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  • The Most Fun We Ever Had

  • A Novel
  • Written by: Claire Lombardo
  • Narrated by: Emily Rankin
  • Length: 20 hrs and 33 mins
  • 4.3 out of 5 stars (109 ratings)

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The Most Fun We Ever Had

Written by: Claire Lombardo
Narrated by: Emily Rankin
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Publisher's Summary

“A gripping and poignant ode to a messy, loving family in all its glory.” (Madeline Miller, New York Times best-selling author of Circe)

A New York Times Best Seller
Longlisted for the Women's Prize for Fiction

In this “rich, complex family saga” (USA Today) full of long-buried family secrets, Marilyn Connolly and David Sorenson fall in love in the 1970s, blithely ignorant of all that awaits them. By 2016, they have four radically different daughters, 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; 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.  

With the unexpected arrival of young Jonah Bendt - a child placed for adoption by one of the daughters fifteen years before - the Sorensons will be forced to reckon with the rich and varied tapestry of their past. As they grapple with years marred by adolescent angst, infidelity, and resentment, they also find the transcendent moments of joy that make everything else worthwhile. 

©2019 Claire Lombardo (P)2019 Random House Audio

What the critics say

Named a most anticipated book of the summer by O Magazine, People, Chicago Tribune, New York Post, InStyle, Good Housekeeping, Daily Beast, PopSugar, and LitHub 

"A rich, engrossing family saga, spiked with sisterly malice...[rendered] with such skill and finely tuned interest that it feels like a quiet subversion of the traditional family saga." (The New York Times Book Review)

“Lombardo's impressive debut is a gripping and poignant ode to a messy, loving family in all its glory. She juggles a huge cast of characters with seeming effortlessness, bringing each to life with humor, vividness and acute psychological insight.” (Madeline Miller, New York Times best-selling author of Circe)

“A family epic…It resembles other sprawling midwestern family dramas, like Jonathan Franzen's The Corrections (2001)…The result is an affectionate, sharp, and eminently readable exploration of the challenges of love in its many forms.” (Booklist)

What listeners say about The Most Fun We Ever Had

Average Customer Ratings
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    4 out of 5 stars

20 hours of fun for emotional drama junkies

The story was satisfying and narration excellent, but man… 20 hours of character introspection was a little tough even for me and I’m a psychotherapist!

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Tedious

the first few chapters are quite engaging, but it begs down around chapter 18, not sure I have the stamina to slog through all the anger and arguments...

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A beautiful and honest story

I loved it so so much. Everything about this book was authentic and poignant. I want to listen to it again and again!

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Charming tale of Life

A relatable story about a family’s relationships through the years dealing with different personalities and life’s conflicts. An easy listen - narrator was excellent at voices and bringing the characters to life. I would recommend for someone who wants an easy listen - sometimes drawn out - but overall good story.

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    2 out of 5 stars

Couldn't finish

The narrator's voice is irritating, sort of wry, monotonous, mumbling and breathless. And the writing, so much passive voice, and internal dialogue that goes round and round to nowhere. So much random backstory I couldn't get a handle on the actual story.

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Loved it!

I loved this story and the narration. I especially enjoyed all the characters. Definitely recommend !

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  • MCK
  • 2019-09-03

Loved this poignant tribute to motherhood!

I enjoyed every minute of this well crafted story about the Sorensen Family. I thought it dove into what it means to be a mother, daughter and sister with such subtlety and depth. The narrator gave each character a subtly distinct voice that was helpful and not distracting. She was lovely to listen to.

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  • Kaysi12
  • 2019-07-08

Wonderful book

I recently saw that I have downloaded 700+ audiobooks over the years and this is one of my top ten favorites. It is a wonderful story. I’d love to see a sequel with Jonah as the central character, but I’ll read anything Claire Lombardo writes in the future and I hope she writes many more novels.

80 people found this helpful

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  • Denise
  • 2019-07-28

Disappointing at Best

I selected this book because both the author’s bio and the story synopsis seemed promising. Also, because I’m a Chicagoan, I thought it would be great to finally delve into a book set in my beautiful city. Boy, was I wrong!

Perhaps the Chicago aspect of the story was its most redeeming quality. To me, the majority of the characters were narcissistic and unlikable, especially Violet and Grace. Marilyn, the “saintly” mom, was really a pathetic martyr and a motherhood loser based on the behaviors of her daughters. Liza, the professor, was a ridiculous doormat. Only Wendy, underneath her crunchy facade, had an empathetic, caring and generous heart.

