A 39-year-old suburban mom turns to prescription painkillers to manage the compounding stresses of her downwardly mobile existence, her troubled marriage, her difficult 5-year-old daughter and her father’s descent into Alzheimer’s-related dementia.
Allison Weiss is a blogger at a Jezebel-like site called Ladiesroom.com and is largely responsible for supporting her family as her reporter husband’s salary shrinks in the wake of the implosion of the newspaper industry. Certain aspects of Allison’s writing career mirror facets of Weiner’s (The Next Best Thing, 2012, etc.) own public battles against sexism in the media and publishing industries. Allison wonders whether or not to use the term “strident” to describe another woman, and after her picture appears in a Wall Street Journal article, the comments sections is barraged by disparaging remarks about her weight and appearance. Unhappy in the large house in an upscale Philadelphia suburb chosen by her husband, Allison develops a pill problem, starting with pain meds prescribed for a bad back. Before she knows it, she's juggling several doctors to feed her habit, requiring larger and larger doses, and eventually turning to an illegal website to place her orders. Weiner manages to postpone the inevitable train wreck for a few hundred pages, as Allison dismisses and denies her addiction, comparing herself favorably to stereotypical junkies, whose lives are so different from her upscale Whole Foods and private-school existence that she can pretend there is no connection. Weiner relies on brand names as class signifiers; the other moms at her daughter’s school wear Lululemon workout clothes, Seven for All Mankind jeans, and carry Petunia Pickle Bottom diaper bags. Even after entering rehab, Allison’s denial of her problem and inability to identify with lower-class addicts from broken homes carries on for another hundred pages or so before the inevitable revelations set in.
Though it feels a bit like the literary equivalent of an after-school special for adults, Weiner does a good job of describing the mindset of the addict and provides a realistic portrayal of upper-middle-class addiction in a novel that will appeal to her many fans.