Book Review: The Most Fun We Ever Had by Claire Lombardo.

Product details:
Publisher: W&N.
Hardcover, 544 pages.
Release date: June 27th 2019.
Rating: 4 out of 5.
Source: Purchased.

A multigenerational novel in which the four adult daughters of a Chicago couple—still madly in love after forty years—recklessly ignite old rivalries until a long-buried secret threatens to shatter the lives they’ve built.

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’.

As the novel moves through the tumultuous year following the arrival of Jonah Bendt—given up by one of the daughters in a closed adoption fifteen years before—we are shown the rich and varied tapestry of the Sorensons’ past: years marred by adolescence, infidelity, and resentment, but also the transcendent moments of joy that make everything else worthwhile.

A multigenerational novel spanning forty years, Claire Lombardo’s The Most Fun We Ever Had, is a perfectly observed commentary on the trivialities and complexities of family life. Inviting us into the heart of the Sorensen family, the still-happily-married-even-after-all-these-years David and Marilyn, and their four adult daughters, The Most Fun We Ever Had details the highs, lows, loves and losses that comprise everyday family life.
Few people experience the kind of love shared by David and Marilyn Sorensen. While many marriages wilt and wither with time, the same can’t be said for David and Marilyn, whose love still blossoms and blooms as the years go by. We first meet these lovebirds eyes locked, limbs entwined, at the wedding of their eldest daughter, Wendy. Wendy has married rich, and that’s a relief, since left to her own devices, Wendy is an unmitigated disaster of epic proportions.
Sixteen years on, Wendy is windowed, bored, and about to foist the mother of all surprises on her sister, Violet. Irish twins, born less than a year apart, Wendy and Violet were once closer than close, but are now less so. Former litigator Violet, now a stay-at-home mom to two young boys, doesn’t really have time for boozy lunches with her older sister, but when Wendy calls, Violet does her duty and shows up. It’s the least she can do after all Wendy has been through. However, Violet did not anticipate that Wendy would invite Jonah, the son Violet gave up for adoption fifteen years previously, along to their lunch. Nobody knows about Jonah. Not even Violet’s parents.  Especially not them. Why would Wendy try to ruin her life like this?
Third daughter Liza is winning at life. Or so her everybody thinks. A newly tenured professor, Liza is a certified success. She should be on top of the world. Only she’s not. Her long-term relationship is on life-support and she’s just discovered she’s pregnant, an Oops! baby if ever there was one. It’s all too much for Liza, who instead of dealing with her problems, instead decides to embark on an affair with a colleague. Because that’ll fix things. 
At least David and Marilyn can rely on their youngest daughter, Grace, to never cause them any worry. Born a whole nine years after Liza, sweet-natured Grace is doted on and indulged by her loving parents, to whom she’ll always be the baby. Too bad then that loving, uncomplicated Grace has been lying to her parents this whole time…
Along with detailing the various crises of the Sorensen daughters, The Most Fun We Ever Had also rewinds to the early days of David and Marilyn’s relationship as it details the events that brought them together and one time almost split them apart. Personally, I could take or leave some of the Sorensen girls; Violet is unlikeable, especially in dealings with Jonah, who is otherwise welcomed with open arms into the Sorensen fold, while Grace is wishy-washy. Wendy, though, quick-witted, spiteful, and in favour of a mid-morning gin, I loved. Also, Wendy’s story is the most compelling here touched, as she is, more than once by tragedy. 
If you enjoy a good family saga – and especially if you grew up with sisters – The Most Fun We Ever Had is a worthy addition to your book pile. It is lengthy at 500+ pages and a little wordy at times, but it is nonetheless an enjoyable, heart-warming, wonderfully observed read. It’s a book I think will transfer well to screen, and I’m excited for the soon-to-be HBO adaptation, to which Amy Adams and Laura Dern are attached.

3wNohvMauZA - Book Review: The Most Fun We Ever Had by Claire Lombardo.

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Sep 13, Grand Remembrances

Today is Grandparents Day in the United States. Being a Grand is a special honor. I feel very blessed that my wife and I have two grandchildren. We were able to visit them today. Yes, we are still being cautious with the coronavirus, but we also find it very difficult to not see them when they live so close. So today we did drop by to visit Jacob (age 10) and Sophia (age 7) along with their parents. We brought donuts and caught up with them. Our grandchildren are still pretty young and this is a precious time in their lives – and ours!

I wish I had known my grandparents better. We never lived in the same place. Dad was a career Air Force pilot, so we moved around a lot. But we did get to see them once in a while when they would visit us, or we them.