I kept asking myself, if these girls had such wonderful and perfect parents then why did they boldface lie about their lives and keep their failures a secret from them? That didn’t make sense to me at all.

I’m not a prude but like another reviewer mentioned, the swearing was over the top, totally unnecessary. On several occasions the language actually made me wince. It really detracted from the story and made the family even more unlikable and unbelievable.

Don’t waste your money or your credit on this book.

53 people found this helpful

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  • Kelly
  • 2019-07-03

An enjoyable story of multiple generations

4.5 stars.

This is one of those books that is 550 pages long and which I would have loved to be even longer.
It was exactly the kind of book I love. Emotional. Tragic. Character-driven. Dramatic yet funny.
Witty, with pages filled with themes of love, family, grief, misunderstandings, redemption and hope.

I loved that Lombardo created a multi-generational family who had secrets, held resentments, were selfish and self-centered, and who loved each other immensely. It was so real. Most of us can list 1,000 complaints about our siblings and parents. We think the other person lives a more blessed life. We think they are loved more. We fail to see the story through their eyes. And yet we would do anything for them, because we love them. This book is exactly that. It is family. And I cared about them all. I worried when they hurt each other that they would do permanent damage. I cried for their grief and pain. They were in my heart and I was sad when I closed the cover.

Marilyn Connelly and David Sorensen met while in college in the mid-70s, and soon married. Forty years later they have raised 4 daughters, David is a retired family physician, Marilyn is a super-mom, and they are crazy in love with one another still. The novel covers is written with intimate glimpses of these 40 years, with portions of the story told in the current time (2016), and flashing back to many other stages of life. We get to know the couple and their girls -- Wendy, Violet, Liza, and Grace.

Violet and Wendy are a year apart--Irish twins, the sisters who were the closest and developed a love-hate relationship. Liza was considered the middle child, and Grace was born (on purpose, but everyone thought she was their Catholic accident) in 1993. The current year is 2016, but the novel moves back and forth in time, mounting little mysteries and hints and integrating interlocking narratives. Everyone has a storyline, independently and collectively. And that includes the loose cannon, Jonah, given up for adoption by Violet as an infant and, at age 15, has resurfaced, to Violet’s dismay.

Wendy is the oldest. She is sarcastic, irreverent and troubled. She has had a hard life, facing big losses. Unfortunately her losses have made her combative, and reliant upon alcohol. She keeps her family at arm's length, unwilling to lower her guard.

Violet was born less than a year after Wendy. She has control issues, and seeks perfection. Her husband and two young children are the perfect family. She has a big secret that will force her to open her heart and mind, and she becomes far more likable as we follow her story.

Liza, the third daughter is pregnant and a successful professor. But her boyfriend is severely depressed, and Liza isn't sure that she actually loves him or that she wants her baby.

And then there is the baby, Gracie. She is in Portland, where she is supposed to be attending law school. This is a lie and she is finding herself digging that hole bigger with every conversation.

The author beautifully shows the various elements of the story from viewpoints of several characters. We get to see how their memories and perceptions are colored through the tint of their selfish view of the world. We spy the missed opportunities and we find ourselves wishing that we could force a face to face discussion.

This book is like reading the story of your own family. It is warm and cozy in spite of the pain. It is full of love and laughter over shared memories, embarrassments and inside-jokes.

47 people found this helpful

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  • Karen Brow
  • 2019-07-29

Ug. Disappointing

This book has really good reviews and I so wanted to like it, but had to stop half-way through because of boredom and frustration. All the daughter characters were either truly unlikeable or just so darn dumb it was actually uncomfortable. One has such an appallingly vicious mouth I wanted to slap her on several occasions and one is so painfully naive and helpless I wanted to strangle her. (I do not usually feel this violent towards imaginary literary characters.) The other two are more run-of-the-mill hateful and clueless and I couldn't muster any compassion towards any of them.

While this is supposed to be a modern story, I'm sorry-- the sexual detail is... well... creepy. It's way too detailed to be erotic and was usually describing some utterly crass or cringingly and/or stupid situation. (Mom and dad having sex in the living room one evening with not one of four young daughters in bed yet. "Gee we forgot we had daughters and how could we know this could turn out awkward?")

It's a shame actually, as I usually enjoy an author with good detail and descriptive skills, but I sometimes found myself asking why she'd go into so much fine detail about an ultimately irrelevant thing or inconsequential observation.

