Book review: The Most Fun We Ever Had by Claire Lombardo

Happy September, friends!

I know we are still about two weeks away from the official beginning of autumn, but the magical essence of my most favourite season is in the air–slightly cooler temperatures call for fuzzy socks, oversized cardigans, scented candles, and endless cups of tea, and I couldn’t be more excited to shift into autumn’s cozy embrace. I thought it fitting, therefore, that my first post of September be dedicated to one of my new all-time favourite books, The Most Fun We Ever Had by Claire Lombardo. I read the book back at the beginning of July and posted my initial reflections on Instagram, but over the past two months I’ve had more time to think about how it became an instant favourite and why I think everyone should read it.

On the surface, this is a story about Marilyn Connolly, David Sorenson, and their four daughters Wendy, Violet, Liza, and Grace from the 1970s to the present. But this debut novel by the inimitable Lombardo is anything but surface level. At its core, this is a deeply moving, heart-achingly powerful ode to our families of origin and the ways in which they forever shape—or, at the very least, anchor—the unfolding narratives of our lives. Spanning several decades from the girls’ childhood to adulthood, the story explores the profound ways in which their parents’ seemingly idyllic marriage shaped the dreams and expectations they developed for their own lives and relationships. Touching on such issues as fertility, mental health, addiction, infidelity, death, and loss, Lombardo bares all this family’s secrets as if to remind us that maybe the most “perfect” families are the messiest ones, full of challenges, chaos, and uncertainty despite—and alongside—all the fun there is to be had, to be grateful for, and to cherish.

My favourite part of this story, and perhaps the hidden pulse woven throughout it, is the way in which it reminds me of a contemporary, adult version of Little Women. Lombardo not only succeeds in creating a deep and powerful meditation on the ultimate paradox of what it means to be (part of) a family–its promise of impenetrable, unconditional love that can be at once soul-stirring and suffocating–but her story is also an epic ode to contemporary sisterhood. She captures with utmost intimacy the quiet moments of pause, defeat, reflection, and reverie in each sister’s life, never shying away from the discomfort. Indeed, as you find yourself on this journey with the Sorensons, you may not find yourself relating to the specific moments or experiences from their lives, but you will likely connect with an intangible feeling along the way–the kinds of feelings that often remain unspoken but that Lombardo so brilliantly puts into words. Fair warning: this book probably won’t make you feel good, but I think that is precisely the point. This family and these sisters share what makes them human in order that we may learn to understand and accept the depths of ourselves and others a little better.

Rating: 5/5 ★

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