Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Book Review: All Fall Down

Allison Weiss got her happy ending—a handsome husband, adorable daughter, a job she loves, and the big house in the suburbs. But while waiting in the pediatrician’s office, she opens a magazine to a quiz about addiction and starts to wonder…Is a Percocet at the end of the day really different from a glass of wine? Is it such a bad thing to pop a Vicodin after a brutal Jump & Pump class…or if your husband ignores you?

The pills help her manage the realities of her good-looking life: that her husband is distant, that her daughter is acting out, that her father’s Alzheimer’s is worsening and her mother is barely managing to cope. She tells herself that they let her make it through her days…but what if her increasing drug use, a habit that’s becoming expensive and hard to hide, is turning into her biggest problem of all?

With a sparkling comedic touch and a cast of unforgettable characters, this remarkable story of a woman’s slide into addiction and struggle to find her way back up again is Jennifer Weiner’s most masterful work yet.
(Synopsis courtesy of Amazon.)

Amy Bromberg:

Jennifer Weiner is one of the top authors who epitomizes chick lit. I couldn't put down any of her novels, starting with her debut, Good In Bed. I know I'm not the only one who was bummed that she didn't come out with a book last year. Hence, I was looking forward to All Fall Down that much more.

To tell you the truth I barely know anything about addiction. The story gave me some insight into this painful and complicated world, and what an addict goes through on a daily basis. Allison is an everyday modern woman...one that we all pass on the street time and time again, and one that we would never think in a million years abuses drugs. Allison is blogger for a women's website, has a demanding and spoiled daughter, and has a husband whose paycheck is nearing extinction. Of course we all go through stressful times and feel we're overwhelmed. Some people exercise, do yoga, and and/or every now and then have a glass of wine at the end of the day to relax and unwind. But there are people like Allison who have gone beyond just having that one glass of wine. She needs maybe eight or more pills a day to be able to cope with her everyday stress. I felt so sad when she hit rock bottom multiple times. I wanted to strangle her and say "Don't you know what you're doing is killing you?" "Do you want your daughter to see you like this, and maybe be taken away from you?" But then that probably would make it worse. An addict has to want to get better, just like a smoker has to want to quit.

Like all of Jennifer Weiner's novels, the story is well-written and the characters are beautifully developed. In all of her books her characters are flawed in one way or another. This is exactly how it is with Allison.

If you're looking for a summer read that's thought provoking and deep, focusing on empowerment, liberation, and self-discovery, then run to your local bookstore and pick this one up!

Melissa Amster:

As always, I look forward to Jennifer Weiner's novels as soon as I hear that they're in process of being published. She's definitely one of my favorite chick lit authors and I know I'll be in for a treat when I start reading the words she's so eloquenty put down in writing. While her previous books have been light and fun (for the most part), All Fall Down is a walk on the dark side.

Don't get me wrong, there's no murder or abuse (of people or animals, that is) or any reason to stick this book in the freezer after you're finished like Rachel did on Friends, but drug addiction is still a heavy topic to tackle, especially for an audience of chick lit readers. Even so, All Fall Down is compelling and Jennifer still finds ways to add in humor, especially through Allison's voice. This is not your typical "girl-meets-boy, gets married, and lives happily ever after" story. Still, it's a cautionary tale that needs to be told. Allison isn't the first woman to abuse drugs and be in denial of doing so. The song "Mother's Little Helper" was written for a reason, after all (and that came out in the 60s). I heard a cover of this song on the Desperate Housewives soundtrack in relation to Lynette using ADHD medication in season one. (So yeah, it's not just painkillers!)

My favorite part of All Fall Down was part three. I wish the whole novel took place in this section and that bits of parts one and two were interspersed as flashbacks. Some of it reminds me of one of my favorite TV shows (and now I'm watching another show I love that has some scenes that remind me of this book). In regards to Allison, I felt she was hard to relate to at times. I also get stressed out, but have never thought to resort to pain pills (or any other kind of drugs) to deal with it. Stress is subjective and personal to each individual, so I can't judge how bad her stress was from an outside perspective. She gives off the appearance of "living in a bubble," which I sometimes get accused of doing too. No one knows what kind of stress a person is dealing with until they're living that person's life. However, I would have gone to counseling or found other ways to cope if it got that much out of hand for me. I think the genius of this story is that Allison's stress does seem less overwhelming for people who feel like her issues are first world problems. And yet she still has this problem that she thinks she has under control...until she doesn't anymore. I think the only thing that could have made this story even better is an intervention. I would have loved to see Allison get confronted by a circle of her family and friends and what her reaction would be. (Maybe I just find interventions fascinating though.)

The one fun thing I want to point out is that there's a connection between All Fall Down and Certain Girls, in that both books have several mentions of The Sound of Music. (I liked the other Broadway references in All Fall Down, as well.)

Overall, it was a thought provoking novel that tackles an issue everyone should be aware of and keep in mind when it comes to the people they care about. It's more than just your average beach read.

I had a couple of casting suggestions, just in case this gets opted for a film.
Allison: Brooke Elliott 
Dave: Justin Theroux
Eloise: Skyler Wexler

Thanks to Engelman and Co for the books in exchange for an honest review.

More by Jennifer Weiner:

5 comments:

Janine said...

This book sounds interesting to me. Knowing a lot of people who have been addicts, I doubt I will have any problem relating to the story.

Wall-to-wall books said...

Wow this book sounds good! I haven't read a Jenn Weiner book in a while. Hmmm since Best Friends Forever!
This is going on my wishlist.

KMcC said...

I just finished this. I liked it, but it is definitely darker than her other books.

Janine said...

I don't think I have told you enough how much I appreciate all of your great book reviews and recommendations. I always enjoy coming on and seeing what is newly featured each day. You do a wonderful job keeping us updated on the latest and greatest books available.

Caroline Bock said...

I am also a big Jennifer W. fan -- sounds like she is trying to stretch as a writer in this one! I plan to read (and share with my sister, also a fan!)