Happy end-of-summer! I hope you’ve all been out having as much fun this summer as I have – with so many trips, I’m thankful to be back home lying on the couch, watching the sun set. Soon enough the sky will be dark at 5pm and I’ll miss these days, but for now it’s time to rest.
In the theme of not-doing-any-work-myself-today, I’m thrilled to announce we have a guest review from the talented and genius Angela Terry Greenwell. I first met Angela at one of our live events in San Francisco, and I’m thrilled she’s shared her review of All Fall Down by Jennifer Weiner. Angela is a lawyer/writer living in San Francisco with her husband and two cats. She hosts a monthly women’s fiction book club and – self described – belongs to too many wine clubs. Follow her on Twitter @angleterre71
Without further ado, I’ll leave you with Angela from here.
All Fall Down, review by Angela Terry Greenwell
The better: The story is about thirty-something-year-old Allison who has it all—husband, house, child, and professional success as a blogger. This “happiness” is only on the surface. On closer inspection, Allison lives in a house that her becoming-more-distant-every-day husband selected and that she wasn’t sure about; her daughter is “highly sensitive” (aka, prone to tantrums); and her part-time blogging gig has morphed into a full-time job and then some, while her husband’s career falters and Allison becomes the family’s breadwinner. On top of this Allison’s father has Alzheimer’s and her mother seems unable to function, relying heavily on her daughter to manage. In order to get through her days Allison has developed an addiction to painkillers that started with a simple prescription for her back. Her painkiller addiction worsens until she reaches a breaking point almost putting her daughter’s life in danger and is forced to go to rehab.
I could not stop reading the book during this part because I was surprised how Allison was still functioning (albeit loosely) despite the incredible amounts of painkillers she was ingesting and how she rationalized her use and means of obtaining her pills. Also, I kept waiting for one of her friends to call her out on it or her husband to step in. Instead it’s her daughter’s teacher who is the first to recognize Allison’s drug problem.
The worse: Weiner’s description of rehab was extremely eye opening for me and I personally couldn’t understand how anyone could overcome drug use in that particular facility. Rehab is also where I stopped being on Allison’s side as her judgmental nature comes out when she scorns the other addicts and refuses to believe that she’s one of them. Yet at the same time she befriends them enough that she’s able to organize all the patients to participate in a musical production. Because this part of the book was a little too outrageous, it took me out of the story.
Even though the book is about addiction, in a larger context it made me think about how some women try to be all things to everyone—caring-caretaker daughter, full-time-always-present mother, successful professional, and loving attentive wife. And how far someone is willing to go to hide her problems just to keep up the façade that everything is under control. It saddened me that Allison’s friends and husband didn’t “notice” or intervene until Allison was so far gone and needed rehab.
It brings to light the idealized standard we sometimes hold ourselves to. For example, my favorite line in the book was describing the 1970s, “before ‘parent’ became a verb, when mothers routinely stuck their toddlers in playpens while they mixed themselves a martini or lit a Virginia slim.” Yep, there are photos somewhere of my cousins and me all under five-years-old in a single playpen. And, yes, we all turned out fine (even “highly sensitive” me). I think this is a great book club selection as it will initiate discussion not just about the fall into addiction, but the roles women place on themselves today.
My recommended wine selection is a Dr. Loosen Riesling, for the simple fact that it’s so delicious that I can easily drink a bottle until I fall down.