A Plague of Giants

There are five known magical ‘kennings’ or types: air, water, fire, earth, and plants. Each nation specializes in of these kennings, and the magic influences the society. There’s a big pitfall with this diversity of ability and locale–not everyone gets along.

Enter the Hathrim giants, or ‘lavaborn’ whose kenning is fire. Where they live the trees that fuel their fire are long gone, but the giants are definitely not welcome anywhere else. They’re big, they’re violent, and they’re ruthless. When a volcano erupts and they are forced to evacuate, they take the opportunity to relocate. They don’t care that it’s in a place where they aren’t wanted.

I first read Kevin Hearne’s Iron Druid books and loved them (also the quirky The Tales of Pell), so was curious about this new venture, starting with A PLAGUE OF GIANTS. Think Avatar: The Last Airbender meets Jim Butcher’s Codex Alera series. Elemental magic, a variety of races, different lands. And it’s all thrown at you from page one.

But this story is told a little differently. It starts at the end of the war, after a difficult victory, and a bard with earth kenning uses his magic to re-tell the story of the war to a city of refugees. And it’s this movement back and forth in time and between key players in this war that we get a singularly grand view of the war as a whole. Hearne uses this method to great effect.

There are so many interesting characters in this book that I can’t cover them all here. Often in books like this such a large cast of ‘main’ character can make the storytelling suffer, especially since they don’t have a lot of interaction with each other for the first 3/4 of the book–but it doesn’t suffer, thankfully. And the characterization is good enough, despite these short bursts, that by the end we understand these people and care about what happens to them.

If there were a main character it would be Dervan, a historian who is assigned to record (also spy on?) the bard’s stories. He finds himself caught up in machinations he feels unfit to survive. Fintan is the bard from another country, who at first is rather mysterious and his true personality is hidden by the stories he tells; it takes a while to understand him. Gorin Mogen is the leader of the Hathrim giants who decide to find a new land to settle. He’s hard to like, but as far as villains go, you understand his motivations and he can be even a little convincing. There’s Abhi, the son of hunters, who decides hunting isn’t the life for him–and unexpectedly finds himself on a quest for the sixth kenning. And Gondel Vedd, a scholar of linguistics who finds himself tasked with finding a way to communicate with a race of giants never seen before (definitely not Hathrim) and stumbles onto a mystery no one could have guessed: there may be a seventh kenning.

There are other characters, but what makes them all interesting is that they’re regular people (well, maybe not Gorin Mogen or the viceroy–he’s a piece of work) who become heroes in their own little ways, whether it’s the teenage girl who isn’t afraid to share vital information, to the scholars who suddenly find how crucial their minds are to the survival of a nation, to the humble public servants who find bravery when they need it most. This is a story of loss, love, redemption, courage, unity, and overcoming despair to not give up. All very human experiences by simple people who do extraordinary things.

Hearne’s worldbuilding is engaging. He doesn’t bottle feed you, at first it feels like drinking from a hydrant, but then you settle in and pick up things along the way. Then he shows you stuff with a punch to the gut. This is no fluffy world with simple magic without price. All the magic has a price, and more often than not it leads you straight to death’s door. For most people just the seeking of the magic will kill you. I particularly enjoyed the scenes with Ahbi and his discovery of the sixth kenning and everything associated with it. But giants? I mean, really? It isn’t bad enough fighting people who can control fire that you have to add that they’re twice the size of normal people? For Hearne if it’s war, the stakes are pretty high, and it gets ugly.

The benefit of the storytelling style is that the book, despite its length, moves along steadily (Hearne is no novice, here). The bits of story lead you along without annoying cliffhangers (mostly), and I never got bored with the switch between characters. It was easy to move between them, and they were recognizable enough that I got lost or confused. The end of the novel felt a little abrupt, but I guess that has more to do with I was ready for the story to continue, despite the exiting climax.

If you’re looking for epic fantasy with fun storytelling and clever worldbuilding, check out A PLAGUE OF GIANTS.

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The Artwork Of Gary Choo

Gary Choo is a concept artist/illustrator based in Singapore. I’ve know Gary for a good many years ( 17, actually ), working together in animation studios in Singapore like Silicon Illusions and Lucasfilm. Gary currently runs an art team at Mighty Bear Games, but when time allows he also draws covers for Marvel comics, and they’re amazing –

The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo

To see more of Gary’s work or to engage him for freelance work, head down to his ArtStation.

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