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All's Well

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From the critically acclaimed author of Bunny, a darkly funny novel about a theater professor suffering chronic pain, who in the process of staging a troubled production of Shakespeare’s most maligned play, suddenly and miraculously recovers. Miranda Fitch’s life is a waking nightmare. The accident that ended her burgeoning acting career left her with excruciating, chronic From the critically acclaimed author of Bunny, a darkly funny novel about a theater professor suffering chronic pain, who in the process of staging a troubled production of Shakespeare’s most maligned play, suddenly and miraculously recovers. 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.


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From the critically acclaimed author of Bunny, a darkly funny novel about a theater professor suffering chronic pain, who in the process of staging a troubled production of Shakespeare’s most maligned play, suddenly and miraculously recovers. Miranda Fitch’s life is a waking nightmare. The accident that ended her burgeoning acting career left her with excruciating, chronic From the critically acclaimed author of Bunny, a darkly funny novel about a theater professor suffering chronic pain, who in the process of staging a troubled production of Shakespeare’s most maligned play, suddenly and miraculously recovers. 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.

30 review for All's Well

  1. 5 out of 5

    Lala BooksandLala

    this cover is freaking me out

  2. 4 out of 5

    Nilufer Ozmekik

    This was... oh boy... I’m so overwhelmed right now... I don’t know what words will be appropriate to express my feelings about this reading experience... Strange... extraordinary...frustrating...blurry... illusionary...disturbing...sad...delirious...wild...different ...original...exhausting...dark...depressing ...weird...complex...conflicted... I can keep writing those words for several more pages but it is so hard for me to put them in proper sentences because this book extracts the opposite feel This was... oh boy... I’m so overwhelmed right now... I don’t know what words will be appropriate to express my feelings about this reading experience... Strange... extraordinary...frustrating...blurry... illusionary...disturbing...sad...delirious...wild...different ...original...exhausting...dark...depressing ...weird...complex...conflicted... I can keep writing those words for several more pages but it is so hard for me to put them in proper sentences because this book extracts the opposite feelings from you at the same time. You love it, you hate it, you love to hate it, you hate to love it! But for a long time I haven’t been book-drunk or suffered from intense book-gover ( which is terrible version of hungover! The meaningless words poured out of my mind at the same time! ) I have to admit: my heart ached for Miranda who suffers from chronic back pain, an invisible pain that cannot be treatable, costed her career, forced her to be an assistant professor at academia for theater program. She’s in pain. Her pain is contagious. You can feel it in your guts. Your soul feels it! She’s crying for help! She’s absolutely unreliable narrator, taking awkward hallucinatory baths and popping pills like candies to heal herself! Of course she cannot get proper result! When you stuck with her mind, you feel like you found soulmate of Raoul Duke’s drug induced, hallucinatory vision at Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, taking long tour at her distorted realities. She’s teaching Shakespeare as her life turns into a Shakespearean tragedy: an actress who’s dying to perform but a traffic accident already sealed her faith so she resents the young actresses-her own students who already replaced her. The play they work on All’s Well that Ends Well. An ironic name for her unresolved issues, incessant suffering, delusional mind trips. At some part, I felt like I was walking in the foggy road, losing my path throughout my reading journey. The book’s abrupt direction to fantasyland dragging you to the witch craft, more illusionary baths, awkward strangers in the bar changing your vision kind of more mind numbing experiences leave you at a strange zone. Conclusion is full of unanswered questions. Some blanks you fill with your own imagination! Overall: the author’s different, interesting, extremely direct and realistic to the chronic illness was the best thing about this novel. I loved her choice to build the story at small New England liberal arts college like she did at her previous marvelous work “Bunny”. Miranda was powerful, connectable character you truly care about. The thin line between fantasy and fiction was a little intense and confusing for me. I skip some parts because it was truly exhausting experience for me but writing is uniquely creative and original which I absolutely enjoyed a lot! Special thanks to NetGalley and Simon& Schuster for sharing this digital reviewer copy with me in exchange my honest thoughts.