So I found the parents to be spineless push-overs and their tolerance levels far beyond reality and the daughters just...yuck. I couldn't spend any more time with any of them and pulled the plug.

26 people found this helpful

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  • adrienne waikel
  • 2019-07-17

Wordy and long

I bought this because of the good reviews but found it very wordy and unnecessarily long. I’m not sure I can even finish it. So many long descriptions of chaos in the house which seems overdone. I have four kids too and it never seemed like the drudgery that the author goes on and on about. Interesting story of the family though and of the nuances of a marriage but not sure it’s worth the credit.

21 people found this helpful

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  • Gary & Jay
  • 2019-09-02

GOD! This was the most exasperating, involving,

heartfelt, nearly off-putting story about family I've experienced in a very long time.

At some point along the way, the Sorensen sisters are nicknamed what sounds like Wen, Vile, Lies, and I'm not sure if the youngest was ever called Gray, but it would have fit her as well as the others do their characters.

But this is a long tale, and one that provokes strong emotion in the reader (at least this reader), to an unusual extent. It isn't enough, for instance, to have knowledge and put together the cruel facts of one sister's life of illness and loss. Lombardo has us experience her cold, cutting humor as unredeemed for a long time before we feel any hint of her wonderful qualities.

And it's somewhat the same for most of the characters, who err and feel shame and conceal in such a way that we're angered and guilt-ridden as we turn away or identify with our own inner science.

There's no big secret here, nor any big reveal. It's life as it's mostly lived: A lot lucky sometimes, with lots of breaks, and a disaster sometimes, for no reason.

If this review seems a bit off-handed, it's because I didn't know how else to write how I felt. Be assured that when you begin this enthralling listen, there will be a couple of times that you'll be bored and ready to quit, and many more times that you'll be very emotionally involved, but you will definitely end up in love.

I highly recommend this novel, which is bravely narrated to perfection by Emily Rankin.

Jay Thomas

19 people found this helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 2019-07-03

A Glass Half Full

The writing was simple enough, but the story had so much meat...So much more to grow on. The story highlighted the epiphany that we always get as adults that ‘everyone’s got mess’; lightly put. It was endearing, a sweet picture into a family that shows love at variations, but there was so much drama and room for elaboration on the characters that could have really made this a bit more juicy. There were situations that could have been a bit more climatic that just failed me with a very “fictional” response that most real families would have. Nonetheless, I could listen to the narrator again and maybe give the author another try in the future. Definitely more of a long flight listen when I don’t want to hold a book.

19 people found this helpful

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  • Carolyn White
  • 2019-07-15

Good story

I liked this book a lot. I did find there to be a lot of sex scenes between the parents. Their love was the central facet of the story, so I get it, but still, it felt repetitive. Great characters and wonderful writing, though.

18 people found this helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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  • choop
  • 2019-07-11

Repetitive Pablum

I’m a compulsive listener of audio books, with a wide range of taste, and I was furious at myself for having listened to this one all the way through and thus lost or marred 14+ hours of my life. Plus I just could not believe the array of laudatory critics’ reviews!! This was a highly repetitive family drama in which very little happens, despite the fact that it switches back and forth between the stories of four daughters as children and the four as adults. It is also feel-good writing trying to mask itself as hard-boiled and cutting edge. Nothing is so broken that it can’t be mended and children are difficult but the most wonderful aspect of life and love triumphs over all. I mean, a good 50% of the novel involves lengthy, unoriginal and very preachy ruminations on the joys, fears, and agonies of parenthood. The novel circles around a long-lost kid given up for adoption , who suddenly appears at 15, sweet spirit intact, and in his shining honesty initially seems to make everything worse but actually makes everything better. Ugh. On the positive side, the novel *does* capture how every relationship, no matter how wonderful, cycles through highs and lows - unending processes of disconnection and re-connection, alienation and renewal. But the banality of the plot and flatness of the characters gives the book a mindless marshmallow feel.

15 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Meg
  • 2019-06-28

Sweet Saccharine Family Special

This narrator was perfect! Syrupy sweet, pitch perfect so for a story that just goes on and on and on and on about the perfect couple and their very (normal) confused girls. This sweet sweet life - and it just goes on and on and on and on. Hyde Park Chicago only makes it less tolerable rather than more interesting. Modern America narcissism at its best.

12 people found this helpful