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REVIEW: Jennifer Weiner’s All Fall Down takes substance abuse to the suburbs

Allison Weiss has it all: family, career and a drug habit that might be less habit, more addiction.

Jennifer Weiner

Photo credit: Andrea Cipriani Mecchi

It all starts when Allison takes her daughter to the doctor’s office and comes across an article: “Has Your Drinking or Drug Use Become a Problem?” As Allison waits for the doctor and tries to calm her occasionally out-of-control kid, she realizes she has more in common with this article than she’d like to believe.

Still, she’s not worried. After all, the pills she takes are prescribed ever since a back injury at the gym. Her pain pills just calm her down a little, and how is a Percocet at the end of the day any different than a glass of wine?

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All Fall Down

Plus, Allison has a lot going on. Her husband has been distant, her daughter is hard to handle and her father is falling further and further down the Alzheimer’s rabbit hole. Add to that a busy, high-pressure career as a writer, and the pills are perfect for taking the edge off. What Allison doesn’t realize: the edge is awfully close to a fall.

Author Jennifer Weiner is known for honesty, poignancy and humor in her work. Her two most famous novels are Good in Bed (her super-popular debut) and In Her Shoes, turned into a film starring Cameron Diaz. All Fall Down proves she’s still got it.

Even Time magazine acknowledges her brilliance, including her on their list of 140 Best Twitter Feeds. In honor of this, we asked Jennifer some quick questions with responses of 140 characters or less.

Describe Allison Weiss.
Smart, funny, overextended, out of control.

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How do you keep a sense of humor even when discussing serious topics?
There’s humor even in the most tragic situations — and you laugh to keep from crying.

What’s it like being a parent?
Joyful, exasperating, wonderful, boring, thrilling, exhausting. The best and hardest thing you’ll ever do.

Total college exam question: What’s the theme of All Fall Down?
Authentic happiness comes from inside, not what society tells women they should want.

What advice do you have for stressed-out, struggling women out there?
Make time for yourself. Screw the dirty dishes. Let the laundry sit.

What’s your next project?
A love story about a disgraced athlete, a widow, a single teenage mother and an old man.

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All Fall Down is absolutely brilliant, although very hard to read. I had a suburban wife panic attack just about every 15 pages or so. Jennifer does such an amazing job of portraying Allison’s downward spiral. What begins as relatable, normal behavior soon turns horrific and embarrassing.

Still, it’s easy to see how pill popping could be so attractive. It’s easy to relate to Allison and see how she ends up in rehab. As women, we wear many hats — too many hats. We meet our girlfriends for happy hour and say, “I could really use a drink!” We laugh, but if we’re not careful, the laughter can turn to tears.

But hey, don’t cry into your coffee, ladies. All Fall Down isn’t a downer. In fact, it’s very freeing in the end. There are moments when you want to scream at Allison, tell her, “Pull yourself together!” But it’s not that easy, and Jennifer Weiner does an amazing job of creating a situation where drug abuse seems the only option.

Despite the difficult content, Jennifer is right: we still have to laugh, and she mixes a humorous voice with a scary subject. For all the mothers, wives and women with too much to do, this is a book for you. All Fall Down is a warning, but also a reminder that life is too short to live in a fog.

Photo credit: Amazon

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