  3. 5 out of 5

    megs_bookrack

    **3.5-stars** Miranda Fitch is a Theater Professor at a small New England college. Due to chronic pain stemming from the accident that ended her once promising acting career, Miranda isn't currently in a good spot emotionally. Doctors and Physical Therapists have been unable to make any progress with her. It all feels like a sick joke; nothing she's tries helps. Therefore, she takes way more painkillers than she probably should. As we meet Miranda, she is just about at her rock bottom, suffering th **3.5-stars** Miranda Fitch is a Theater Professor at a small New England college. Due to chronic pain stemming from the accident that ended her once promising acting career, Miranda isn't currently in a good spot emotionally. Doctors and Physical Therapists have been unable to make any progress with her. It all feels like a sick joke; nothing she's tries helps. Therefore, she takes way more painkillers than she probably should. As we meet Miranda, she is just about at her rock bottom, suffering through life in a sort of drug-induced haze. The Reader gets a glimpse inside her mind, as she tries to direct her students in this year's big production. Although Miranda is hellbent on All's Well That Ends Well, her students want to do the Scottish play. Ha! Can you even imagine? Miranda will not let that happen. The students are relentless. Worse, they're mutinous and her colleagues, in the faltering Theater Department, are no better. Just when she begins to believe all is lost, Miranda meets three mysterious strangers at her local watering hole. They're somehow able to turn the tides of fate, but at what cost? I really, really enjoyed the first half of this novel. There's no denying how fantastic the writing is. It's cutting, funny, socially-relevant, dark and quirky. However, somewhere around 70%, it took a sharp turn, from which it never recovered. There are a lot of elements included that generally work for me. It's weird, it's biting, it has a touch of the fantastical, but unfortunately, it just got too confusing. You can have solid weird, without confusing. I just feel like in this case, it missed that mark. I'm sure there will be a lot of Readers that will get it; I'm just not one of them. During the first half of the story, even when things got a little strange, you could still tell the events that were happening in Miranda's reality; you could tell she was having interactions with her students, with her colleagues, what were memories, musings, wishes, etc. When it got closer to the end, it changed. I couldn't tell what was real. I couldn't tell where Miranda was in time, space, what was happening to her? Was she dreaming? Hallucinating? And it never revealed itself, at least not in my opinion. So, I got to the end and felt like I didn't have a conclusion. Theoretically, I understand the ideas behind what was happening, but I just wanted more decisive closure. I was really disappointed with the last 25%. In a way, it made me feel like I had wasted my time. Never a good feeling. I'm mainly bummed because I expected to enjoy this a lot more than I did. It happens. All's well, I suppose. I did bump my rating up from 3-stars to 3.5, based solely on the author's creativity and writing quality. The story for me is a solid 3-stars. It was a good story, but not necessarily my cup of tea. Thank you so much to the publisher, Simon & Schuster, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I appreciate the opportunity to share my opinions. **For any of Stephen King's Constant Readers, if you have read this, did the three mystery men at the bar remind you at all of the little doctors in Insomnia? Because, same.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Gabby

    I had such high hopes for this and it started off so strong, but the ending really lost me. Awad is an amazing writer, that’s for sure. This book is so well written, and it was like I could feel Miranda’s pain and frustration, it was so descriptive. I really enjoyed the first two thirds of this, but the last 100 pages or so were so confusing and I just had no idea what was happening. Also, this is getting put under the horror genre for some reason, but I don’t think it’s horror it’s more dark ma I had such high hopes for this and it started off so strong, but the ending really lost me. Awad is an amazing writer, that’s for sure. This book is so well written, and it was like I could feel Miranda’s pain and frustration, it was so descriptive. I really enjoyed the first two thirds of this, but the last 100 pages or so were so confusing and I just had no idea what was happening. Also, this is getting put under the horror genre for some reason, but I don’t think it’s horror it’s more dark magical realism. And I think I went in with slightly false expectations. Reading vlog with more thoughts: https://youtu.be/v0v5yTpWtig

