Customer Reviews: All Fall Down: A Novel
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on June 25, 2014
I have read a few Jennifer Weiner books in the past and enjoyed them but this is her absolute best and I will say that Jennifer truly captured what it is like to be an addict.
I am a former prescription painkiller abuser. I took percocet or vicodin everyday for 2 years. Like Allison, I went to several doctors to get the medication. I would make up elaborate lies about hurting myself. I used the back pain excuse, I would tell them that I pulled muscles, I even had teeth pulled out of desperation to get a prescription. I have been clean since February 5th, 2011. It was not an easy journey by any means. It was the hardest thing I ever done in my life. My addiction very nearly cost me my marriage and family.
I don't think people who have never been addicted truly understand what it is like. You hear people all the time saying "Oh just quit" " Your family should be enough to quit" and different things like that. Those words are spoken by people who have no clue. Once that drug gets ahold of you, it does not let go. It will make you do things you never thought possible. It will take away your pride, your looks, your ambition, and anything else important to you. Once you are sober you begin to feel all the guilt and shame you were not able to feel when you were using. It is a terrible place to be in. I know I will NEVER go down that road again. I think this book gives you a very honest look into the life of an addict. I applaud Ms Weiner on her fabulous storytelling in this book.
I can not recommend this book enough. Thank you Mrs Weiner for showing people how prescription drugs are no different from hardcore street drugs like heroin. I had an ER Doctor confront me one time about my drug use. He told me that if you take oxycontin and heroin and look at them under a microscope, there is not a single difference. Oxycodone IS legal heroin. That is terrifying.
If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction READ THIS BOOK. Your eyes will be opened.
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on July 2, 2014
The other night I woke up at 2 a.m. in the grip of yet another wave of drug withdrawal symptoms. Yes, appalling. Eighteen months one hundred per cent “clean” of the Oxycodone I took for pain after total knee replacement surgery, and this monkey is still on my back. Waiting for whatever relief ibuprofen might provide, I sat in the breakfast nook and leafed through the latest New York Times Review of Books, hitting on a short review of ALL FALL DOWN, the story of a suburban mom’s addiction to painkillers. Confession: my thoughts were not kind. Great, I thought. Author Jennifer Weiner gets another best seller, and I’m just the real live woman who has to actually live through this crap.

I downloaded the book the next morning and started reading, grateful at least for the distraction of my intense interest in how Weiner was going to handle this hot button topic. Weiner has a huge fan base. People love her books. Who am I to in any way criticize her style? I set out only to see whether she got detox and withdrawal right.

This book may give a few of her readers pause about their own history of substance abuse. She hits hard the notion that yes, you can look like a perfectly nice lady in the checkout line at Whole Foods and still be a drug addict. By the end, we’re supposed to give her character, Allison Weiss, credit for finally admitting that she is, in fact, an addict, and at a twelve step meeting she is among her own kind.

But Weiner may not understand the degree of denial operating in women who are secretly hooked on such opioids as Oxycodone, Vicodan and Percocet. She has Allison swallowing uncounted handfuls of pills, up to 300 mg of Oxycontin daily. This is truly a horrific dose. My own opioid receptors were thoroughly messed up, in contrast, by just 60 mg of Oxycodone taken for twelve weeks. The more common path to addiction for people originally taking these drugs by prescription is much less flamboyant than Allison’s, more darkly insidious. People agonize as they slowly increase their doses to get the same pain relief they had received initially, and to avoid going into the hell of withdrawal that comes with tolerance after extended use. I personally know women who would read ALL FALL DOWN and insist that they are not a true addict like Allison because—hey!-- they are taking their pills, not nearly so many, in what they desperately want to see as a carefully controlled manner. And look! Their doctors are still prescribing it. Doesn’t that mean it’s okay? They will fight the label “addict” all the way, as if what you call it makes any difference to a hijacked brain.

Weiner knocks her lights out endlessly detailing Allison’s stressful life situations--garden variety middle class mom stuff--as the reason she “uses,” apparently trying to persuade the reader to understand and sympathize, then makes the mistake of creating a character who is essentially mean-spirited and apparently was so before she ever got into trouble with drugs. Her name-brand-laced depiction of her lifestyle has that bragging-while-complaining quality that grates from the beginning.
Truly offensive are Allison’s antics in rehab, which seem designed as a set piece for the movie Weiner might like to see come of this. Hey kids! Let’s put on a show! Let’s write hilarious drug words to the songs from THE SOUND OF MUSIC!

