I've been a fan of Jennifer Weiner from her first novel, Good in Bed. Her latest book, All Fall Down, has just released.
You know that analogy about the duck gliding serenely across the surface of the water - but what you can't see is how fast its feet are moving under the water? Well that is Allison Weiss's life.
On the surface she has it all - a beautiful home, a handsome husband, an adorable daughter and a very successful career as a blogger.
But lately her husband Dave has become distant, her daughter Ellie has behaviour issues, their house still looks like they just moved in, there are financial worries, her father has onset dementia, her mother isn't coping and the pressure to produce for the blog is all adding to the stress and pressure in Allison's life. The answer? A pill, or two, or three....
"Not one thing, but dozens of them, piling up against one another until the pills became less a luxury than a necessity for getting myself through the day and falling asleep at night."
While waiting to see the pediatrician, she idly fills out a magazine questionnaire and realizes...But she's not an addict, right? She can control it. And cut back if she wants to. Right?
As Weiner's tale unravels, so does Allie's life. The reader can empathize with her busy life and her stressors and can almost....but not quite, buy her rationalizations. And we can only watch as Allie's life mirrors that roller coaster on the cover and plunges downward.
Allison is not always a likable character - and that's to be expected given her situation. But I did like her voice. The supporting cast was a mixed bag. I thought Allie's mother's story was just as heartbreaking and telling. I was disappointed in Dave - he had suspicions of what was going on with Allie, but chose to not 'push' the issue, until things were far beyond the point of no return. I quite enjoyed Ellie's CAPITAL pronouncements.
What's frightening is that this book is not so far removed from the truth. Addiction doesn't always take place in a back alley in a bad part of town. I thought the ending was perfect - because life rarely is.
While Weiner's earlier books had more of a 'chick lit' feel to them, her later works tackle more serious subjects - contemporary women, their issues, emotions, thoughts and modern day life. She does it with warmth, humour, compassion and a sense of reality.
This book was so interesting and well-paced, I was drawn in and couldn't put it down. I enjoyed seeing the development of an addict within the context of a comfortable middle-class home. Many interesting characters fill the pages, not the least of which was a quite difficult 5-year-old daughter. Weiner paints a believable, even riveting, picture of a modern-day middle-aged woman trying and failing to juggle motherhood, career, marriage, finances, and social/peer pressure.
For me, at the age where I have adult children, I enjoyed seeing what it's like for these people in their late 30s, early 40s. And I like Weiner's voice: it's funny, sometimes snarky, feminist, and down-to-earth. I wish she were old enough to write about people my age (60 and above).
Minor spoiler alert: You may want to skip the next paragraph.
Two mild negatives: unless I missed it, nothing was said about the husband's selfishness which was definitely a factor in driving Allison to her pill addiction. Also, I wondered how Allison supported herself at the end of the book, since there was no mention of the job.
But having enjoyed this story so much, I plan to look back and see what other books of Weiner's I may have missed.
Jennifer Weiner's books are fantastic and this is no exception. The story shows how easy it is for people to fall into addiction and that it can happen to anyone. It's often uncomfortable to read, but this is to be expected given the subject matter.