SHORT & SWEET REVIEW: ALL FALL DOWN BY JENNIFER WEINER

Note, the format of my Short and Sweet reviews differs in that they simply comprise the book blurb and a short response (hence, the short and sweet). Sometimes I have too many books to do a full-length review. At other times, like now, tennis elbow and a torn tendon makes too much writing/typing difficult. As such, I’ve decided to devote longer reviews to Australian authors until such time as my injury clears. 

All Fall Down

The last Jennifer Weiner book I read was OK, not fantastic, but the blurb of this one intrigued me. It reminded me a bit of the Meg Ryan movie When a Man Loves a Woman and the Sandra Bullock one, 28 Days. Here’s the blurb:

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 becomes a huge success, she finds herself challenged to the point of being completely overwhelmed. As she struggles to hold her life together and meet the needs of all 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 make her feel calm and get her through the increasingly hectic days. Sure, she worries that the bottles seem to empty a bit faster each week, but it’s not like she’s some Hollywood starlet partying all night. It’s not as if she has an actual problem. Until she ends up in a world she never thought she’d experience outside of a movie theatre: rehab. And as Allison struggles to get her life back on track, she learns a few life lessons along the way. With a sparkling comedic touch and tender, true-to-life characterisations, All Fall Down is a tale of empowerment and redemption and Jennifer Weiner’s richest, most absorbing and timely story yet.
Here’s are two samples:
‘I’m fine. I’m okay,’ I rasped. I’m fine, I told myself, even as a voice whispered, softly but firmly, that I was a world away from fine,  that I was not okay at all. (p89)

 

I’d have a long-postponed discussion with Dave. I’d ask the questions that scared me the most: Are you in or are you out? Do you love me? Can we work on this? Is there anything left to save? Whatever he told me, whatever answers he gave, I would work with them. I would be the woman I knew I could be: good at my job, a good mother to my daughter, a good wife, if Dave still wanted me. Just not right now. For now, I needed the pills. (p175)
I found that second passage heartbreaking.The story is told in three parts as Allison moves deeper into her addiction, building from denial to actions that inwardly repel her (such as stealing) even as she tries to justify them. Readers are part of her journey in every step, knowing that there has to be a fall, that Allison has to hit rock bottom … and wondering what it will take. The pull of addiction and the force of denial were so well-expressed throughout the novel that I found myself swept along in wave of emotions from anger, frustration and compassion as I read, wishing at times I could shake Allison. Insightful, compassionate and hard to put down (I read in two sittings), All Fall Down stops short of being depressing by focusing on redemption and forgiveness; the ending, I felt, was true to life. Weiner has nailed this one.

 

Available from good bookstores and Hachette (RRP $24.99). My copy was courtesy of Simon & Schuster Australia

Bookish treat: I crunched my way through popcorn while reading this. No, I’m not addicted. I’m not!