Please. I have a hard time believing people in withdrawal feel like putting on shows.

Yes, I know anything can ultimately be the subject of humor—tragedy+time=comedy—but the epidemic of opioid abuse and addiction is happening right now, and it’s not one bit funny to the addicts or their families. Weiner’s is not the dark, sardonic humor of NURSE JACKIE, which I love, but an annoying, inappropriate, and over-the-top cutesiness. To appropriate for material something so painful, so tragic as addiction, and then ask me as a reader to enjoy along with her the fun she had making up these clever songs was simply more than I could bear.

While she did plenty of homework on the slang used by addicts in rehab, Weiner has nothing to reveal about the brain damage that occurs in people on long term opioid use. Unless you understand Post Acute Withdrawal Syndrome, it WILL just seem like these people, these addicts, these junkies, are simply making bad decisions as they try to recover and end up relapsing. To an outsider it seems so simple—what do you want, your life or another high? Why can’t people exercise their free will to make the right choices?

Because their brains are damaged, that’s why! Without their natural dopamine, they (okay, WE) suffer from Anhedonia (inability to experience pleasure) Hyperalgesia (anything that’s going to hurt hurts way worse) a lack of energy, depression and anxiety. Personally I have never relapsed, but every time my assignment for the day is to live through yet another wave of PAWS, I’m struck anew by my understanding of why other people do. In fact, it’s so hard, it seems a wonder to me that anyone DOES make it through this. Recovering addicts are sick people. They need help and compassion, not punishment, not guilt trips.

Weiner limits the physical aspects of Allison’s withdrawal from her horrendous doses of opioids to a couple of movie worthy scenes of dramatic illness, and then we never hear about it again. The use of a rollercoaster track on the cover seemed an allusion to the up and down, roller coaster nature of recovery, but this is never mentioned. In outpatient recovery, Allison laments not being able to use pills to help her cope with the nasty things in life like her husband’s annoying noises when he eats cereal or the spit blobs on the sidewalk. Without describing, detailing or understanding the chemical brain changes in withdrawal that heighten anxiety and irritability and make people feel absolutely suicidal, a reader can only feel that Allison is weak and shallow for needing a pill to face such petty issues. This contributes nothing to the understanding of addiction.

The final straw for me was when Allison’s outpatient counselor hands her a phone and instructs her to call each of the doctors she’s scammed and tell her story. And they answer! She simply phones each doctor and in turn they pick up their phones and talk to her! Not only that, but one of them actually says, “Oh, my God, Allison, was this my fault? Should I have seen this coming?”

Weiner is famous for her resentment of the label “chick lit,” but this is the kind of thing that puts her book way outside of anything reflecting real life. Perhaps doctors DO immediately take calls from Jennifer Weiner, but she should know that this is not the case for most of us out here. Seriously, how many of you can just pick up the phone and immediately speak to your doctor? Weiner will no doubt argue she constructed this scene purely for dramatic effect, the way a movie scene is set up, but when the inability to actually GET HELP and make those connections with medical professionals is such a huge part of an addicted person’s story, this seems patently unfair. Particularly if Weiner wants to accept kudos for tackling this serious subject. The painful and important truth is that the last thing doctors will admit to is any concern they might somehow be responsible for the horrible outcomes of patients to whom they’ve so casually prescribed these damaging drugs. To me, this is the bottom line of the opioid epidemic story, the clueless doctors who send patients off on this journey that so often proves to be one of No Return. A group called Physicians for Responsible Opioid Prescribing will back me up on this. Google their site for more.

Maybe the best we can hope for from ALL FALL DOWN is that it starts a few conversations.

Update on August 13, 2016.

I'm finally well and my own story of addiction to prescription drugs is now out. It's called Accidental Addict: a True Story of Pain and Healing...also Marriage, Real Estate, and Cowboy Dancing. Every word is true, but it reads like a fast-paced novel. I hope people interested in the subject of addiction to doctor-prescribed drugs will check it out. Linda Crew
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on June 17, 2014
I received a copy of this book from the publisher, in exchange for my honest review.

