, I didn't enjoy this book nor do I recommend it. It kept me interested enough to finish it but the ending wasn't worth it. There are much better family sagas out there with better stories and fewer pages. I love listening to family dramas but this one had too much needless drama to my taste.

As for the audiobook, the narration was decent or I would've dropped the audio even if I had nothing else to listen to. We had one narrator but once I got used to the story, the flashbacks stopped confusing me. It certainly made the book more bearable because I wouldn't have lasted till the 50% mark if I was reading the book.

Profile Image for John.
848 reviews
September 30, 2019
There’s an exchange near the end when Grace tells Ben she’s returning home, and he recollects for her her own descriptions of her family members. Those three paragraphs are all you need to read. The other 531 and a half pages are variations on Ginkgo tree worship, parents constantly reminiscing on their sex life, affluent yet thirsty sisters being snarky (and worse) to each other and their mom (because they would never talk to dad that way), and some kid reminding his recently discovered biological mother it’s jujutsu not jujitsu... people problems... amirite?!?

So much of the conflict in this one made so little sense and made even less of a difference. For instance, how did Violet usurp Wendy’s status as an only child? They are “Irish twins” (i.e. born within a year of each other). What baby has that level of self-awareness at 8-11 months? It turns out Jonah is a good kid who fits right in and doesn’t even consider murdering the siblings that his mother decided to keep! Grace’s law school lie has zero impact; talk about a nothing burger. As for Liza, really, who cares!

And honestly, if you, as a man, dismiss your contemporary, your partner, your equal by constantly calling her “kid,” it’s no wonder your daughters will hold themselves, their sisters, and their mother with such contempt. I think I hated that bit most of all.... and to throw salt on the wound, Mommy realizes in the end that each of her daughters are a reflection of a singular, shallow trait of her husband. How precious that the four of them are the equal of one man and his animal magnetism. Yeesh!

This was a mess with low to middling level Bravo TV Housewives’ drama and absolutely no stakes. Mostly, I’m angry at myself that I kept reading!
Profile Image for switterbug (Betsey).
830 reviews767 followers
April 27, 2019
Lombardo’s character-driven, eventful, tumultuous, witty, serious, gregarious, tragic, and infectious domestic dramady of a big Chicago family kept me fastened to the pages of this big, buoyant book. Yes, it is a tome, but once you are installed in the story, it pulls you naturally along. I cared and cringed and chuckled and cried with each of the four sisters and their parents (and then there’s the third gen of kids). Each character was individualized and any one of them could have leaped off the pages. How they lived and loved became all-important to me as I folded myself into their days and years. They crept into my heart; it was like being a member of their family.

Marilyn Connelly and David Sorensen met in the mid-70s during their undergrad days in Chicago and knew instinctively that they were meant to be husband and wife. David became a family physician, and Marilyn left university when she got pregnant. The novel covers 40 years of their lives, as their family grew large with four daughters--Wendy, Violet, Liza, and the baby, Grace--fifteen years younger than Wendy. Violet and Wendy are a year apart--Irish twins, the sisters who were the closest and developed a love-hate relationship. Liza was considered the middle child, and Grace was born (on purpose, but everyone thought she was their Catholic accident) in 1993. The current year is 2016, but the novel moves back and forth in time, mounting little mysteries and hints and integrating interlocking narratives. Everyone has a storyline, independently and collectively. And that includes the loose cannon, Jonah, given up for adoption by Violet as an infant and, at age 15, has resurfaced, to Violet’s dismay.

Wendy, the guarded, troubled, and most irreverent, sustains the lion’s share of tragedies. She keeps the wine close at hand and others at arm’s length, and is most combative with Violet. Violet has control issues, and has difficulty taking risks; she resists interference in her perfectly chiseled life with her husband and two young sons. Liza, now pregnant and a successful professor, has a severely depressed boyfriend who alternately sobs and sleeps. Gracie, after graduating from Reed, in Portland, subsists in a boring job and tells an ever-ripening fiction to her family. She’s confined her options and widened her lies.

“Nobody was who they appeared to be; everyone was struggling; money didn’t make a difference…” And, as Gracie believes, “No one…would ever regard her with the same enthusiastic awe as her mother; the same feverish pride as her father.” As the story evolves, it is clear that the author created a prism for everyone’s fractured perceptions, revolving memories, missed opportunities, and mixed blessings. The shifting impressions and vacillating notions circle around and veer in sloping lines, caterwauling, twisting, tipping and turning.

