★ ★ ★ ★ ★
The Most Fun We Ever Had is an ambitious debut at over 500+ pages. It’s a multi-generational family saga spanning decades with Chicago-based husband and wife, David and Marilyn Sorenson along with their four adult daughters. It is a character-driven story told through multiple narratives that covers parenthood and sisterhood, old rivalries, adoption, grief, coming-of-age tales, and family dysfunction.
This novel was highly anticipated as well as hyped in the book community, and ultimately saw mixed reviews so I was hesitant on writing a review myself because I felt like all sides were discussed. I did read this book at the beginning of 2020—it was actually my first book of the year and since then I have not stopped thinking about it and have looked for similar books of the genre to read so wanted to share my thoughts.
While at times it is too wordy and over-detailed, with certain characters who are less than civil and often annoying, I found myself drawn to the Sorenson family and their stories because they were messy, funny, challenging, and complicated but also sincere and loving. Some characters had grown over the course of 500 pages while others found acceptance with who they are as individuals or the inner turmoil they were facing, but what I appreciated was the distinctive personalities each of them had and how authentic and realistic they were portrayed. There were certainly characters who I could not stand because of mannerisms, tone-deaf remarks, or lack of sympathy they had towards every one around them, but I thought the author did a good job at keeping them distinct from the handful of other characters. Often times when there is a story with multiple characters, they all sort of mesh together and you cannot differ whose’s perspective you are reading, but that was not the case with this novel.
The Most Fun We Ever Had was an immersive, turbulent story that I could not wait to finish because I wanted to find out the conclusion to the character’s stories, however it was not without it’s flaws—I think this book could have been cut by 100 pages and the character’s own stories would not have gone without any substance or progression. Despite that, this was a book that I loved and reminded me how engaging multi-generational family sagas can be. I found this book to be one that offered an intimate portrayal of the complex dynamics of family and realistically flawed characters who were relatable in various ways and did not shy away from being imperfect.
“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’.”
Hardcover, 532 pages
Published June 25th 2019 by Doubleday Books