The Most Fun We Ever Had is Claire Lombardo’s debut novel and was published on June 27th 2019 by W&N. It follows the story of the Sorenson family, David, Marilyn and their four daughters as the re-appetence of a sixteen-year-old boy previously given up for adoption throws a spanner in the works.
This book has been longlisted for the 2020 Women’s Prize for Fiction and is part of my Longlist TBR.
The most important thing you ought to know about the books is that I am head over heels in love with it. Although I cited it as one of the books, I was most interested in reading in my TBR I began to have second thoughts when I saw the sheer size of the book. Although only 544 pages, the hardcover makes it seem enormous somehow. It began to dawn on me that the last family saga I read—I’m sorry, I mean that I tried to read—was The Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney and I don’t think I even got halfway through. But if The Most Fun We Ever Had has taught me anything it’s not to be afraid of a genre just because you have not enjoyed it in the past.
As a reader, I am not personally averse to a long book, and the length will not typically deter me from reading something I am genuinely interested in. As a result, 544 pages is not all that many, not in the grand scheme of this, despite my reservations. After finishing the book, I cannot help but look back and marvel at how much Lombardo succeeds in doing in such a small number of pages. She manages to give us a compelling storyline in the present, while also dipping into the past at crucial moments so that we can better understand the complexities of the Sorenson family. While this seems very natural as you are reading it is very cleverly structured on Lombardo’s behalf no doubt to make the reader feel this way. This structure enables her to build that relationship between the reader and all the point-of-view characters so that it is structurally sound.
Thus far I have called this book a contemporary family saga which seems to be accurate. However, to call it only a family saga seems to do The Most Fun We Ever Had a disservice. While I am not well versed in this genre, at least in contemporary depictions of the genre, I think that Lombardo has such a refreshing take on it. The book has a life and a vigour to it that I typically find lacking within the genre. Perhaps this is helped by the fact that her characterisation is so on point for the whole family, in addition to the secondary characters. They’re not so much characters on the page but because of the way that they are written feel exceptionally realistic.
I mentioned in my introduction that Claire Lombardo is a debut author, a fact which astounds me. The writing feels very experienced, with none of the glare that typically accompanies a debut author. Often when reading a debut, I can see a potential which excites me and makes me want to read more of the author despite maybe not loving that first book. In Lombardo’s case, her writing feels like she already knows who she is as a writer, and how she can best show this through her writing. That’s not to say that she does not have potential, but rather she seems so far away from the typical standard of a debut author. After only one book I am already eagerly awaiting news of her second.
Ultimately The Most Fun We Ever Had made me laugh, made me cry, and made me fall in love with the perfections and imperfections of the Sorenson Family. I gave this book a full five-star rating, and though I’ve only read two of the Women’s Prize Books thus far I feel that it is a very strong contender.
Coming Soon: March Reading Wrap-Up