Title: All Fall Down
Author: Jennifer Weiner
Release Date: June 17, 2014
Publisher: Atria Books
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
To others, Allison Weiss may have a perfect life: a loving husband, a gorgeous young daughter, a hobby that has turned into a lucrative job, and a big house in the suburbs. But there are cracks beneath the surface: Allison’s husband sleeps in another room; they barely have a relationship anymore, and he certainly doesn’t help much with their daughter, Eloise, who is more than a handful. She’s also struggling with her father’s dementia and her mother’s inability to take care of herself. So when Allison starts taking a pill here and there just to cope, she doesn’t think it’s a big deal. But before Allison knows it, things get out of control and she begins to wonder if she might have a problem.
This is a difficult, moving novel, with a sympathetic character at its core. Weiner has done a great job portraying the nuances of being an addict; it’s a book that readers, regardless of gender, should be picking up.
Jennifer Weiner’s novels are usually light and fluffy, dramas involving women that have happy endings. That’s not to disparage them, to say they aren’t worth reading, but as I usually like my books to have more substance, her books have long fallen from must-read status for me. But when I heard about All Fall Down, I was immediately intrigued. Jen Weiner, writing about addiction? This novel had the potential to be incredibly powerful, if difficult.
And difficult it is. All Fall Down is raw and painful more often than not. Allison’s downward spiral isn’t pretty or funny; it’s serious and gut churning. I read parts of this book with a knot in my stomach, feeling my own pain because of Allison’s pain. I am in no way trying to warn you off this book by saying this; the fact is, it’s an amazing read that modern women absolutely should read. But that doesn’t mean it’s a breezy novel that you’ll laugh your way through. No, it’s hard and painful, but so good.
Allison is absolutely an addict in All Fall Down. Her behavior, her excuses, her justifications are definitely recognizable, even if (like me) you don’t have firsthand experience with addiction. I imagine if you do, this book will be that much more powerful. But what Weiner does admirably is make Allison sympathetic. Yes, she’s an addict, and yes, she’s making awful decisions because of it, but the reader never feels hate or contempt towards her. Pity, maybe, and sadness, but Weiner manages to keep Allison likeable from beginning to end, which is especially hard to do given the subject matter.
The secondary characters are similarly well-drawn; Eloise is a “handful,” as Allison calls her. She’s an especially sensitive child, prone to tantrums and overstimulation, and the reader can absolutely understand Allison’s frustration. But at the same time, Eloise never becomes the boring caricature of an annoying child that readers just can’t stand. She, too, is sympathetic, and the relationship between mother and daughter is a sweet one that readers will become invested in.
There’s a lot to say about All Fall Down; it was a brave choice from a very famous writer who didn’t need to challenge herself in order to sell books. But you can tell she did, and her effort and care show on every page of the book. It’s a moving, well-written novel, and while it’s not an easy read, it will definitely keep your attention. It’s an novel that provokes discussion, and shouldn’t just be limited to a female audience, as this is an issue that impacts many people in different ways.
Other books by Jennifer Weiner: