With distance, comes safety.

It’s true in both a physical sense (i.e., forest fires in California are unlikely to impact my home on the East coast) and in a metaphorical sense (i.e. a typically inner-city scourge like crack addiction is unlikely to affect middle-class suburbanites).

When you remove that distance, things get tricky. To me, that’s the crux of Jennifer Weiner’s latest novel, ‘All Fall Down.’ The protagonist, Allison, is a successful writer, with a beautiful – if challenging, at times – daughter, and a comfortable home in an upscale neighborhood. In short, she’s not who you think of when you hear the term ‘drug addict.’ The fact remains, though, that she is.

We’ve all heard about the opioid crisis affecting our nation. Often, it’s easy to push it from our minds, saying, “That would never be me.” How many of us, though, have at some point been prescribed a heavy painkiller? Maybe you had a surgery, or hurt your back, and those extra pills are just sitting there in the medicine cabinet. All it takes is one or two bad decisions and the descent down the slippery slope begins.

Weiner does an excellent job of telling the story from Allison’s perspective– a writer, wife and mother who truly believes she has her drug use under control. She also avoids the trap of the excessively dramatic “rock bottom” moment, instead taking what, though undoubtedly a bad moment, is far less horrific than the typical turning-point tale, as the catalyst for Allison’s move toward getting help.

As in her other books (If you haven’t read ‘Good in Bed,’ please stop reading this and go get it right now. And no, it’s not about sex. Well, not really.), Weiner avoids perfect conclusions and cliched characters, opting instead for real people with real shades of gray like the people we all know– and further, like the people we all are. Allison’s journey doesn’t have a tidy little ending, all tied up in a bow. That’s not how life works, and Weiner isn’t going to pretend it is. Though I did find the ending a bit abrupt, even for a realist such as myself, I appreciate Weiner’s unwillingness to pander to the Hollywood mentality.

To me, this book is a stark reminder of that tried-and-true saying: “There but for the grace of God go I.” We are none of us immune.

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