  5. 4 out of 5

    myo (myonna reads)

    this author is just not for me 😅 all the main character did was complain and the book is advertised as a dark comedy but like... wasn’t shit funny? the main character complained so much to the point where it just felt depressing instead of funny. i also was extremely bored half the book and it almost put me in a reading slump didn’t think i had to specify this but when i say she complain a lot i do NOT mean in regards to her chronic illness, i mean she complain in general.. about people and every this author is just not for me 😅 all the main character did was complain and the book is advertised as a dark comedy but like... wasn’t shit funny? the main character complained so much to the point where it just felt depressing instead of funny. i also was extremely bored half the book and it almost put me in a reading slump didn’t think i had to specify this but when i say she complain a lot i do NOT mean in regards to her chronic illness, i mean she complain in general.. about people and everything else in her life.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Liz

    What did I just read? I’m still trying to figure this one out. Miranda suffers from chronic pain and it consumes the first part of the book. Her friends have finally had enough, and she is finding herself more and more alone. She combines pills that weren’t meant to be combined and adds alcohol on top. She's seen doctor after doctor, tried a multitude of physical therapists. No one has helped. Is it in her head, like some seem to think? She’s a hot mess. On top of that, she works as a theatre pr What did I just read? I’m still trying to figure this one out. Miranda suffers from chronic pain and it consumes the first part of the book. Her friends have finally had enough, and she is finding herself more and more alone. She combines pills that weren’t meant to be combined and adds alcohol on top. She's seen doctor after doctor, tried a multitude of physical therapists. No one has helped. Is it in her head, like some seem to think? She’s a hot mess. On top of that, she works as a theatre professor at some no name college and is directing All’s Well That Ends Well, a play her students have no interest in. I’ll warn you, at first I didn’t see any humor in the story. Miranda made me cringe more than laugh. For everyone who has an ailment that isn’t visible to the naked eye, it will ring true. But then she meets up with three strange men. And one shows her “a trick”. And that’s when things start to get really interesting. I’m not sure what I was expecting. The magic realism here almost turns into a horror show. It’s a very strange book. Very dark, surreal, almost hallucinatory. I veered all over the place, trying to wrap my head around this story. What was going on here? At the end, I was no less confused. But it was so interesting, I enjoyed it. It would make an interesting book club selection as it gives you lots to think about. My thanks to NetGalley and Simon & Schuster for an advance copy of this book.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Caitlin

    mona herself sent me this book and i LOVED it! vlogged all my thoughts and vibes https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IIfD6... mona herself sent me this book and i LOVED it! vlogged all my thoughts and vibes https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IIfD6...

  8. 4 out of 5

    Jananie (thisstoryaintover)

    what a ride—we love it though 👌🏾

  9. 4 out of 5

    Kim ~ It’s All About the Thrill

    Yesss! 5 shiny stars! Original, dark, twisted and flipping weird! I LOVED it! 🖤Awad is the Queen 👑 of "What the hell did I just read?!" No she really is..check out the reviews! Okay so this book...well I wasn't even planning on reading this right now...I was actually reading another book..curiosity got the best of me...I thought...I will just skim a chapter and see what this is all about...150 pages later..well I was all in..invested and my current read was kicked 🦵to the curb..😂🤷‍♀️ Miranda is a Yesss! 5 shiny stars! Original, dark, twisted and flipping weird! I LOVED it! 🖤Awad is the Queen 👑 of "What the hell did I just read?!" No she really is..check out the reviews! Okay so this book...well I wasn't even planning on reading this right now...I was actually reading another book..curiosity got the best of me...I thought...I will just skim a chapter and see what this is all about...150 pages later..well I was all in..invested and my current read was kicked 🦵to the curb..😂🤷‍♀️ Miranda is a college theater director. She loves her job and she has determined that they are going to put on Shakespeare’s All’s Well that Ends Well. 🎭 The problem is nobody wants to do the play except Miranda... Miranda has chronic pain..her students, coworkers and friends have zero respect for her...they mock her pain with snarky, cruel comments that bring Miranda down even further into her depths of depression..chasing her pain away with pills💊alcohol 🍷🥃🍸and whatever she can...she is spiraling out of control..she even seeks help from a dude doing "treatments" out of his garage..😳No Miranda...girl..just no.. After hitting an all time low on the floor of a sleazy bar...Miranda's life suddenly turns around. What happened in the bar??? Ummm good question...🤔things got really weird....I am not hallucinating..you are!! 🤔😂😳Good thing I like weird! So if you loved 🐰 ...well this isn't Bunny..🐰but I think you will love it...if you didn't love Bunny...🐰well I think you will like this... This book is so original..both of her books have been so creative and written so well...I can't wait to see what she thinks up next! Huge shoutout to Simon and Schuster for this gorgeous gifted copy!

