All Fall Down by Jennifer Weiner (2014)

I apologize for the delay in posting to the blog but the weather rose into the 80’s last Monday and it became impossible for me to stay inside to read; the warm weather meant my family and I just had to get outside to hike, ride bikes, and to spent time getting ready for soccer and baseball season.

When I finally curled up last night (which had once again turned chilly and rainy) I read All Fall Down and liked it quite a bit. I cannot say that I have ever read a book by Weiner, or if I have it was so long ago that I do not remember, but I her books are very popular and (as I have learned) popular books are usually, but not always, popular for a reason.

In All Fall Down we meet our main character, Allison Weiss, who is a wife and mother living — miserably — in suburban Philadelphia. Like many stay-at-home mothers (a species I know a great deal about being one myself for the past ten years), Allison is struggling to make honest connections and find meaningful ways to spend her days while surrounded by superficial circumstances.

Soon she is finding it harder and harder to feel close to her husband, who commutes to the city for twelve-hour work days while she and her daughter stay in the suburbs. He unwinds from long hours with even longer hours at the gym, leaving her feeling even more neglected. To make matters worse, he scoffs at her “online¬† job” blogging for a women’s magazine even as it slowly makes her a minor celebrity.

Allison also hates the silent competition for the “slimmest body” and the “nicest car”that the women in her circles seem to be part of. She finds that she is spending money she does not have to keep up and as a result feels worse and worse about herself in comparison. Compounding these problems are aging parents and a difficult daughter all of whom she must care for without help.

Slowly Allison finds that there is one beautiful, magic way she can stress less, brush off her insecurities, and dull the pain of her failing marriage — pain pills.

It is fast becoming a common story : legitimate pain pills are prescribed, the patient falls in love with the way the pills make them float away from life’s problems, and soon they must have more and more and more pills to keep feeling great.

You will not find any sordid reasons for her addiction to start nor does her story focus on a woman who hits rock bottom before getting sober. (Indeed, like many of her fellow addicts she avoids starting heroin when pills get too hard to find.) Instead, you find an everyday woman — college educated, employed, married, wealthy, loved — ¬†who turns to pills to help her manage her sadness and stress and soon comes to need the pills so much that she is willing to let the rest of her life unravel. Although she never crashes her car or injures her daughter, she veers very, very close to destruction multiple times before her husband and mother step in and insist that she get treatment.

The story covers a complicated topic with a sense of humor and relatability that can be missing in some addiction-to-redemption stories. Any woman could see something of herself in Allison’s story and that makes her descent into addiction seem so terrifying…because it happens so quietly and quickly that it even she does not seem it coming. A good, fast read that makes me think that I will pick up a few other of Weiner’s books.