All Fall Down
When your life seems perfect to the rest of the world, only you know the truth about the small cracks that threaten your security. Most people fix the cracks or soldier through when they can’t. But some people turn to pills or alcohol or other drugs. Allison Weiss is a suburban mom, living in a big house on the Main Line outside Philadelphia. She’s got it all, the handsome husband, a great job as a blogger, a young daughter. But they’re overextended, her husband’s newspaper job is going away, and their daughter is a handful. On top of that, her father has Alzheimer’s. And although it’s a good thing that her blog posts are getting a lot of hits, Allison has to work more and shoulder most of the financial responsibilities for her family.
Allison turns to prescription medications to help her cope and, when one supply runs out, she makes appointments with other doctors. When those run out, she goes online until her world falls apart.
Jennifer Weiner has taken the serious subject of painkiller addiction and created a light and fluffy story about a suburban mom on the wrong track, making All Fall Down just another one of those very readable but disposable women’s books you forget about soon afterwards.
Weiner’s characters fit the basic stereotypes she needs for the storyline, making them either unknowable or annoying, including five-year-old Ellie, who has jumped directly from Barbara Park’s Junie B. Jones series into Weiner’s story, complete with all caps exclamatory conversations like, “Jade and Summer and Willow all have THEIR OWN iPODS. And they’re the new touch ones, not STUPID TINY BABY ONES like YOU HAVE!”
The downward spiral of addiction is frightening, but I think the story’s impact would have been greater if Allison’s character had been more likable. It’s hard to sympathize with Allison because she is critical of everyone, self-absorbed and overly dramatic. This attitude continues even when she enters rehab. I don’t know a lot about rehab facilities, but I imagine most are run by highly qualified experts and professionals. But Weiner portrays the workers at Allison’s rehab facility as either complete losers or stereotypes and it’s not clear to me if the author is speaking through Allison’s point of view, or her own.
Without spoiling the plot, I will say that there are a few unrealistic developments and revelations, and, although the ending provides a neatly tied conclusion, I was left feeling like I had read the lite version of a television drama screenplay. Having said that, Weiner raises some good points about addiction. Allison isn’t a party girl. She’s taking her Percocets and Vicodins to manage her life, serious business. Her addiction goes unnoticed because she’s handling her responsibilities, at least in the beginning. And although her family doesn’t recognize the signs at first, there’s a period of denial that seems realistic and tragic to me. Maybe her husband and mother and friends are thinking if they look the other way, Allison’s problem will resolve itself.
All-in-all, All Fall Down is a quick read. It skims the surface of a real problem and ends with a hopeful message.
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