  10. 4 out of 5

    Jasmine

    Another favourite of the year! Mona Awad had me entranced with this one! If this isn’t the most deliciously dark read ever, I don’t know what is. Miranda has chronic pain as a result of falling off stage just when her career was about to take off. Now, she’s in her mid-thirties and is a theatre professor who can barely move without pain lighting fires throughout her body. To Miranda’s chagrin, everyone in her life is tired of her complaining about it and they keep telling her it must be in her h Another favourite of the year! Mona Awad had me entranced with this one! If this isn’t the most deliciously dark read ever, I don’t know what is. Miranda has chronic pain as a result of falling off stage just when her career was about to take off. Now, she’s in her mid-thirties and is a theatre professor who can barely move without pain lighting fires throughout her body. To Miranda’s chagrin, everyone in her life is tired of her complaining about it and they keep telling her it must be in her head, that she’s being theatric. All the same, Miranda is about to start rehearsals for this year’s play, All’s Well That Ends Well by Shakespeare. One evening she goes to a dive bar and meets three men in suits who seem to know everything about her. They offer her a golden remedy with the promise that it will cure all of her ailments. And that’s how this darkly funny and bizarre tale unfurls from there. This story is told in its entirety from Miranda’s perspective and you really get insight into all of her anxious and depressed thoughts. She reminisces about the days when she was a stunning, able-bodied woman with an adoring husband. She wants her old life back. The discussions on female pain and how able-bodied people, sometimes, perceive it were spot on. Also, the analysis on how disabled people are sometimes treated by able-bodied people was very realistic. Nerdy Latin Language Fact: The name Miranda is derived from the Latin ‘mirari’ and in this gerundive form means she who is to be admired, to be amazed at. I don’t know if the author specifically chose the name ‘Miranda’ for her main character with this in mind, but either way, it is genius and very fitting. Needless to say, I absolutely loved this one and can’t wait for more from the author. Thank you to Netgalley and Penguin Random House Canada for the arc in exchange for my honest opinions.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Tonya

    WOW! What did I just read?!! Miranda, the pain ridden theater director, was able to make me laugh and cry while shaking my head in disbelief and confusion. As I rode the waves of what felt like a drug induced trip, I was captivated by Miranda and thrust into her surreal and ever changing world of pain, fear, triumph and joy. This book is a roller coaster ride that will capture you and hold on tight not letting you get off until you’ve reached the exciting,disturbing and intoxicating destination. WOW! What did I just read?!! Miranda, the pain ridden theater director, was able to make me laugh and cry while shaking my head in disbelief and confusion. As I rode the waves of what felt like a drug induced trip, I was captivated by Miranda and thrust into her surreal and ever changing world of pain, fear, triumph and joy. This book is a roller coaster ride that will capture you and hold on tight not letting you get off until you’ve reached the exciting,disturbing and intoxicating destination. The lines of reality and fantasy are blurred as Miranda suffers and rejoices in one of the most original and creative stories I have ever read. Thank you NetGalley and Simon & Schuster for my ARC.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Katie Colson

    ⭐️3.5⭐️ Mona Awad is a fuckin weirdo, writing books for other fuckin weirdos. And I love her for it.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Erin Clemence