Colleagues, outsiders, and even their children assume that David and Marilyn’s love together is effortless perfection. Nobody would truly comprehend their nuanced history and complexity, the intimacy of joining together before they could ever be alone. But they agree--it's the most fun they ever had. And each child has a shared and personal history that we glimpse through a window or gaze through a curtain. Resounding, the spirit of the narrative stirs with fractious dialogue and unfiltered warmth. It was difficult to leave this family at the close of the story.
Profile Image for Jaye.
33 reviews
July 6, 2019
A character driven book needs characters that I actually like. In addition to more likable characters this could have used a good edit. There is no reason that it took that much to tell the story of this upper-middle class suburban family.
Profile Image for Tucker  (TuckerTheReader).
908 reviews1,597 followers
May 23, 2020

Many thanks to Doubleday for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review

Just a couple of young women looking into their future, back in that nice soft space where they fit seamlessly together, before the world had grown so much larger than their grasp.

For a book over five hundred pages long, this severely disappointed me. Books that are this length are either a Stephen King novel or a book with a really good story. Usually, a book this long means the author was made to choose between splitting their book into two parts of removing some chunks to make it fit into one. It's strange that this book feels both too long and too short. What I mean is, this thing is f**king huge. It's the thickest ARC I have. Yet, when I came to the end, I didn't feel like I left with as much as I should have.

Don't get me wrong. It was enjoyable to get a decent family drama. I loved slowly getting to know another fictional family and following each of them through their messy journey of life was fun although stressful at times. I just repeatedly found myself wanting the book to be over. Partly because I felt like it was just drama after drama but also because I feel like the overall plot could have been expressed at maybe 350 pages of less.

Another thing that hindered my enjoyment was how forgettable everything was. I think it's because I've been reading way too many family drama novels but I kept getting all the characters mixed up. I couldn't keep track of anyone because of all the POV switches. Even while writing this review, all the plot and data from the book is already culling inside my mind.

That said, this was a very well written debut which obviously had a lot of work out into it. For those who are willing to stick it out of having a long car trip coming up, I recommend this book. Yes, it's lengthy but it's enjoyable and will definitely captivate other readers.

Bottom Line:
3 Stars
Age Rating: [ PG-13 ]
Genre: Drama/Historical Fiction
TW: Rape, Alcoholism, Depression
Reps: [ None Found ]
Publication Date: June 25th, 2019
Publisher: Doubleday Books

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Profile Image for Kelly (and the Book Boar).
2,448 reviews7,552 followers
April 15, 2020
Find all of my reviews at:

Or Easter, as the case was here.

In all honesty, I picked this one up because I kept getting it confused with A Good Neighborhood due to the cover similarities. I didn’t read a synopsis for either, just noted that my friends gave both pretty high ratings and added them to the TBR in hopes that I would eventually be able to tell them apart.

I started The Most Fun We Ever Had on Good Friday knowing that I would probably have loads of free time for reading because despite the “office” (a/k/a my reading chair) being open, most of the courts, the stock market, etc. were closed so there probably would not be high demands for work that needed to be done.

This is the story of the Sorenson family. David and Marilyn, their four daughters Wendy, Violet, Liza and Grace, the daughter’s husbands and boyfriends, their grandchildren – the whole gang. The kick-off to the book is a “re-storking” of sorts when Jonah, a family secret given up for adoption 15 years prior, makes a sudden reappearance in the family. The ever popular timehop device is then utilized to complete the narrative, taking us back to the 1970s when David and Marilyn first met and continuing via the back-and-forth past-to-present until the story is complete.

First things first, this one isn’t going to be for everyone, so please take my rating with a grain of salt. If you are looking for a book with a lot of twists and turns and edge of your seat excitement, this is not for you. It also has a lot of pages, so there’s a solid chance if you don’t find yourself connected to these people it will be quite a slog to get through. I was completely invested in the Sorensons, however, so I loved every second I got to be a part of their lives. Maybe it was because I come from a similar large Catholic family. Maybe it was because I love ensemble casts. Maybe it was because these characters seemed so authentic and I loved them one second and wanted to tear their hair out the next. A biiiiiiiiig maybe (a/k/a definitely a reason) was that it was full of humor rather than tragedy. Whatever the case, this was exactly what I needed on a weekend that would have surely brought out some family drama (either in my own or that I ended up hearing about someone else’s) if history hadn’t been rewritten due to the ‘Ronee.
Profile Image for Jill.
1,169 reviews1,643 followers
April 11, 2019
Diving into a 550-page novel – as opposed to, say, a 300-page novel – is the difference between a dalliance and a full-blown commitment. You have to really like these characters to spend time in their lives and inside their heads for days at a time. It may not be the most fun you’ve ever had, but it has to be darn close.

