Jennifer Weiner’s new novel, All Fall Down, deviates from her usual funny, lighthearted fare. Here the storyline centers on the issue of addiction. Weiner takes readers down the path of someone addicted to painkillers and shows us the depressing, frightening way the pills grab someone, just like a spider uses its web.
The story begins with Allison Weiss waiting in the pediatrician’s office, opening a magazine, and taking a quiz about addiction to Percocet and Vicodin. She begins to wonder if she is becoming too dependent on these pills, originally prescribed for her back pain. Allison moves on from Percocet and Vicodin to a stronger version, Oxycodone. The prescription painkillers eventually consume Allison’s mind, energy, and attention as she begins to use the pills to help manage her unhappy life: the unwanted move to a suburban neighborhood; an emotionally distant husband; a completely undisciplined child; a father suffering from Alzheimer’s, and a mother who is totally disengaged.
Perhaps inevitably, the characters are not very likeable. Allison is whiny and complains about everyone and everything. Her daughter, Ellie, is an overindulged, spoiled brat. Her husband, David, is a selfish, detached character. Unfortunately, Weiner never explores or explains David’s backstory — why he wasn’t supportive of Allison’s recovery, why he was absent from the marriage and never accepted any responsibility for their marriage problems. Still, All Fall Down is a powerful novel about a woman’s slide into addiction and her struggle to overcome it. More than just a story about an addict, it delves deeply into why she became one.