    Special thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for a free, electronic ARC of this novel received in exchange for an honest review. Expected publication date: August 3, 2021 After an accident left Miranda Fitch with a crippling injury and chronic pain, her husband, Paul, left her, and she had to give up her dream of being a stage actress. Now, physically and emotionally broken, she teaches theatre at a local college, watching young actresses live the life she once thought she’d have. Throug Special thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for a free, electronic ARC of this novel received in exchange for an honest review. Expected publication date: August 3, 2021 After an accident left Miranda Fitch with a crippling injury and chronic pain, her husband, Paul, left her, and she had to give up her dream of being a stage actress. Now, physically and emotionally broken, she teaches theatre at a local college, watching young actresses live the life she once thought she’d have. Through it all though, Miranda is desperate to have her class perform “All’s Well That Ends Well”, the Shakespeare play that she fell in love with when she performed the lead role years ago. But, unknowingly, “All’s Well” will change Miranda’s life in unbelievable ways. Mona Awad’s new novel, “All’s Well” definitely checks all the boxes for “uniquely creative”, as I can genuinely say I have never read anything like it before. It is a very odd novel, and I am still trying to come to terms with what the heck I just read. Miranda is both sympathy-inducing and pathetic all at once, although her struggle with untreatable pain is heartbreaking. However, there were various times throughout the novel when I wondered if Miranda was having a psychological breakdown, as it wasn’t clear if she was having delusions and hallucinations, or if she was under some supernatural spell. I really enjoyed the character of Ellie, and disliked Briana, as did Miranda, and Awad definitely presented some honest, true-to-life characters. “All’s Well” is completely character-driven, and although the plot confused me and turned me off in places, I was invested in the characters’ outcome and wanted to see how the end would play out for Miranda. Awad’s writing is chunky, with short sentences, with the occasional missing quotation mark or two. This adds to the eccentricity of her novel, but I found that this style of writing was a detriment to the novel’s flow. Awad is an award-winning, highly educated author, so perhaps “All’s Well” was just more complicated than my mind was ready for. As a Shakespeare and theatre fan, the premise of this novel intrigued me, and I was not disappointed on that front, as the novel was full of both. But I did not enjoy this novel as much as I wanted to. It was worth reading, merely for the theatrical components, but the ending was anti-climactic and I was left with too many confusing questions.

  14. 4 out of 5

    L.A.

    I laughed so hard at this dark satirical novel. Mona Awad is just what I needed after so many serious books. The quirky humor she delivers held my attention throughout. The main character Miranda is a college theater director. In her younger years, who was a performer on stage, but after an accident left her seeking help for her "invisible pain" the doctors doubted and thought she was a delusional pain pill popper she left the stage to teach it. I felt guilty for laughing at someone else's misfo I laughed so hard at this dark satirical novel. Mona Awad is just what I needed after so many serious books. The quirky humor she delivers held my attention throughout. The main character Miranda is a college theater director. In her younger years, who was a performer on stage, but after an accident left her seeking help for her "invisible pain" the doctors doubted and thought she was a delusional pain pill popper she left the stage to teach it. I felt guilty for laughing at someone else's misfortune, but this was well-developed humor and insight into her mind and thought process. Some of it was disturbing and desperate, but most of the time I was laughing out loud. The disrespect she receives from her friends, colleagues and students creates resentment towards everyone and especially the healthy mode of the younger actresses. She directs the Shakespeare drama All's Well that Ends Well much to the students' dismay that it becomes quite intense. This is wild!! I'm so thankful I was able to read it and have heard her book Bunny is a delightful read also. Thank you NetGalley and Simon & Shuster for this ARC in exchange for my honest opinion.

