A multi-generational novel told over decades about a family grounded--and hampered--by the seemingly perfect marriage of the mother and father of four daughters.
This post may include affiliate links. That means if you click and make a purchase, I may earn a small commission.
The Most Fun We Ever Had is a multi-generational novel told over decades (this time, with flashbacks between present and past–another perfect read for people who like This Is Us). It’s another addition to a sea of similarly themed novels that are out in 2019, and I’m pleased to say that it more than holds its own. The Sorenson family is grounded by the seemingly perfect marriage of Marilyn and David. The four daughters in adulthood seem hampered by this perfection, given an example that is impossible to attain and that brings their own failures and struggles into sharp relief.
But a closer look reveals that perfection in any life is a myth, and there is no one way to face adversity. Lombardo has a way of bringing ALL of their flaws to the fore in a way that makes you think you might dislike the characters, but you still end up loving them. They are all gray and complicated and wonderful. One particular character that I might be most inclined to dislike actually became a favorite–it’s a fine line that Lombardo walked with each of them, and she did it skillfully. This is a long book, and it felt long, but in a good way. I felt fully immersed in the Sorenson’s world and was happy to stay there for the duration.
When Marilyn Connolly and David Sorenson fall in love in the 1970s, they are blithely ignorant of all that’s to come. By 2016, their four radically different daughters are each in a state of unrest: Wendy, widowed young, soothes herself with booze and younger men; Violet, a litigator-turned-stay-at-home-mom, battles anxiety and self-doubt when the darkest part of her past resurfaces; Liza, a neurotic and newly tenured professor, finds herself pregnant with a baby she’s not sure she wants by a man she’s not sure she loves; and Grace, the dawdling youngest daughter, begins living a lie that no one in her family even suspects. Above it all, the daughters share the lingering fear that they will never find a love quite like their parents’.
As the novel moves through the tumultuous year following the arrival of Jonah Bendt–given up by one of the daughters in a closed adoption fifteen years before–we are shown the rich and varied tapestry of the Sorensons’ past: years marred by adolescence, infidelity, and resentment, but also the transcendent moments of joy that make everything else worthwhile.
Spanning nearly half a century, and set against the quintessential American backdrop of Chicago and its prospering suburbs, Lombardo’s debut explores the triumphs and burdens of love, the fraught tethers of parenthood and sisterhood, and the baffling mixture of affection, abhorrence, resistance, and submission we feel for those closest to us. In painting this luminous portrait of a family’s becoming, Lombardo joins the ranks of writers such as Celeste Ng, Elizabeth Strout, and Jonathan Franzen as visionary chroniclers of our modern lives.