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All Fall Down: A Novel Hardcover – June 17, 2014
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Author One on One with Jodi Picoult and Jennifer Weiner
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.
Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
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.Read more ›
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.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I enjoyed this book. Working as a substance abuse counselor, this book was pretty spot on in dealing with addiction.Published 1 day ago by Sarah Banach
I enjoyed this book. It showed a different type of drug addiction that people don't talk about. Jennifer does a great job of stepping into that world.Published 4 days ago by Jennifer Schultz
It's probably a 3.5 star book, but I rounded up. It's about the horrors of addiction, but is handled so well by the author that it's not a horror story. Read morePublished 7 days ago by Roger L. Strauss
Well I wasn't expecting this! This was definitely a great read, though very uncomfortable at times, but so relevant right now. Read morePublished 14 days ago by Cv mac
For a book with very little action, this story is strangely compelling. I was invested in Allison's life from the beginning, alternating between rooting for her and berating her... Read morePublished 14 days ago by Cathey
I have read most of Jennifer Weiner's books and have found them quite entertaining- this book however, was a letdown. Read morePublished 20 days ago by Music Mama
Nice story line. Much better to read about her issues rather than "the man left me so I need to find myself again." Will definitely recommend to others.Published 22 days ago by Jenny G. Lee