"All Fall Down" by Jennifer Weiner

Allison Weiss is a hardworking woman - she balances her marriage, demanding daughter, aging parents, and successful website.  On the surface, she has it all, but underneath she is hiding a dark secret.  Unable to keep it all together, to deal with the pressure of work and family, worried her marriage is on the rocks, Allison has turned to painkillers to keep her going.  Originally prescribed them for a back injury, she finds that as her life is increasingly hectic, the pills keep her calm.

But what starts as one or two pills a day turns into a habit that has her ordering thousands of dollars worth of pills online.  She thinks she has everyone fooled but cracks begin to show and she can’t keep it up.  She soon finds herself in the last place she ever thought she’d be: rehab.  But stuck in there with repeat rehabbers, alcoholics and heroin addicts, Allison doesn’t think she belongs there and will do whatever she can to leave.

All Fall Down is the latest novel from Jennifer Weiner and with her trademark style and humour, this book easily fits among her past successes but with a slightly different feel.  The nature of this book is a bit more serious than her past works but I think it was a good turn and is a timely and important subject.

Allison is like many women, juggling a bunch of plates and just barely keeping them in the air.  And as most women in that situation do, she turns to something to alleviate the stress.  Allison, like many others, has turned to prescription drugs.  She knows that what she is doing is wrong and tells herself that she can and will stop but continues on the path, consistently increasing the amount she takes.  

Having not experienced this myself, I can’t comment as to how realistic it is, but I have to say that it seems pretty real to me (though a few scenes stand out as something that only happens in fiction.)  I imagine that this is how many women end up going down this path.  The reader will find themselves appalled at her actions and behaviour but at the same time feel sympathetic.

I think Jennifer Weiner is a fantastic and gifted writer and I don’t think I will find very much disagreement with that.  She writes strong female characters who battle their weaknesses in honest and realistic ways.  Her characters transcend the attachment of “women’s fiction” that has been attached to her writing.  Which is why I read every one of the novels she writes.  I like that she took on this subject matter but the thing that stopped this from being a five star book for me was the writing.

I do think the first half of this book was much stronger than the second half.  The parts where Allison is in rehab didn’t have the same effect on me as the parts about her addiction did.  The rehab parts felt like a quick way of wrapping up a story that took a long time to develop (not that there was anything wrong with that, I like how it all unfolded.)  As well, I wish that there had been more of how this affected her family, especially her husband and daughter.  As she heads to rehab it is obvious that her husband knows of the problem but we don’t get a glimpse of how he actually feels about it.

Jennifer Weiner is one of those authors that to me, even when they aren’t at their best, they’re still worth a read.  Longtime fans of hers will find another good read in this novel.  New readers will find a story that is ripped from suburban households all over the place.  This is a very thought-provoking novel.

I received a copy of this book courtesy of the publisher through Netgalley.  The opinions expressed above are my own.

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