Allison Weiss, a successful writer and committed wife and mother, finds herself taking pills to handle difficult days. What appears on the surface to be a happy life — loving husband, beautiful daughter, huge suburban home, successful career — is, for Allison, an untenable collection of stressors. As she becomes more reliant on prescription drugs to maintain the perfect life she always wanted, it becomes clear that her efforts may be destroying what she cherishes most. With sympathy and candor, Weiner charts the course of Allison’s downward dive to drug dependency.
Weiner’s fiction portrays the various challenges — infertility, divorce, balancing home and work, struggling with being overweight — women can face in modern life. Yet the novels are funny and the characters engaging. With acerbic wit and a gimlet eye for social commentary, Weiner captures the struggles, pain, and even the hilarity of navigating life’s challenges.
Weiner will speak at the Marcus Jewish Community Center of Atlanta at 7:30 p.m. on June 26.
ArtsATL: What was your inspiration for Allison Weiss?
Jennifer Weiner: I wanted to write about the specifics of addiction. It’s a huge problem — you can’t pick up a newspaper or magazine without reading about it — and how the face of addiction is changing to the point that it’s no longer a homeless guy on a street corner, but the put-together woman in the yoga class or in Whole Foods behind you. But, more specifically, with Allison I wanted to take on the question of authentic happiness. Here’s a woman who’s gotten everything she thought she ever wanted, and it still doesn’t feel so great. What’s next for her?
ArtsATL: You write about women, their relationships, and their challenges with various aspects of modern life. Was it always your plan to write about these subjects?
Weiner: I always go back to the quote from Flaubert, about how novelists don’t choose their subject matter, the story chooses the writer. That’s how it’s been — or at least how it’s felt — with me. With Good in Bed, I had just gone through this terrible breakup and wanted to tell a story of a girl who was a lot like me and a guy who was a lot like Satan just to pull myself out of the dumps. I have a sister, so with In Her Shoes I wanted to explore that dynamic. Then I had a baby, and there was so much about being a new mother that I wanted to unpack with Little Earthquakes.
ArtsATL: Your novels often tackle challenging issues, but they are always funny. Why?
Weiner: My guess is that my novels are funny because I am. Like a lot of people who had less-than-idyllic childhoods, laughter becomes a way of dealing with the pain, of telling yourself that nothing’s so terrible or grim that you can’t find some humor in it, somewhere.
I write the kind of books I want to read, and those books acknowledge the pain of life — that there’s addiction and infidelity and heartache and disappointment, that you don’t always get what you want — but that humor is an important way of dealing with all of it. You laugh to keep from crying!