  15. 4 out of 5

    lark benobi

    This novel alternately exhilarated me and provoked me--but it provoked me in a good way, if you can imagine such a thing--because over and over again as I read along I would be flung headlong into a seriously uncomfortable scene, along with the protagonist, Miranda, and I, like her, wanted more than anything to get out of that situation in any way I could--Turn the page! Turn the page!--but no, that wouldn't get me anywhere because the next scene would find a new way to make me feel things I did This novel alternately exhilarated me and provoked me--but it provoked me in a good way, if you can imagine such a thing--because over and over again as I read along I would be flung headlong into a seriously uncomfortable scene, along with the protagonist, Miranda, and I, like her, wanted more than anything to get out of that situation in any way I could--Turn the page! Turn the page!--but no, that wouldn't get me anywhere because the next scene would find a new way to make me feel things I didn't want to feel, to make me feel uncomfortable in my own skin, where I would do anything to escape what was happening to the protagonist--happening to me, that is, because I felt it too. I'm there for it one hundred percent when Miranda gets the ability to give her pain away to others like a hot potato. Wow. Yes. It's a subversive read, and a submersive one, too, even though that isn't a word--what I mean is that I was plunged into it headfirst and spent much of my time underwater while reading it. Gasping. Also the novel is strangely deadpan. I say "strangely" because most writers would allow far more interiority into their writing, especially when the subject is something as interior as pain. Most writers would permit the protagonist herself to let go and tell us how she really feels in a series of harsh barbaric yawps. Miranda remains relatively civilized, considering. We hear about her pain mostly when she tries and fails to explain her pain to others. This is scary writing. It's a confidently-told story that starts off fairly wild and becomes magnificently weirder as you read on. People have been telling me for some time to read Bunny and now I know I should have listened to them.

