All Fall Down by Jennifer Weiner
Published by Atria Books
Review copy provided by Netgalley
From the publisher:
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.
Jennifer Weiner is one of my go-to authors – as soon as I know she has a new book out, I’m on it. It was obvious to me that I would read All Fall Down no matter what I heard about it, but the fact that I’ve heard nothing but good things didn’t hurt. I’m happy to say that this novel falls within the range of some of her very best books, and its darker, more serious edge makes it a little different from what she usually does. It’s always fun when a much-beloved author switches things up a bit, especially when the change is for the better.
When a book focuses almost exclusively on one main character, and that character makes deplorable choices, it can be tricky for an author to get the reader to connect to the character and make the reader interested enough in the character’s journey to keep reading. Well, apparently this is not very tricky for Weiner because she nailed it. While Allison is selfish and so deep in her addiction she barely registers the needs of those around her (including her own child), I couldn’t help but root for her to get better. Watching her self-destruct and spiral down into a haze of pain pills was heartbreaking but I continued to hope for the best and have the belief that she would eventually snap out of it and realize the damage she was causing to herself and everyone who loved her.
Another thing Weiner totally nailed is addiction itself. I know exactly how, to the addict, the only thing that matters is the next fix, how the addicted brain is convinced that if only you get one more fix, the next day is the day you will easily quit, easily give up the addiction for the happy life you are desperate for. But the next morning, you wake up, need another fix, and the cycle starts over again. Weiner completely got this. Allison’s life was a vicious cycle of taking too many pills, deciding to quit, and taking too many pills again.
Allison’s journey to healing was done so well, too. Addiction is messy and scary and sad and heartbreaking and Weiner got all of that, but she also got how hopeful and beautiful recovery can be. I believed in Allison, in her ability to get better, in the hope and promise that her future held, and I believed that she saw that too. She was incredibly realistic, which made her recovery that much better and more exciting for this reader.
All Fall Down is Jennifer Weiner at her best. Highly recommended.