Book Review: Jennifer Weiner’s All Fall Down

 

In a complete departure from my usual ramblings on this blog, I would like to present to you a review of my first summer read.  I have been out of the reading habit entirely for months now, but recently read a post from Momma Bee in which she was just starting Jennifer Weiner’s latest.  I love Weiner’s books for a number of reasons:

  1. I love chick lit
  2. Her novels are predominantly set in the Philadelphia area
  3. Her heroines typically have a sarcastic sense of humor, and typically struggle with weight issues

So for those reasons alone I dug out my electronic reader and downloaded it, no questions asked.  Then, I read the plot summary, and I thought, “This is either going to go really well, or I am not going to make it through the first chapter.”  I will read you the summary on the book jacket:

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?

-Overview, All Fall Down, Jennifer Weiner

For those reading who may not be familiar with my back story, I started this blog as I began my journey of recovery from addiction to prescription painkillers, an addiction that started just as Allison’s did:  legitimately prescribed medication for a back injury.

I am happy to say that I made it through the book; as a matter of fact, I made it through in a weekend.  If I was not reading the book, I was talking about it, or thinking about it; it haunted me until I read the last page.

Before I continue in this glowing review, I should add a caveat:  this book was compelling for me because so much of it mirrored my own experience with addiction.  I cannot speak unbiased about the book, because it felt a lot like reading a biography.

Allison’s descent into addiction, her feelings of denial, her defensiveness of her secret, her ability to see only the faults of her loved ones rather than her own, was written so convincingly that I wondered if Weiner herself might have experienced this problem first hand.  If she hasn’t, then she should be lauded for her realistic portrayal of the thought process behind addiction, because she must have done an enormous amount of research.

Some of the smaller details of the book were told so well, it was difficult for me to read, it brought back such vivid memories.  Allison’s weight loss that was a direct result of her addiction is one such example.  As Allison grows more and more invested in her addiction, she becomes less and less interested in eating.  She loses weight, a lifelong goal, but along with the weight she loses her complexion, any shine or texture to her hair, and any motivation to care about her appearance.  When she received compliments on her weight loss, she fights the urge to giggle uncontrollably and blurt out the truth on “her secret diet.”

Her depiction of attending rehab as a middle-aged white woman was so realistic, she very well may have used my rehab stay as her research.

Allison’s evolution into her 12-step meeting attendance, from leaving the first meeting convinced she was not as bad as the rest of them, to her anxiously awaiting the time for her next meeting to start, describes precisely how I, and countless others, describe our feelings about the Fellowship.  I actually wished Weiner would have expanded this part of the story a bit further, and written a little more about the 12-step process.

Lest I go on forever extolling the virtues of this novel, I will point out that there is certainly some predictability in the flow of the story line, and of course there are some elements that seem written in advance for a movie script (the plot about the musical in the rehab has the book veering off course for a short while).  These points are incredibly minor, and are easily forgiven by the honest portrayal I was privileged to read.

There are many wonderful books about addiction, and what addiction looks like, on the market; I know a great many of them from reading the amazing blogs of others in recovery, and I have enjoyed them all.  What makes this book stand out is the drug of choice as its centerpiece:  I have personally never read a book that described the arc of pill addiction quite like this book does, and I am so glad it is out there for others to read as well.

If you are interested in understanding how in the world an average, middle-aged, suburban woman with no history of any kind of trouble-making at all could possibly get to the point of needing rehab, then look no further, and pick up a copy of All Fall Down.

Today’s Miracle:

Publishing this post at all.  I have never done a review in my life, and have been terrified of this entire process (am I breaking copyright laws?  Am I allowed to put the picture of the book?  Does anyone give a s&%$ about my opinion?), but the book made enough of an impact on me that I had to share it!

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Posted on July 3, 2014, in Recovery and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 11 Comments.

  1. Looking forward to reading this book even more after your review. Have a great holiday weekend.

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  2. you gave a great review! i read the book last week and have also struggled with prescribed drugs for a long time,it was a superb book as far as the descent into the addiction and trying to keep up appearances,i know it all too well…i would have loved hearing more about her recovery as you mentioned, but honestly reading how insane it gets was a great reminder..love your posts

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    • Thank you so much for these kind words. I was very nervous about putting this out, but I am so glad I did, Jennifer Weiner very graciously thanked me herself… how cool is that!?! Isn’t it amazing how well she tells our story? I am in awe. In another comment I include a link to her podcast where she describes why she wrote this story, it’s very interesting if you have some time to listen.

      So great to hear from you!

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  3. I’ve read plenty of sober memoirs, but not fictionalized accounts of addiction and recovery. I like this twist and would like to read this one. Your review was especially compelling because you wrote how you related to it, personally. I’m adding this to my list, sounds like the perfect summer read.

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    • Hi Kristen! Not sure what kind of “entertainment” reading you do, but if you enjoy chick lit at all, then this book has everything you could want! Let me know how you like it after you read (and let’s try to get together before the summer is over!)!

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  4. Awesome book review~ I too could relate to this book and did feel it tugged at my own personal experiences! I too had the same thought @ Jennifer and even went to her website to see if there was any mention her book was related to personal experiences. Honestly parts seemed so real like a personal memoir. I really enjoyed the book and think it is possibly one of her best novels.

    Thanks for sharing! What are you reading next??? 😀

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    • Thank YOU, MB, for tipping me off that she had a new book out, it turned out to be an awesome chain of events (including a personal email back from her, I am overwhelmed!) First, here is her podcast:

      http://libwww.freelibrary.org/podcast/?podcastID=1251

      It still amazes me that she herself is not an addict, she did that great a job in describing the feelings and thought processes. I could not agree more that it is her best!

      Next up for me: Friendship by Emily Gould. I’ll let you know how it goes!

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      • 😀 wow an email from Mrs Weiner? I met her once at a mud run!!! I ❤️ her book! She def. Did her research!!! Can’t wait till your next review. I just started Divergent~

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  5. Awesome review, Josie! I’ve been wanting to read this and will definitely do so! Just as I hope to do some more reading of blogs! I’ve been caught up in summer, which has been nice in its own way😉 Hope you are doing well!

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