Originally published July 2019
The Iowa Writers’ Workshop strikes again.
It’s practically a guarantee when I see that an author is a graduate of the Workshop that I am going to enjoy a great read. And Claire Lombardo’s “The Most fun We Ever Had” does not disappoint.
In her debut novel, Lombardo has crafted an exquisitely intricate tale in the Sorenson clan. Marilyn and David sit at the center of this world in suburban Chicago, where they live and raise/have raised their four daughters, Wendy, Violet, Liza and Grace. It’s everything you want in a piece of fiction if your idea of everything is to become so wholly connected to characters that you find yourself sad to set it down when you are finished.
Not every fiction family is realistic. Not every fictional family is relatable. The Sorensons are — characters that are devoutly loyal to the family while at the same time living with fear, resentment, jealousy and betrayal toward and of each other. Just. like. real. people. There’s the aforementioned Marilyn, an almost-college grad whose persona seems to be so deeply rooted in optimism that struggle and uncertainty about her marriage and her maternal performance are truly unnerving for her;
David, trying to work his way through to a new definition of self upon retirement from his medical practice, but always grounded in the certainty that is his love for his wife;
Wendy, the oldest daughter dealt some of life’s cruelest cards, but not without her own mean streak that she takes out on;
Violet, Wendy’s Irish twin and also with a penchant for self-destruction that she’s trying to keep at bay with the perfect husband and perfect sons and perfect life on Chicago’s North Shore;
Liza, whose career path is hot but love life is not which makes it all the stranger she’s pregnant and alone; and
Grace; the baby of the bunch that came along well after her sisters were nearly young women, adrift and embarrassed of her personal circumstances that have her lying to everyone except the bartender.
Throw an illegitimate love child, lost pregnancy, dead husband, clinical depression and a massive heart attack into the mix and you have a recipe for the twists and turns you expect in an extremely well-written novel. I hated putting this down. I want the Lifetime movie. I need to know if Jonah goes to college. If Ryan and Liza … and MY GOD WHAT ABOUT GRACE AND BEN?!?!?! YOU CANNOT LEAVE ME HANGING LIKE THIS!
Beach read, fireplace read, take it on vacation, read it home, I don’t care — just pick this one up. You will love it.