Same As It Ever Was: A Novel (Hardcover)

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Same As It Ever Was: A Novel By Claire Lombardo Cover Image
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Staff Reviews

A chance encounter with an old neighbor and failed friendship leads to memories of that fateful time, derailing Julia Ames’s carefully controlled life in the time leading up to her daughter heading off to college and her son’s marriage. Quandaries come at Julia like Whac-A-Mole, and while it doesn’t quite seem fair, it’s also hard to completely excuse Julia from some of the troubles - you might have to forgive her more than once before you get through Same As It Ever Was. But I think in the end, readers, like me, will be cheering her on, in this compelling and emotionally satisfying coming of (middle) age novel.

— Daniel Goldin

Julie Ames lives amid a low-level state of despair. Alternating between past and present, Lombardo paints a compassionate portrait of a woman who finds it hard to be a person and even harder to be a mother. Buoyed by her now-estranged friendship with an older woman named Helen, a holdover passion for 90s alt rock, and the love of her adopted dog, Suzanne, Julie stumbles her way through a seemingly posh suburban life. Despite her armor of silk scarves and cashmere sweaters, Julie wakes up each morning with the sinking feeling that she just plays a character in an ongoing performance of her life. 

— Ingrid Meulemans

July 2024 Indie Next List

“Unsurprisingly, this was absolutely brilliant. Lombardo writes human emotion and flaws incredibly. I can’t stop thinking about this book. It was smart, beautiful, and the most accurate depiction of a marriage I have ever read.”
— Greer Williams, Athena Books, Old Greenwich, CT


NAMED A BEST BOOK BY PEOPLE AND PARADE • The New York Times bestselling author of The Most Fun We Ever Had (“wonderfully immersive…deliciously absorbing”—NPR) returns with another brilliantly observed family drama in which the enduring, hard-won affection of a long marriage faces imminent derailment from events both past and present.

“Infidelity, dysfunction, secrets – this family novel delivers."—The New York Times • "Lombardo has such a fine eye for the weft and warp of a family’s fabric." —The Washington Post • “Witty and insightful...a powerful exploration of marriage, motherhood, and self.”–Bonnie Garmus, bestselling author of Lessons in Chemistry

Same As It Ever Was showcases the consummate style, signature wit, and profound emotional intelligence that made The Most Fun We Ever Had one of the most beloved novels of the past decade. Featuring a memorably messy family and the multifaceted marriage at its heart, Lombardo’s debut was dubbed “the literary love child of Jonathan Franzen and Anne Tyler” (The Guardian) and hailed as “ambitious and brilliantly written” (Washington Post). In this remarkable follow-up—another elegant and tumultuous story in the tradition of Elizabeth Strout, Ann Patchett, and Celeste Ng—Lombardo introduces us to an unforgettable cast of characters, this time by way of her singularly complicated protagonist.

Julia Ames, after a youth marked by upheaval and emotional turbulence, has found herself on the placid plateau of mid-life. But Julia has never navigated the world with the equanimity of her current privileged class. Having nearly derailed herself several times, making desperate bids for the kind of connection that always felt inaccessible to her, she finally feels, at age fifty seven, that she has a firm handle on things.

She’s unprepared, though, for what comes next: a surprise announcement from her straight-arrow son, an impending separation from her spikey teenaged daughter, and a seductive resurgence of the past, all of which threaten to draw her back into the patterns that had previously kept her on a razor’s edge.

Same As It Ever Was traverses the rocky terrain of real life, —exploring new avenues of maternal ambivalence, intergenerational friendship, and the happenstantial cause-and-effect that governs us all. Delving even deeper into the nature of relationships—how they grow, change, and sometimes end—Lombardo proves herself a true and definitive cartographer of the human heart and asserts herself among the finest novelists of her generation.

About the Author

CLAIRE LOMBARDO is the author of The Most Fun We Ever Had, which has been optioned for television by Reese Witherspoon. She lives in Iowa City, where she has taught at the Iowa Writers' Workshop and Grinnell College and works part-time as a bookseller at Prairie Lights Books.

Praise For…


"You need to read this....Claire Lombardo is the new Anne Tyler, with teeth."
–Ericka Waller, author of Dog Days

“Infidelity, dysfunction, secrets – this family novel delivers. . . Poignant, punctilious. . . [Lombardo] refashions domestic drama into something rich and strange, with echoes of Lorrie Moore’s sardonic humor and Jonathan Franzen’s dissection of class. . . In less skillful hands, Same as It Ever Was would lose control over its transitions and veer toward soap opera; yet like Franzen’s Marion Hildebrandt, or Faye, the narrator of Rachel Cusk’s Outline trilogy, Lombardo gives us a woman whose inner life is knotted and revelatory. . . Same as It Ever Was is a brave, nuanced book, lulling us with its rhythms but taking risks when we glance away.”
–Hamilton Cain, The New York Times

“Lombardo’s witty, sympathetic take on motherhood exudes the sharp scent of fermented apple juice and a full diaper… Lombardo has such a fine eye for the weft and warp of a family’s fabric. She understands the chemistry of that special epoxy of irritation and affection that keeps a marriage glued together. One finishes Same As It Ever Was with the satisfaction of knowing this complicated woman well — and the poignant disappointment of having to say goodbye.”
Ron Charles, The Washington Post

“This is one of those beautifully written, keenly observed novels where not that much happens — other than, you know, life itself — but also so much happens. . . Claire Lombardo has written a whole cast of characters so detailed, so specifically themselves, that you almost feel you could reach out and touch them.”
Samantha Balaban, NPR

“A capacious, tender family drama and ode to marriage. . . Lombardo is a writer who lavishes attention to her characters. . . Same As It Ever Was is a fine-grained portrait of a woman determined to learn how to be a mother, wife, daughter – and person. It builds to a moving climax, encompassing along the way unexpected weddings, funerals, reconciliations, and losses. Like life itself.”
–Christian Science Monitor

“Lombardo continues her astute and entertaining observations about messy family dynamics and the imprint they leave on us. . . with wit and a keen eye for the complications of modern life.”
–The Minneapolis Star Tribune

“An engrossing story of maternal complexity and a reminder of the myriad ways the past can quietly inform the present.”


“Pitch-perfect. . . Lombardo is compulsively readable and consistently funny, and it’s impossible to look away as Julia continues to self-sabotage. This domestic drama hits all the right notes.”
Publisher's Weekly (Starred Review)

"Lombardo loves her characters, taking time to peel back each of their layers through the time-lapse structure of the novel and her rich descriptions. . . A sure bet for fans of Richard Russo and Jane Smiley.”

“Sparkling. . . Readers will be torn between their instinct to race to the finish and their desire to savor every page.”
Publisher's Weekly Summer Reads

“Witty and insightful...a powerful exploration of marriage, motherhood, and self.”
–Bonnie Garmus, bestselling author of Lessons in Chemistry

Product Details
ISBN: 9780385549554
ISBN-10: 0385549555
Publisher: Doubleday
Publication Date: June 18th, 2024
Pages: 512
Language: English