The Most Fun We Ever Had: A Novel
by Claire Lombardo

Published: 2019-06-25
Hardcover : 544 pages
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"Ambitious and brilliantly written."--Jane Smiley, The Washington Post

"Outstanding...[the] literary love child of Jonathan Franzen and Anne Tyler."--The Guardian

"Everything about this brilliant debut cuts deep: the humor, the wisdom, the pathos. Claire ...
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"Ambitious and brilliantly written."--Jane Smiley, The Washington Post

"Outstanding...[the] literary love child of Jonathan Franzen and Anne Tyler."--The Guardian

"Everything about this brilliant debut cuts deep: the humor, the wisdom, the pathos. Claire Lombardo writes like she's been doing it for a hundred years, and like she's been alive for a thousand."--Rebecca Makkai, author of The Great Believers

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.

Editorial Review

An Amazon Best Book of July 2019: Claire Lombardo’s debut, The Most Fun We Ever Had, is the best kind of family saga—tightly woven with characters who are flawed and human, and who submerge us face-first into the messiness of familial and romantic love. Marilyn and David Sorenson have been inseparable since the 1970s, and even as life has thrown them challenges, their love is the sun around which all else orbits. In 2016, we see their four daughters all suffering from unique dysfunctions—and all fearing that they will never have a relationship as strong as that of their parents, “two people who emanated more love than it seemed like the universe would sanction.” Eldest daughter Wendy has suffered a devastating loss and soothes herself with alcohol and men; Violet is faced with a buried secret—the son she gave away in a closed adoption 16 years ago; Liza, pregnant by a man she’s not in love with, is weighing single parenthood; and Grace—the baby of the family, struggles to launch and is keeping a secret from her family. Told through flashbacks interspersed with the present day, The Most Fun We Ever Had is a beautifully written, intricately detailed look at a Midwestern American family. It’s an up-close examination of life, love, and the inevitable changes wrought by the passage of time that places Lombardo in the company of talented chroniclers of family life such as Celeste Ng and Meg Wolitzer. --Sarah Gelman, Amazon Book Review


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Discussion Questions

1. Gingko leaves and trees show up many times during the course of the novel—during the opening scene and when David and Marilyn first fall in love, just to name a couple. How do gingkoes function as a symbol in the book? What do they represent?

2. Who is your favorite character in the novel? Who are you most similar to?

3. By the end of The Most Fun We Ever Had, we’ve seen decades of David and Marilyn’s marriage unfold through many ups and downs. What do you see as the key to their successful and enduring marriage?

4. Do you think the way Wendy surprised Violet with Jonah was ethical? Do you think Violet’s reaction was warranted?

5. Were you surprised by Violet’s secret that gets revealed toward the end of the novel? How would you react if you were Wendy?

6. Many readers share that reading The Most Fun We Ever Had was an emotional experience. What was the most emotional scene for you to read? Why?

7. The narration switches between the perspective of each family member throughout the course of the book. What did this style add to the novel as a whole? How would the book be different if the author only focused on one character?

8. The book starts and ends with Marilyn’s perspective. Why do you think the author made this choice?

9. In what ways is the Sorenson family like your own family?

10. What did you think about the book’s ending? What do you think will happen to the Sorenson family after the book ends?

11. What other books, movies, and TV shows does this novel remind you of?

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