All Fall Down by Jennifer Weiner

Yesterday I went to London for the day. I met a friend there and we went to the Invictus Games to watch the sitting volleyball. It was a lot of fun and I’ll blog about that separately at some point over the next week.

The route I usually get on the train to London takes around two hours each way including time between trains. Which is fine because I have lots of time to read. Because yesterday was a Sunday there was more time to wait between trains and they went a different (longer route). I left London Waterloo at 5:39 last night. I was home (ten minute powerchair from the station) around 8:20. So the choice of the right book to take with me was crucial.  It had to be something I’d not started yet, it couldn’t be a short book and because I can’t remember when I last charged my kindle and didn’t think the battery would last it had to be a physical book.

Simon and Schuster had sent me a review copy of All Fall Down by Jennifer Weiner. After much faffing about whether this was the one book to take on a long journey and much changing of my mind about whether I needed a longer book I decided this was the book to read.  At just under 390 pages it was the perfect length. The local stopping train went through the station before mine and I had maybe 20 pages to go. I finished it in time to have it back in my bag and my coat on just before the train got to the station.

Allison Weiss is a typical working mother, trying to balance a business, ageing parents, a demanding daughter and a marriage. But when the website she develops becomes a huge success, she finds herself challenged to the point of being completely overwhelmed. As she struggles to hold her life together and meet the needs of all the people around her, Allison finds that the painkillers she was prescribed for a back injury help her deal with more than just physical discomfort – they make her feel calm and get her through the increasingly hectic days. Sure, she worries that the bottles seem to empty a bit faster each week, but it’s not like she’s some Hollywood starlet partying all night. It’s not as if she has an actual problem. Until she ends up in a world she never thought she’d experience outside of a movie theatre: rehab. And as Allison struggles to get her life back on track, she learns a few life lessons along the way. With a sparkling comedic touch and tender, true-to-life characterizations, All Fall Down is a tale of empowerment and redemption and Jennifer Weiner’s richest, most absorbing and timely story yet.

A train journey that’s as long as the one I did yesterday can be boring. At no point was I bored whilst reading All Fall Down.  I was worried at one point that I was going to run out of book before I got home but then I spent a big chunk of the time between trains chatting to someone so problem solved.

I liked the story and I wanted to know what happened, it hooked me in and made me keep reading.  I kept being surprised when we stopped at a station and we were further along that I thought we should be…  Even when it ended I still wanted to know what happened next.  That’s in part because it seems to spend most of the book dealing with Alison’s downfall into addiction and then rehab and very little on what came next. And it ended with a few threads dangling still.  I’d have liked to have seen more of the post rehab section.

I loved the character of Ellie, Allison’s daughter.  I was convinced for ages that she was going to be diagnosed with an autistic spectrum condition as an excuse for why she was “difficult” and it surprised me when she wasn’t.  But I was glad of that because it would have ruined the book for me.  Disability in books is important. Disability as an excuse or explanation for a plot device sucks.

Ellie loves musicals so they get mentioned a lot. There’s also a section involving the Sound of Music. I love musicals and have been listening to the soundtrack of The Sound of Music lately. This combination meant I kept finding myself humming “How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria?” and making myself stop then starting again without realising.

There was another big moment in the book that I was sure would have been a big point in the remainder of the story. I won’t say what as I don’t want to spoil people. The fact it was mentioned and then basically ignored was wrong – it would have been a very different book if it had continued and dare I say it turned a good book into a brilliant one.

I’m not sure how but I seem to have missed out on reading Jennifer Weiner before which surprised me when I saw the list of her previous books and she has some big name ones. I would like to go back and read some of them.


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