So let’s start here: I liked the Sorenson family. I liked its messiness, quirkiness, heartaches and triumphs. And I didn’t regret one single hour that I was immersed in their world.

Marilyn and David are the fortunate couple who quickly intuit that they’re right for each other and present a portraiture of stability and passion throughout the years. Their four daughters must continually strive to replicate that kind of love in their own lives and each of them has her own challenges to overcome. The oldest, Wendy, leaps out from the pages with her oversized personality and wry comments. Her “Irish twin” Violet is far more traditional and yoked to pursuing perfection in all she does. Then there’s Liza, a psychologist married to a depressed and tattoo sleeved software developer, and the youngest, Grace, who finds herself being left out of the sisterhood due to her “last child” standing.

The relationship among the four sisters pulses with authenticity. Claire Lombardo writes, “The only portrait you could ever get really of one sister from another, tinged inevitably with jealousy and double standards and affection as deep and intractable as marrow.” When Jonah, the love child of one of the sisters is suddenly thrust into their lives, some of the fault lines are widened. All the tumultuous elements that come part and parcel of being a family are here – the secrets, the illnesses, the childrearing, the unexpected happenings that knock down carefully planned lives.

I did have a few quibbles. The characters sometimes talk in staccato to a fault. (Example: “Hey honey, is Ryan_Has he…” or But they really—You’d be surprised how they grow on you.”) It’s authentic, yes, but also overdone. There were some parts that were a stretch (why would daughter Liza choose a chronically depressed partner who gave her little emotionally?) But these are, indeed, quibbles. Claire Lombardo has the writing chops and her book is page-turning. 4.5 stars.

Profile Image for Brandice.
860 reviews
October 27, 2021
The Most Fun We Ever Had is a top notch family drama, the kind of story I love and am frequently drawn to — I couldn’t get enough of the Sorenson family, with parents Marilyn and David who at present time in the story, have been married nearly 40 years. They have 4 adult daughters — Wendy, Violet, Liza, and Grace, each dealing with their own challenges in life. All of their lives are jolted when someone from the past re-enters, unexpectedly, whose existence was a long-held secret.

The story shifts between each season in the present year with flashbacks to earlier times, when David and Marilyn were a new, young couple, or the girls were growing up. I thoroughly enjoyed The Most Fun We Ever Had and learning about the family’s complicated dynamics. Despite their challenges and frustrations with one another, it was clear there was no shortage of love with this crew.
Profile Image for Anne Bogel.
Author 7 books54.9k followers
December 7, 2019
I love a good family saga, so I've been meaning to read this since the spring. To be honest, I was intimidated by the length, but when a friend assured me it doesn't drag and that Lombardo's authorial voice is gold, I picked it right up and read it in three days (and it's a 500-pager, so that's saying something!)

This is the story of a married couple and their four grown daughters. In the opening pages, one daughter reveals a huge family secret, and the novel tracks what happens in the next year of every family member's life.

Listen to me recommend this book in Episode 206 of What Should I Read Next, called "How to bypass the book hangover."
Profile Image for Elysse.
191 reviews31 followers
August 12, 2020
This is one of the best reads of 2019, bar none. I am calling it... this book will win all of the awards. Claire Lombardo is the next Kingsolver. Here it is in writing, in January of 2019, and I can't wait to look back on this and know how right I was. 

Lombardo's debut novel is truly a work of art. It follows the Sorenson family, consisting of Marilyn and David (the parents), and their four daughters, Wendy, Violet, Liza, and Grace. Each character has their own personality, truly distinct and yet somehow envelopes that of all families. It felt in a way as if my own family were being described, in how different we all are but yet how we come together and find ourselves bound together by blood. 
The story is told in flashbacks, as well as present day, chapters alternating. We witness the story unraveling, how the characters got to the point that they are now, almost as if a coming-of-age story for every single character individually and as a family unit. Marilyn and David have an unparalleled love story that engulfed me, and gave me hope that my fiance and I have found what those two have. And, it reminded me of my own parents, married now for 35 years and still as in love as they were the day that they met.

Despite the privilege in which these characters are bread into, they have their own struggles. No one is immune from mental illness, no one is immune from ill-fated hardships, and it felt as though reading this book was seeing a very realistic and relatable family through a very raw, magnifying lens.