Allison is a mommy, a wife, a blogger, a dutiful daughter, a helpful friend, and because life is stressful, she sometimes needs help to get through the day. Allison’s help of choice is prescription medication in the form of opiates (Vicodin, OxyCotin and more). Soon, those doctor-prescribed pills are purchased online, from China, with BitCoin-like funds.
When Allison starts to realize she may have a problem, that she may not be keeping it all together, those around Allison have already realized just how serious her problem may be. In order for her to keep her life, and her family, Allison must go to rehab.
But her prescription medicine and aversion to heavy drugs and alcohol puts her apart from the other ladies on her rehab track. And as Allison tries to figure out a way to get back home, she only turns more inward.

I look forward to Jennifer Weiner’s books as my official start to Summer. All Fall Down, While it started a little slower than I was anticipating (I also, purposely, did not read the back of the book or the synopsis), by page 50 I was hooked and spent the better part of Memorial Day reading the book in a manic reading session.
Allison is a modern everywoman. We’re career-minded. We want children and a family, and find ourselves doing all of it, but getting very little credit–Allison tells David multiple times that she is, essentially, all by herself. She moved to the house he picked (unseen by her, purchased on his whim) in the suburbs. His writing career falls by the wayside (through no fault of his own) and he is moved back to his old job at the newspaper. In order to pick up the financial slack, she starts blogging for a female-oriented blog. I was able to find a lot in common with Allison, however I am lucky that I do not have a David in my life.
For most of the book, David is absent and when he is in residence, he is aloof and just terrible. While I realize that marriages can suffer during the first few years of parenting, David is just plain selfish. While with their daughter, Eloise, David seems to be the perfect dad, with Allison he is standoffish and disrespectful. It wasn’t until the very end of the novel where I felt a little bit of sympathy for him. He actually became a multifaceted character by then.
Allison’s parents are also in need of Allison, and while her Dad is battling Alzheimer’s and her mother seems to be helpless, it falls to Allison to do the heavy lifting, make the big decisions and parent both of them.
I had a relative whom repeatedly went into facilities for her illness (Bipolar disorder), but part of her was also an addict. I anticipate while some of this is different than rehab, she probably would have been helped (and alive today) with a serious rehabilitation plan.
Jennifer Weiner’s writing, as evidenced in the many previous books authored by her I have read, is as masterful as always. Her story, while different than what I would have anticipated from her, is compelling and well-written. I would love to know the type of research she had done for this story, because she seriously did her homework. Just absolutely amazing, a novel perfect for the summer, whether you’re at home, at the beach or waiting in the carpool line.
All Fall Down by Jennifer Weiner is slated for release today, June 17th, 2014. The 400 page book, published by Atria books can be found at your favorite bookstore or library.
ISBN: 9781451617788
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on November 18, 2014
I tried & kept trying to read this book.
I'm generally a fan of Ms Weiner's books-but this one...
I made it to chapter 11 & that was a valiant effort on my part.
First, it just dragged. She seemed to keep repeating herself. Even my husband asked if I hadn't already listened to certain parts. Listening to the voice of the child was akin to nails on a chalkboard & the child herself, well all I can say is kudos to the writer for creating the most unpleasant character ever.
The one thing that made this even more of an impossible & unpleasant read was the lack of research. The main character is addicted to Oxycontin. Oxycontin is a time-released pain medication that comes in 20mg (pink), 40mg (orange) & 80 mg (green) tablets. The small bright blue 30mg tablets that the main character ate like candy would be Oxycodone. If she were to chew Oxycontin she would most likely go into respiratory distress & die.
At least then this insufferable book would be over...
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I've been a fan of Jennifer Weiner from her first novel, Good in Bed. Her latest book, All Fall Down, has just released.

You know that analogy about the duck gliding serenely across the surface of the water - but what you can't see is how fast its feet are moving under the water? Well that is Allison Weiss's life.

On the surface she has it all - a beautiful home, a handsome husband, an adorable daughter and a very successful career as a blogger.

But lately her husband Dave has become distant, her daughter Ellie has behaviour issues, their house still looks like they just moved in, there are financial worries, her father has onset dementia, her mother isn't coping and the pressure to produce for the blog is all adding to the stress and pressure in Allison's life. The answer? A pill, or two, or three....

"Not one thing, but dozens of them, piling up against one another until the pills became less a luxury than a necessity for getting myself through the day and falling asleep at night."

While waiting to see the pediatrician, she idly fills out a magazine questionnaire and realizes...But she's not an addict, right? She can control it. And cut back if she wants to. Right?

