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1. All Fall Down has all the hallmarks of a Jennifer Weiner book, but is a departure, too—it addresses the very serious topic of addiction to painkillers. What made you want to explore this subject, and how do you imagine your readers will react?
I wanted to write about addiction because I know—along with anyone who reads the papers, or People magazine—that it’s a huge problem for women. Like most people out there, I’ve had the experience of seeing friends and loved ones go through it. More than that, though, addiction interested me as a symptomatic problem. When you talk to therapists and counselors, they’ll tell you that addicts don’t have a problem with alcohol or pills, but a problem with feelings. They don’t know healthy ways to handle their emotions, which is why they end up in trouble with pills, or pot, or gambling, or shopping. I wanted to write about a woman who’s an addict but, more than that, a woman who can’t handle her feelings, a woman who’s gotten what looks like a happy ending, but doesn’t feel happy at all.
I think people come to my books for laughs, and I don’t want this book to feel like an after-school special. My hope is that I’ve told something very sad and very real, but in the voice of a character who is funny and self-deprecating, even as she’s sliding down the rabbit hole.
2. Allison’s slide into addiction, and her stint in rehab—as well as the characters populating rehab—rang painfully true. You must have done a boatload of research on addiction. Tell me a few things that we’d be surprised to know, which you learned during your research.
What surprised me most isn’t how women get their pills, but how little progress there’s been in terms of how to help addicts. We have rehab and….rehab. If you go to rehab and relapse, you’ll be sent back for more rehab (even if it didn’t work the first time, or first six times). And rehabs aren’t always tightly regulated, there aren’t standards that mandate things like how much time patients spend being treated by therapists, as opposed to watched over by the “recovery coaches” like the ones Allison meets. Finally, there’s a gender issue, where the “normal” addict is male, and a woman is an exception.
I hope things do get better. I hope there will be more options for recovery, options that acknowledge that all addicts have things in common, but there are important differences, too. I hope we can have a conversation about what happens when the help doesn’t help. After doing all this research, it was frustrating to see what happened after a Philip Seymour Hoffman or a Cory Monteith died, and social media would explode with people saying, “Get help! Get help! Don’t be afraid to get help!” Well, these two men GOT help. We need to talk about why rehab is failing, and how it can get better.
3. You’ve been quite wonderfully outspoken about the inequity between men and women in publishing. In what ways have things changed for the better? What room is there still for improvement?
Hey, you too, sister!
Things have improved. The New York Times Book Review has a woman at the helm, and the number of women on its pages, as subjects and authors of reviews, has gotten much better. Even places like Harper’s and The Atlantic, whose ratios have remained abysmal ever since you and I started talking about #franzenfreude and VIDA started counting, are at least aware that there’s a problem, even if they don’t seem particularly invested in solving it.
I’d love to see more places include more women. I’d love it even more if the “literary” writers who get profiled in the Times—in large part because of the efforts of their bestselling sisters —did not immediately turn around and trash “unserious” books by women, just to make triply sure we all know that they belong in the boys’ club of quality literary writers.
4. One of the things I love best about you is that you use your powers for good—namely, you constantly champion the writing of those starting out in publishing. Pick three unsung heroes in publishing, and tell us why we should be reading their work.
I love this question! Love. This. Question.
Roxane Gay’s work is getting a fair amount of attention, but if it were me I’d be putting her on the front page of the New York Times Book Review, inviting her on “The Daily Show” and making her books required reading for college freshman. In six months, she’s published a devastating, brilliant novel, An Untamed State, about a woman who’s kidnapped in Haiti, and a trenchant, funny, wise essay collection called Bad Feminist that takes on everything from Fifty Shades of Grey to online dating to weight and desire and how men and women are in the world.
Michelle Huneven is another writer who, if the playing field were more level, would get the attention of a Franzen or a Eugenides. She writes beautiful sentences, and she tells stories about dysfunctional families, fraught love affairs, and unusual relationships.
On the commercial-fiction front, I’d give you Tabitha King. She is—let’s get it out of the way—married to Stephen, which means that she’ll forever exist in his shadow, but she is a wonderful writer—funny and sly and observant and wise about people. In particular, I’d recommend Pearl and One on One.
5. You and I both went to Princeton—I’m (ahem) four years older. So: what’s the craziest thing you ever did on campus?
The craziest thing I ever did at Princeton, honestly, was try to change it. When I started, in 1987, two of the eating clubs were still all-male. Only a handful of women had spoken up about it, even filing a lawsuit, and they were dismissed as belligerent feminist cranks. My friends and I turned it into an issue again, but were able to get much broader support and show that it wasn’t just a handful of malcontents who wanted all facets of the Princeton experience available to everyone who went there. We had male alums of the clubs marching with us, carrying posters asking why their daughters couldn’t join. We had professors and administrators joining the demonstrations. Eventually, we had a rally that attracted about 500 people…and when the clubs held their votes, they both voted, voluntarily, to admit women. It was huge—one of the triumphs of my life at that point. I find myself thinking a lot about it now, in terms of the push for more inclusive book reviews, when people start saying, “Oh, she’s only in this for herself,” or “she just wants the Times to pay attention to her books,” because, when my friends and I were pushing for Tiger Inn and Ivy to admit women, it wasn’t because I wanted to join either place. I wanted them to admit women because it was the right thing to do, the same way I want the Times to review more women, and acknowledge women’s commercial fiction—it’s the right thing to do.
*Starred Review* Allison Weiss is having trouble keeping it all together. Her husband, Dave, resents that she makes more money as a lead writer on a “mommy blog” than he does as a newspaper reporter. They live in a house they can’t afford, with Dave sleeping in the guest bedroom more and more often. Between juggling writing assignments with the antics of their highly sensitive five-year-old, Ellie, Allison also tries to help her mother manage the fact that her father is falling further into dementia. So how does a stressed-out mom catch a break? Pills. Lots and lots of lovely little pain-killing pills. When she runs out of legitimate prescriptions, Allison turns to buying them illegally online, spending thousands of dollars a month on her growing addiction. Things look great on the outside—one would never guess how many Oxycontins and Percocets it takes Allison to get through the day—but rock bottom hits, as it always does. Weiner, who is a master at creating realistic characters, is at her best here, handling a delicate situation with witty dialogue and true-to-life scenes. Readers will be nodding their heads in sympathy as Allison struggles to balance being a mother, a daughter, and a wife while desperately just wanting to be herself.HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Weiner is one of the reigning queens of contemporary women’s fiction, and her latest is sure to hit the best-seller lists. The “hot-topic” quality of the story line will only boost readership even further. --Rebecca VnukSee all Editorial Reviews
With a good application, you notice the face. With a bad makeup application, all you notice is the makeup. Read morePublished 15 hours ago by Rose
It was interesting enough to hold my attention, but it got a bit long. I live locally to the author, so I enjoyed picturing all of the locations.Published 19 hours ago by Leslie Breslau
If you have ever known someone who has an addiction, or if you have one yourself this is a must read for you. Read morePublished 3 days ago by Judith L. Hanna
Great book. If you need to understand how addiction starts..this is a good example of how easy it is to get trappedPublished 5 days ago by Donna J. Peterson
Just received my book and look forward to diving right into it. My first Jennifer Weiner novel.Published 7 days ago by Mayadevi Gomez
I always love Jennifer Weiner's writing. A great, fast read delving into a subject that we don't want to look at insuch a way that you really start to understand what addiction is... Read morePublished 10 days ago by Amazon Customer
Great writing style. Slightly abrupt ending, Hoping there is a sequel. Great characters in a real life setting. Highly recommend.Published 11 days ago by EBNelson13