I cannot tell you how much I enjoyed this book. I am heartbroken that I have finished it, and wish I could read it again with the same lack of awareness as the first time. I think a LOT of readers will resonate with one or more characters in the novel, and the thematic elements that emerge through Lombardo's writing. Lovers of Kingsolver's Unsheltered will love this piece of writing. I know I did!
Profile Image for Jamie Rosenblit.
904 reviews511 followers
July 8, 2019
You know that feeling you get when you start a book and immediately know it’s going to be special? That was the feeling I had with The Most Fun We Ever Had and it was spot on. Books that follow a group of characters over decades have always been the kind that speak to me in a special way, namely, The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer - a gold standard that I’ve held many other books to over the years. From the beginning, I realized that Most Fun would be a new standard for me, Lombardo has a way with words and creating characters that just leapt off the page.

Told in alternating chapters between present day and past, beginning with the marriage of David and Marilyn Sorenson and taking us well into adulthood with their four daughters, (yes that’s five women for David to contend with!) Most Fun tells the story of a family so familiar yet so dysfunctional at the same time, which let’s face it, isn’t that really how most families are? Told in shifting perspectives from each of the characters, including daughters Wendy, Violet, Liza & Grace, we got to know each family member well and truly understood the motives behind their actions. And since they are not my children, I’m free to say that Wendy was my absolute favorite!

Topping in at over 500 pages, Most Fun is absolutely un-put-down-able. Don’t be intimidated by length, but rather, relish the opportunity to spend time with the Sorenson family. I know I’ll personally be eagerly awaiting what Claire Lombardo writes next!

Thank you to Doubleday Books for an advanced copy. All opinions are my own.
Profile Image for Lisa.
1,469 reviews564 followers
March 8, 2020
The Most Fun We Ever Had probably would have been more fun with less than 532 pages. But I don't think it would have been as good. This novel follows one complicated, flawed family over more than 40 years. Cutting "unnecessary pages" might accidentally remove the heart of this book which is an overflowing web of hundreds of possibly insignificant moments building into a powerful whole. By the end, I felt like I knew each family member enough to care deeply about them. And I would have been happy with more.
Profile Image for Kat.
Author 8 books353 followers
September 5, 2022
This was quite a delightful debut. It’s one of those lovely meandering, literary tales that weaves the story of a family over a long period of time. Many, many character povs and lots of timeline jumps. David and Marilyn have four daughters and all of them are in awe of their parents adoring marriage after all this time, especially when all the daughters have their own serious life crises that they’re dealing with (and the drama in this one—which sort of reminded me of that old tv show Parenthood was seriously fun to unpack.) Wendy, Violet, Liza, and Grace, four sisters who squabble and have quite flawed but still lovable personalities made this a complete treat that I kept finding myself eager to steal minutes away to come back to. This was a delightful debut and I can’t wait to see what the author writes next.

Profile Image for Barbara.
1,341 reviews702 followers
July 11, 2019
I love domestic fiction, especially ones that examine marriages, sibling rivalries, and socioeconomically differences. “The Most Fun We Ever Had” is a saga of Marilyn and David Sorenson’s forty-year marriage, messiness and all. This isn’t a fast read. It’s one to be savored. Author Claire Lombardo writes every sentence with precision. All the characters, with vastly differing perspectives, are written with clarity. Lombardo shows how menial things can be misinterpreted resulting in decades of bad blood.

The story begins in April of 2000, sixteen years prior to the culminating year when the Sorenson family finds sturdy footing. The story is told in flash backs from the time that Marilyn and David fall in love in the 1970’s through the forty years of their marriage.

What I loved about this story is that Marilyn and David fall madly, deeply in love at first sight. They marry young and unexpectedly begin a family. Marilyn had academic dreams that she put on hold once she got pregnant. And then she got pregnant again, having two daughters in one year. From the outside, it appears that their marriage has been one of total love and devotion, with nary a problem. The reader, however, gets a birds eye view of the struggles and sacrifices that each makes during their marriage. One thing remains strong: their total devotion to their children. Yet, their four girls only see their parent’s love for each other. Marilyn and David make it look so easy, and go out of their way to make the girls life as stress free as possible that the girls don’t see the inner struggles. In fact, at one point the girls complain to their mother that it is too difficult to maintain their parent’s standard of marriage. The girls believe they’ve been compromised by their parent’s flawless marriage.

Adding spice to the story is the sibling rivalry. Each girl thinks the other has it easier. Although they fiercely love each other, the anger and perceived differences and inequities of life cause decades of angst. Each daughter has her own strengths and flaws. Lombardo writes so well that it is easy to understand and feel compassion for each daughter while at the same time wanting to smack them on the head.

What’s steady throughout the novel is Marilyn and David’s kindness to their children. No matter how tired or overwhelmed, they step up. Yet with this benevolent upbringing, each girl has her own struggles. Lombardo shows the human condition: no matter how good or bad life is, we all struggle.

