Saturday, 30 August 2014

Guest Book Review: Jennifer Weiner - All Fall Down

Reviewed by Emma Crowley

Allison Weiss is a typical working mother, trying to balance a business, ageing parents, a demanding daughter and a marriage. But when the website she develops becomes a huge success, she finds herself challenged to the point of being completely overwhelmed. 

As she struggles to hold her life together and meet the needs of all the people around her, Allison finds that the painkillers she was prescribed for a back injury help her deal with more than just physical discomfort - they make her feel calm and get her through the increasingly hectic days. Sure, she worries that the bottles seem to empty a bit faster each week, but it's not like she's some Hollywood starlet partying all night. It's not as if she has an actual problem. Until she ends up in a world she never thought she'd experience outside of a movie theatre: rehab. And as Allison struggles to get her life back on track, she learns a few life lessons along the way. 

Amazon links: Kindle or Paperback

Emma has been a huge support to me this Summer especially by helping me out by doing some guest reviews for me of some of my outstanding review books.  But she has also offered to review one of the books she's recently bought as she knows I've been struggling lately so thank you Emma for this review.

All Fall Down is the first book I have read by Jennifer Weiner, I know some of her previous books have been light enough with plenty of humour but this is very different. The cover may give the impression that this is chick-lit but I think the dark background combined with the title has a slightly sinister feel. I can’t say I really enjoyed it as the subject matter was serious but it was good to get such an eye opener into the world of addiction. I’m really on the fence with this one, parts were really good and then other sections seemed to drag but I still think it’s well worth a read if you want something slightly different from your usual chick lit.

Allison is a woman who is teetering on the edge and as the title suggests everything is all about to fall down. She has everything she could possibly want in her life - loving husband, beautiful young daughter, nice house and a job as a blogger for a women’s website. So what could make her turn to prescription pills as a means of making it through each week - hour by hour day by day? Chapter by chapter, we slowly start to realise that everything is not perfect for Allison, she feels under constant strain and pressure to keep her ‘perfect’ world just that way.

Allison is now the main breadwinner as her husband Dan does not get as much work as he used to. Along with that her father is suffering from Alzheimer’s and her mother is unable to cope leaving Allison in a tricky situation. Then we have her daughter Ellie who at first glance appears like any normal little girl but she hates noise, likes everything to be a certain way and throws tantrums if she doesn’t get what she wants. I couldn’t make up my mind about Ellie, was she supposed to have Aspergers or was she just a naughty spoilt child? This was never really explained fully and I felt if I knew why Ellie behaved in the way she did I would have understood her much more and had a bit more sympathy for the way in which she acted.

Allison has so much going on her life that her intake of pills increases dramatically throughout the first half of the book. To be honest it was quite scary reading her story and the lengths she would go to in order to get her next fix. Soon Allison’s life is spiralling out of control and it all comes to a head outside her daughter’s school and before she knows it she is in rehab. Although as she claims she does not have an addiction. If the first half of this book was quite drawn out I found the second half really picked up the pace as we saw how Allison’s dealt with being in rehab and I wanted to know how the story was going to pan out.

I know this was Allison’s story as to how how she fell into and then dealt with addiction but I really felt we never get to know her husband Dave or for that matter her best friend Janet. It would have been nice to have read maybe one or two chapters from their point of view to see what they made of the whole experience. Yes they both tried to help Allison when she eventually reached rock bottom but for the most part they were periphery characters that could have been developed a whole lot more.

Jennifer Weiner had the guts to tackle the subject of addiction which has not often been dealt with in women’s fiction. Ok, so it didn’t fully pay off as some parts were weaker than others but I still think All Fall Down is worth a read. It certainly reinforces that addiction is never the answer no matter how hard life may seem there is always someone there to help. I won’t give up on Jennifer Weiner yet, I think I might try something else from her in the future.

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