All Fall Down
Author: Jennifer Weiner © 2014
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Genre: Literature & Fiction
Subgenre: Women’s Literature, Domestic Life, Family Life, Contemporary Fiction
Book received by: Purchased at book fair
Mother, domestic engineer and paid blogger Allison Weiss has the picture-perfect life. She left full-time work to stay at home and ended up with a paid blogging position. Add to that an adorable daughter, hard-working and devoted husband and father, living happily-ever-after in a beautiful suburban home and her life has all the appearances of dream-come-true.
Behind closed doors, reality is another matter. Allison likens her use of prescription pain killers to someone unwinding with a glass of wine, as a justified means of managing pain after tough work-outs or to deal with marital discord. She finds herself on the slippery slope into addiction, rationalizing all the way that dealing with big family issues and daily life problems make her increasing dependence reasonable. When she hits rock bottom, the question that remains is whether she will persist on the path of denial, or take the hard road to recovery.
Busy moms (and dads): It took me a long time to come around to this book. I spent a lot of time disliking the main character, her actions and attitude. Ultimately, I decided that, despite not liking the main character (much), the insight and themes addressed by this book make it worth the read.
Let’s start with the characters: For me, the main character, Allison, was unlikeable out of the gate. I say this because I am fortunate to have been through and come out stronger from significant life challenges without leaning on a crutch or falling into addiction, which does run in my family. Not everyone is wired like me, I get it. Allison also lacked a certain element of personal strength and generally seemed to have a pretty big lack of coping skills for what I perceive as mundane life-stuff. No major life tragedies, no significant hardships, just a doc who handed her a taste of narcotics after a minor injury that left her hooked on the buzz and constantly finding excuses for more left a bad taste in my mouth. Perhaps that’s part of the slippery slope to which I cannot relate. That addiction takes ahold of you whether or not you’re not in crisis, makes your everyday better and then you can’t seem to get through even mundane daily challenges without it. The supporting characters were only minimally less unlikeable, with a daughter who did read as particularly bratty, a mother who was even more spineless and enabling, and a husband who had basically checked out.
The plot and storylines of the book marched out well. Allison spent the bulk of the book in a clear downward spiral, facilitated by her deep denial. That there was a family secret and history of addiction came as no surprise to me, and worked with the overall flow of the story. The marital issues present throughout most of the book did not seem completely genuine. It read more as if there had to be something going on in the marriage to further drive her addiction, but with multiple characters already not particularly sympathetic, the husband could not also be too unlikeable.
At the end of the book, Allison makes it in and out of rehab and eventually comes to admit her disease and the damage caused by her addiction. There is some persistent unrealistic behavior, throughout that detracted from the story for me. For example: By law, even in 2014, you could not call a prescription to a pharmacy for any narcotic stronger than Vicodin (which is most narcotics). Only the original prescription will be accepted. Allison was also supposedly taking some extremely high doses of medications after a relatively short period of time. Possible? Yes. Probable? No.
The writing flowed easily enough, but at four hundred pages, maybe could have been shortened for a tighter story. Ms. Weiner is a talented women’s fiction writer with a knack for keeping the story moving and readers engaged. I was curious and invested enough to finish the book, hoping for some development and growth by the main character. For that, I was rewarded. It may not be a prize-winning novel, and had the feel of “outsider-looking-in on addiction, wanting to tackle a hot topic,” but ultimately think it was worth the read. There are probably books that are more on-the-money in the details department, but All Fall Down is a good first step towards understanding the complexities of addiction, particularly that of prescription pills, rehab and recovery.
Have you read All Fall Down? How did you like it? How did you feel about Allison by the end? Have you read one of Ms. Weiner’s previous books? Comments are welcome and appreciated!
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Happy trails and may the good books be plentiful!
Feature image: Jacket design, Anna Dorfman (Jacket images: © Diane Kerpan (roller coaster, Arcangel); Pornsak Paewlumfaek/Shutterstock (clouds); Stockyimages;Shutterstock (woman).