This is my favorite literary fiction of 2019. I absolutely adore this novel, which is amazing since I’m not generally a fan of novels over 400 pages long.
Profile Image for Moonkiszt.
2,052 reviews212 followers
October 17, 2019
Yikes. Am 3% in and am uber irritated. Moving on.
Profile Image for Dovilė Filmanavičiūtė.
82 reviews2,193 followers
December 14, 2021
650 puslapių ir baigta dar viena mano METŲ knyga.
Ši saga yra atsakymas tiems, kurie manęs vis klustelėdavo “o ką skaityti po “Mažo gyvenimo”. Tai štai - imkit ir skaitykit. Ir raminkitės, nes “Mūsų smagiausiose dienose” nekraupins nei prievarta, nei pedofilija, nei savinaika. Meluoju, savinaikos bus.
Tačiau duodu ranką nukirst, tokios savinaikos mes kiekvienas esam pajutę, patyrę, gal net gi iki šiol negebam jos išgyvendinti iš savo kasdienybės.
Šios knygos stingdantis grožis turbūt tame ir skleidžiasi - veriančiame bendražmogiškume, identiškose tapatybėse, tuo kas akimirką po oda suvirpančiame suvokime, kad kažkur jau tai matei ir girdėjai.
Aš pati nepasakyčiau, kad šitokius kiekius šeimos traumų per gyvenimą neščiausi, bet skaitant nuolat atrodė, kad Lombardo knygą parašė žiūrėdama pro rakto skylutę į milijardo žmonių miegamuosius, virtuves, gimdyklas, laidojimo rūmus, sodus, vaikų kambarius ir į visų tų žmonių sielas ir protus taip pat.
Iš pirmo žvilgsnio tobula pora ir jų ketvertas besąlygiškai mylimų dukrų. Jų dienos, metai ir tamsiausi širdžių užkaboriai. Bet ir šviesiausi taip pat.
Pirmagimė Vendė, gedinti kūdikio, o paskui vyro, gerianti ir mieganti su atsitiktiniais vyrais, niekaip neišsikapanojanti iš pirmagimės sindromo ir įsivaizduojanti, kad mama jos nemyli. Nepriekaištingoji Violeta, pasirodo, slapta pagimdžiusi netyčiuką ir palikusi jį įvaikinimui, kai tuo tarpu šiandien jau su svajonių vyru augina du sūnus. Su gal visai nemylimu ir sunkiai depresija sergančiu vyru gyvenanti Liza, akivaizdžiai turinti koopriklausomybę. Ir pagrandukė Greisė, jau metus meluojanti visiems, kad studijuoja perspektyviąją teisę ir visiškai pasiekusi savivertės dugną.
Kaip taip gali susišikti, kaip pačios sako, tobulų tėvų dukros? Ir ką apie savo tobulumą mano patys tėvai?
Nuostabus kūrinys. Kad ir kaip banaliai beskambėtų, laiku ir vietoje primenantis, kad net didžiausius susišikimus pasaulyje gali išspręsti vienintelis dalykas.
Bekompromisė MEILĖ.
Labai linkiu šio skaitinio jums dar šiemet 💙
Profile Image for Laurie • The Baking Bookworm.
1,404 reviews369 followers
August 28, 2019
As the eldest of three sisters, this book got my attention. Family drama with a bunch of sisters and ensuing familial issues? Sounds delightful, relatable and kind of cathartic.

But my feelings for this dysfunctional family drama weren't quite so clear. Early on, I was intrigued by the complex dynamics in the Sorenson family and felt that Lombardi understood the messy, loving, frustrating and complicated dynamics between sisters. Oh m'word, so complicated. Within this hefty tome, there's lots of page time to delve into the nitty-gritty of family life and character development but I don't feel these aspects were executed as well as they could have been.

There's a lot of jumping between timelines and POVs which confused things and there were several spots where I felt the plot languished. I kept reading because so many people waxed poetic about this book, but I found the characters dull, emotionally stunted and unlikeable (except Jonah - him I liked). It was frustrating to see these grown daughters maintain toxic issues with each other, not learn from them but continue to whine that their lives were horrible because their parents' relationship was so 'perfect'. Poor, poor rich girls.

This wasn't a bad read, it just wasn't all that great. I ended up skimming quite a bit in the last half to see how things panned out, only to find the ending frustratingly anticlimactic. While I appreciate the topics that Lombardo addresses, this book needed a hefty edit to whittle down the long-winded plot and to tighten up character development.
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