About the Book:
Miranda Fitch’s life is a waking nightmare. The accident that ended her burgeoning acting career left her with excruciating, chronic back pain, a failed marriage, and a deepening dependence on painkillers. And now she’s on the verge of losing her job as a college theater director. Determined to put on Shakespeare’s All’s Well That Ends Well, the play that promised, and cost, her everything, she faces a mutinous cast hellbent on staging Macbeth instead. Miranda sees her chance at redemption slip through her fingers.
That’s when she meets three strange benefactors who have an eerie knowledge of Miranda’s past and a tantalizing promise for her future: one where the show goes on, her rebellious students get what’s coming to them, and the invisible, doubted pain that’s kept her from the spotlight is made known.
With prose Margaret Atwood has described as “no punches pulled, no hilarities dodged…genius,” Mona Awad has concocted her most potent, subversive novel yet. All’s Well is the story of a woman at her breaking point and a formidable, piercingly funny indictment of our collective refusal to witness and believe female pain.
Published by Simon & Schuster Australia – Scribner UK
Released 2nd March 2022
All’s Well is the story of Miranda, a former theatre actress who now lives her days and nights in excruciating pain, a legacy left to her from a fall off the stage followed by a bad recovery after what sounds like a bit of a botched surgery. She hobbles around, barely able to move, certainly unable to sleep restfully, drugged on a cocktail of painkillers prescribed by various doctors, washing these down with alcohol while trying to appear as though everything is fine, because while it is obvious to all around her that it isn’t, Miranda is cuttingly aware that no one really wants to know about it, do they?
And here is the key theme of this novel and the reason I loved it so much. It tackles chronic pain head on, specifically, chronic pain in ageing and fading women, who, whether you want to believe it or not, are dismissed more than they are taken seriously. While I’m not where Miranda was, both with her level of pain and the way she was dealing with it, I could relate to so many of her experiences as a person who suffers from chronic pain. Particularly the way in which her physical therapists were treating her. I once had a PT session where a physio who I had been seeing for months for pain in my left foot treated my right foot instead of my left, and when I queried what she was doing, she questioned whether I was sure she had the wrong foot. Her dismissal, not only of the pain I had been in for months, but of my cognitive ability, was both infuriating and distressing. The author articulated this feeling so well through Miranda’s experiences, where each appointment would see her second guessing herself as she was gaslighted over and over by health professionals who in the end, were doing nothing but causing her more pain and emptying her wallet.
As Miranda’s pain intensifies, she finds herself propped up at a bar one night, and three strangers make her a deal. This is where the novel turns into something quite different, more of a magical realism ride that is both funny, in the darkest of ways, and incredibly brilliant. As Miranda becomes well again, people around her are not so lucky and as time goes on, a type of mania seems to take hold of Miranda, rendering her untouchable to all types of pain and distress. She feels fantastic, all the time, and begins to not see the effects of this on those around her. She becomes dismissive of the suffering of others, impatient with them, too busy to check in on them; an eerie turn of events that takes her some time to wake up to.
This novel was a solid five stars for me until the end. I just felt that there wasn’t a real sense of finishing to it, too many magical loose ends left fluttering in the wind. Despite this, I still rate the novel highly. Unique and darkly funny with a brilliant cast of characters, All’s Well kept me entertained (and guessing) from start to finish. A great one for theatre lovers too.
Thanks to the publisher for the review copy.