Book Review: All Fall Down by Jennifer Weiner
I read Jennifer Weiner’s first novel, Good In Bed, over ten years ago, which is hard to believe! When I am hooked by an author’s first novel, I have a tendency to stick with them until I become disinterested; so far, Jennifer Weiner has managed to keep me hooked. I’ll be honest: I was drawn to her first novel by the title and cover; I stayed for the story and then the stories that followed. Many people are familiar with her book, In Her Shoes, because a movie by the same name was produced starring Cameron Diaz and Toni Collette.
I was very intrigued by the subject matter of her most recent novel, and pre-ordered it through Amazon for my Kindle. I recently finished the book, and thought I would share my unsolicited review.
All Fall Down: A Novel
Author: Jennifer Weiner
Hardcover, 400 pages
Published June 17, 2014
Source: Personal copy
Allison Weiss is a typical working mother, trying to balance a business, aging parents, a demanding daughter, and a marriage. But when the website she develops takes off, she finds herself challenged to the point of being completely overwhelmed. Her husband’s becoming distant, her daughter’s acting spoiled, her father is dealing with early Alzheimer’s, and her mother’s barely dealing at all. As she struggles to hold her home and work life together, and meet all of the needs of the people around her, Allison finds that the painkillers she was prescribed for a back injury help her deal with more than just physical discomfort—they help her feel calm and get her through her increasingly hectic days. Sure, she worries a bit that the bottles seem to empty a bit faster each week, but it’s not like she’s some Hollywood starlet partying all night, or a homeless person who’s lost everything. It’s not as if she has an actual problem.
However, when Allison’s use gets to the point that she can no longer control—or hide—it, she ends up in a world she never thought she’d experience outside of a movie theater: rehab. Amid the teenage heroin addicts, the alcoholic grandmothers, the barely-trained “recovery coaches,” and the counselors who seem to believe that one mode of recovery fits all, Allison struggles to get her life back on track, even as she’s convincing herself that she’s not as bad off as the women around her.
In my opinion, this is definitely Jennifer Weiner’s grittiest, darkest tale and she paints a frighteningly accurate picture of the battle many women fight daily in their pursuit of perceived happiness. Forget about leaning in, the women in this novel are struggling to sit up straight and maintain a sense of themselves. No matter how far we have come as a society, Weiner illustrates the fact that, for most women, we are still expected to keep all of the loose ends tied, neatly, and look good doing it.
Allison Weiss, the novel’s main character, is married to a once-successful newspaper man and has found herself, thanks to the cutbacks in the newspaper business, taking up some of the financial slack in the family by turning her “part-time” blogging gig into a full-time freelance writing career. She is mother to a 5-year-old who has been diagnosed as “sensitive;” daughter to a father with Alzheimer’s, whose disease is progressing rapidly, and a mother who has never had to lift a finger; trying to exercise and lose the baby weight she seems stuck with; and struggling to find time for friends who, admittedly, sit in their kitchens watching the wall clock inch toward a time they feel is acceptable to have their first glass of wine for the day.
After a back injury incurred during an exercise class, Allison is prescribed some pain medication that “became less a luxury than a necessity for getting myself through the day and falling asleep at night.” There are a couple of times when Allison is hit with the realization, via her checkbook and a couple of outlying individuals, that maybe her dependence on her pills has become problematic; however, it is not until much later that Allison finds herself in a predicament that leads to her surrender “to a higher power.”
One of my favorite quotes from the book speaks to the harsh reality Allison faces when she finally sees that she is not so different from the people she judges as “addicts;” the rationalization of her problem leads her to an acceptance that would not be comfortable for most.
There was a parallel universe that ran alongside the normal world, and if you went through the wrong door, or turned left instead of right, ran up the street instead of down it, you could accidentally push the curtain aside and end up in that other place, where everything was different and everything was wrong.
Weiner is amazing in her ability to detail the life of a high-functioning addict, and her delightful sense of humor certainly shines through, as well. The novel reminds us that the perceived happiness exuded by others leads to a larger, broader story that yearns to be told.
Whether or not you are a fan of Jennifer Weiner, I would highly recommend this book; chances are you know someone who is going through a similar experience. You can find All Fall Down on Amazon here, or at any local bookstore. Let me know what you think!
About the author:
Jennifer Weiner is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of eleven books, including Good in Bed, In Her Shoes, which was made into a major motion picture, and The Next Best Thing. A graduate of Princeton University, she lives with her family in Philadelphia. Visit her online at JenniferWeiner.com.