As Weiner's tale unravels, so does Allie's life. The reader can empathize with her busy life and her stressors and can almost....but not quite, buy her rationalizations. And we can only watch as Allie's life mirrors that roller coaster on the cover and plunges downward.

Allison is not always a likable character - and that's to be expected given her situation. But I did like her voice. The supporting cast was a mixed bag. I thought Allie's mother's story was just as heartbreaking and telling. I was disappointed in Dave - he had suspicions of what was going on with Allie, but chose to not 'push' the issue, until things were far beyond the point of no return. I quite enjoyed Ellie's CAPITAL pronouncements.

What's frightening is that this book is not so far removed from the truth. Addiction doesn't always take place in a back alley in a bad part of town. I thought the ending was perfect - because life rarely is.

While Weiner's earlier books had more of a 'chick lit' feel to them, her later works tackle more serious subjects - contemporary women, their issues, emotions, thoughts and modern day life. She does it with warmth, humour, compassion and a sense of reality.
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on August 17, 2014
This was probably one of the worst books I've ever read. Not only was it not accurate on so many levels, but I found myself wondering how Weiner could have made the main character (I can't even recall her name right now, which should show how much I did not like the book) so unlikeable and not have realized it. It's clear that Weiner has no concept whatsoever about the world of addiction. The main character is popping so many pills that she likely would have overdosed early on. Furthermore, there comes a point where it's no longer and addiction or abuse of the drugs, but a physical dependency. Something Weiner neglected to even bring up until the point where the lead character ran out of pills.
The scenes where the main character was in rehab were just disgusting and made me dislike her even more. She had a holier than thou mentality and never viewed herself as an addict. What was really awful was how Weiner portrayed the employees and therapists of the rehab facility. As someone who actually works with people struggling with chemical dependency (in the role of a pre-doctoral intern), I can tell you that having firm boundaries and limits with patients, as well as instilling and maintaining rules in the unit, is critical and necessary for not only the patients wellbeing, but for the effectiveness of the clinic itself. If a patient where I was working attempted to pull the main character's little stunt of sneaking out, she would be discharge immediately, not be allowed to come back in. In the book the rehab facility recommended she be placed in a facility that worked with those who had dual diagnosis, which is exactly what this character had, but was never discussed. She clearly had some Axis II traits happening, either Borderline or Narcissistic. But Weiner had her cry and beg and she was miraculously let back in. On another note, I believe that the facility would have recognized that the character had these personality traits and would not have allowed for the splitting between staff members that happened. In those types of facilities, the staff are all on the same page about the clients and don't just bend the rules for some. Ugh--Weiner really is despicable for writing this.
Weiner also neglected to discuss the relapse rate for people who are addicted to substances, despite being in rehab or intensive outpatient care. It's somewhere around 95%. And wouldn't you know it? The main character gets her life right back on track, gets to keep her daughter, and still ends up with her husband. I can tell you from my experience that spouses don't typically stand around waiting for someone to get sober, especially one who pulled as many stunts as this main character did. Moreover, this main character didn't seem to have her life too impaired by her pill use, aside from the driving incident with her daughter. It is very likely that her life would have been much more impacted by her use (job loss, friendships ended, relationship over), something Weiner just let slip by.
Lastly, her daughter in the book was portrayed as an awful and annoying child, but with no limits set and no actual work done by a PSYCHOLOGIST to see what was happening for her. Primary care physicians are great at being primary care physicians, however they are often used for mental illness or diagnostic clarification without being trained as much as psychologists. It was clear that the daughter was either on the autism spectrum or had a non-verbal learning disorder. Again, Weiner was so caught up on the drama of addiction that she neglected to actually do research or have someone with ACTUAL knowledge help her write the book. Shame on you, Weiner, shame on you.
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on July 3, 2014
Sometimes, Jennifer Weiner's books work, sometimes, not. Here, there was too much description - hundreds of pages- of the pill-popping, crunching of bitter blue pills between her teeth, the relief flooding her over and over and over, without plot evolution- but that is what makes up the bulk of the book. The characters were unlikeable, and the child was horrible. Being "high-strung" doesn't mean you get to steal your mother's i pad, then throw it hard at her head, striking her in the forehead because it isn't a fancy enough i pad to suit her. That's not a difficult kid: it's a psychopath.
Plot "spoiler": The most glaring suspension of disbelief for me was that the husband would take his wife's word for it that she had permission to leave rehab for a day to attend her daughter's birthday party, instructing him to pick her up outside in the parking lot at an exact time. If she had permission from the rehab center to leave for the afternoon, wouldn't he have to check her out through the front desk? Wouldn't he ask the center itself if they had given her permission? That he assumes she is telling the truth has no credibility at all. Also, if the center has a policy of no musicals, they wouldn't just bend to the will of an addict, because (according to Weiner) the center felt "if you can't lick 'em, join 'em." I think these places have better control over their clients than that.
There was no indication of what the husband's feelings were at the end, which ended in the outcome completely up in the air, with the couple half-married, half-cohabiting, and the awful daughter"flourishing" from the arrangement. Huh? Also, the mother's transformation from incompetent wuss to a completely different person that late in life doesn't make sense either.
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on August 21, 2014
How easy is it for an educated, upper-middle-class, successful wife and mother to become an addict? All too easy, and the slope is more than just slippery. It has an elevator!!!

