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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.
*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 Vnuk
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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. 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.
This book is not Weiner's usual fare. She deals with addiction, which she had only peripherally touched on in other books. The drug of choice in this book are opiods, which was fascinating. You see, I'm one of those people who have never done drugs, but I've heard and read enough to have kind of an idea of what it might feel like. I have had a bit too much alcohol from time to time, so I do know what that is like. But I've never understood painkiller addictions. It's not that I don't believe it is a real thing--but I've had things such as Vicodin and Oxycontin after surgeries and....they have done absolutely nothing for me. So, I just couldn't understand what the appeal was (and I wasn't about to start popping pills to find out). Here, Weiner spins such a compelling tale that I could almost feel the highs and lows as Allison goes through them. I also could understand why Allison would turn to pills when the rest of her life was so out of control.
Once I picked this book up, I couldn't put it down (and, since I read most of it on an airplane, that was not an issue!). Weiner's story telling is in top form here. The pacing is perfect to reflect the frenetic life that Allison lives and in speeds up as she begins to spiral. Allison is a character that I'm sure many readers can relate to. While I don't agree with her choices (and I'd like to believe I'd never make them if I were in her shoes), she is still utterly believable.
I did have a few nit-picky things--I wish Weiner had fleshed out Allison's husband a bit more. We barely get to know him and I think that if there was more to him, it would only enhance our understanding of Allison. I also felt the last section was a bit bogged down and about twice as long as it could have been.
Still, this was a very satisfying read and I would put it towards the top of Weiner's books. I would recommend this book to just about anyone.
I've read Jennifer Weiner's books before, but to be honest what prompted me to buy this one was because I follow her on Twitter and I think she's funny (isn't social media fascinating?) She was promoting this book during her hilarious Bachelorette tweets, and I figured that I'd enjoy her writing if I enjoyed her tweets. I wasn't wrong.
One thing that did surprise me about this book is that there's a serious tone to it. The story describes the protagonist, Allie's, journey through addiction. Although it does seem that Allie leads a charmed life and that her problems are much less serious than those of her counterparts, I think that's kind of the point. Addiction can happen anywhere, not just to the stereotypes. I also really liked how this book gave the readers a deep dive into Allie's character, and didnt vacillate between different characters' points of view.
I liked Allie and I liked the way the story ended. All in all, I can't complain and I would recommend this to fans of her other books and anyone who enjoys a good story with a well developed main character.