Here is the story of likeable, suburban working mom Allison Weiss. She has a difficult but loveable child, her marriage is a bit iffy but not something that can't be fixed, she has the usual worries about her aging parents, and her daily routine is over the top--but not more so than most of today's "I can do it all" mothers. Except Allison can't keep up--not with her impossible expectations of herself, not with the equally impossible demands of the uppity private school her daughter attends; not with the children's birthday parties that are akin to a major wedding; not with the competitive achievements of her wealthy neighbors. So Allison gets help--in the form of prescribed pain pills that she can rationalize away because "after all, they are a prescription!"

The scary and very real story of how Allison's "just one pill to get me over this hump" behavior ends up with 60 (SIXTY!) pain pills in two days, is well told, and so very, very real. While falling deeper and deeper into addiction, Allison fools herself (I am NOT like addicts; I am a successful working wife and mother! I am educated! I know the pitfalls! This is under control!), her husband, her mother, and everybody else...until she winds up lying in her own vomit.

What is so frightening about this book is that it truly CAN happen to anymore. So, so, easily. And that is the point of this book. It's a warning of sorts, but told with such sympathy and such empathy that any person who has thought longingly of that spare Xanax in the medicine cabinet, or the Percocet left over from a wisdom tooth extraction, or whatever else is hanging around, can react with a twinge of fear.

I haven't read Weiner in a very long time, and I'm glad I came back to her with this outstanding book. Well done!
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on July 4, 2014
I just finished this wonderful book and I am so impressed with Jennifer Weiner. It almost seems impossible that this is the same person who wrote Good in Bed, a book that I did not care for on any level.

This book grabbed me from the first page and didn't let me go. I took each step with Allison and followed along with her "Down the Rabbit Hole" as the first section is called. Allison was a fully fleshed character and I could really see the world from her perspective. Her husband has become distant in his jealousy that she has taken over the role of the main breadwinner in the family. Her daughter is overly sensitive (to put it mildly), her father is slowly leaving the family due to early Alzheimer's and her mother, as usual, is unable to cope.

The "solution" that Allison chooses to aid her while she tries to deal with all of this are the painkillers that she was prescribed for a back injury and when she had her wisdom teeth pulled. The back injury is something she can use again and again and she does. When she discovers the anonymous online pharmacy where she can get Oxycontin the downhill slide is accelerated to it's inevitable conclusion.

Rehab comes next and after more deception she finally begins to be honest with herself. I don't mean to seem to be glossing over rehab, I just don't want to give anything more away.

I know that other reviewers have complained that the ending wasn't really an ending but I don't think that this fantastic book could have ended any other way. This book is about real life not whether the girl gets the guy and they live happily ever after.

Thank you Jennifer Weiner for one of the best books I've read in a long time. This book is very highly recommended!
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on July 2, 2014
I have mixed feelings about this book. One one hand, Jennifer Weiner is an awesome writer and I have read lots of her books. This story for me was not so much about developing the characters as it was about detailing addiction in the white collar world. I guess the more I think about it, the best developed character wasn't a person at all, but rather the addiction to pills itself. While it was a good story that kept me involved, it also left me wanting more. More about the relationships between the characters, more about the difficulty of recovery ... just MORE. I think the book tries to be a light read while at the same time dealing with complex issues of family, work and addiction, and that may be the disconnect for me. Still all in all, she is a great writer and I look forward to her next book.
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