  16. 5 out of 5

    luce

    | | blog | tumblr | ko-fi | | 3 ¼ stars “I thought tests led to something. A diagnosis led to a plan, a cure. But tests, I know now, never lead us anywhere. Tests are dark roads with no destinations, just leading to more dark.” All's Well makes for an entertaining if somewhat flawed romp. The novel is narrated by Miranda, a theatre professor in her later thirties, who is not doing so well. After falling off a stage during her early acting career Miranda has been left in a state of perpetual pain | | blog | tumblr | ko-fi | | 3 ¼ stars “I thought tests led to something. A diagnosis led to a plan, a cure. But tests, I know now, never lead us anywhere. Tests are dark roads with no destinations, just leading to more dark.” All's Well makes for an entertaining if somewhat flawed romp. The novel is narrated by Miranda, a theatre professor in her later thirties, who is not doing so well. After falling off a stage during her early acting career Miranda has been left in a state of perpetual pain. Bad surgeries, failed recoveries, inept physiotherapists have all left their mark on her body and Miranda now struggles to even move her right leg and suffers from chronic pain (her back, hip). She's divorced and has no friends left. “I was always busy. Doing what? Grace would ask. Getting divorced. Seeing another surgeon, another wellness charlatan. Gazing into the void of my life.” Not only are her colleagues disbelieving of her pain but even her doctors treat Miranda's 'failed' attempts to improve as something she ought to be blamed for. She decides that her class should stage Shakespeare's All's Well That Ends Well since not only did she herself act in that play years previously (giving a brilliant performance) but elements within its story (such as helena's 'cure') appeal to her given her current situation. Alas, her students are not so keen, wanting instead to stage Macbeth. Briana, who always gets parts not because she is talented but because her parents' generous donations to the college, seems particularly intent on making Miranda's life difficult. When Briana’s ‘mutiny' succeeds Miranda is equal parts furious and despairing. Not only does she have to deal with her body being in constant pain but now she feels that her life has reached its lowest point, with no one believing her about her chronic pain or even respecting her. At the local pub, she comes across three mysterious men in suits who not only know all about her professional and personal life but they also seem eager to help her. One golden drink later and Miranda blacks out. Wondering whether she is really losing it Miranda goes to rehearsals where after an 'altercation' with Briana she finds herself feeling increasingly better. Not only is her pain gone but she can once again move her body with ease. And, it just so happens that she can stage All's Well That Ends Well after all. So what if Briana has fallen gravely ill? Not all gifts have to come at a price....right? “Still sick, so we hear. So sad. We are all terribly sad about it, turly. Truly, truly.” In a similar fashion to Bunny, All's Well present its readers with an increasingly surreal narrative. From the start, Miranda's voice is characterised by a note of hysteria, and as the story's events unfold, her narration becomes increasingly frenzied. She's paranoid and obsessive, one could even say unhinged. Yet, even after she's crossed, leapt over even, the line I found myself still rooting for Miranda. I loved that detail about her 'asides' being overheard by others. The latter half of the novel does fall into the same pitfalls as Bunny. The language gets repetitive, the weirdness feels contrived, and we get this surreal sequence that could have been cut short (a joke that goes on for too long ends up being not all that funny). The narrative's dark, sometimes offensive, humor brought to mind Ottessa Moshfegh, Jen Beagin, and Melissa Broder. The side characters were a bit unmemorable, Miranda's colleagues in particular, and I wish more time had spent on getting to know the students (we only learn a bit about three of them) or to see them rehearsing the play. My favourite scenes were the ones with the three suited men, I really loved the way they are presented to us. They gave some serious David Lynch and Shirley Jackson vibes. I wish that Miranda's visit to that sadistic doctor could have been left out of the novel as they felt a bit heavy-handed. Then again, this not a nuanced or complex novel. It is absurd, occasionally funny, and mostly entertaining. The novel's exploration of chronic pain did not feel particularly thought-provoking but there were instances that I could relate to (i happen to suffer from a seasonal autoimmune disease and i've had to put up with patronising doctors dismissing the severity of my symptoms). It seemed a bit weird that no one believed Miranda (or that crutches and walking sticks do not exist in this universe so characters are constantly 'hobbling' with their leg dragging behind them). Still, we do get spot-on passages like this: “But not too much pain, am I right? Not too much, never too much. If it was too much, you wouldn't know what to do with me, would you? Too much would make you uncomfortable. Bored. My crying would leave a bad taste. That would just be bad theatre, wouldn't it? A bad show. You want a good show. They all do. A few pretty tears on my cheeks that you can brush away. Just a delicate little bit of ouch so you know there's someone in there. So you don't get too scared of me, am I right? So you know I'm still a vulnerable thing. That I can be brought down if I need be.” I appreciate Miranda's journey, from being the who is wronged to being the one who wrongs others, and I liked her hectic OTT narration. Yes, Awad's style has this sticky extra quality to it that I am still not 100% fond of but here I found myself buying into it more. If unlike me, you were a fan ofBunny you will probably find All's Well to be a pretty entertaining read. Those who weren't keen on Bunny may be better off sampling a few pages before committing to All's Well (some may find it irritating or unpleasant: "all of them gazing up at my body, lump foul of deformity"). Personally, I found All's Well to be far more well-executed than Bunny and Miranda makes for a fascinating protagonist. Side note: I don't want to nitpick but Italians use 'primavera' to say 'spring' (if you want to argue about the etymology of 'primavera' 'first spring' would not be incorrect but Awad does not make that distinction so...). ARC provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Carolyn Walsh

    I regret that I had a lot of difficulty getting into this book, and struggled throughout. It was not what I expected or needed at this time while shut in from the COVID threat and chronic pain. I feel that perhaps I am the wrong person to review a book that is rated highly by many readers. The description appealed to me as it was mentioned as being 'darkly funny' and 'hilarious'. That sounded like a book that would be humourous and would lift my spirits during this unsettled time. I thought I s I regret that I had a lot of difficulty getting into this book, and struggled throughout. It was not what I expected or needed at this time while shut in from the COVID threat and chronic pain. I feel that perhaps I am the wrong person to review a book that is rated highly by many readers. The description appealed to me as it was mentioned as being 'darkly funny' and 'hilarious'. That sounded like a book that would be humourous and would lift my spirits during this unsettled time. I thought I should be empathizing with Miranda, but found her both sad, unfortunate, and not at all likable. She is employed as a theatre director at a university. She is determined to force her students to perform 'All's Well That Ends Well' for the annual stage production, going against her casts' wishes to put on the Scottish play (Macbeth) instead. "All's Well' reminds her of her early, painless days as a promising actress until an accident left her in excruciating pain. She can barely stumble in to work, her mind fuzzy from pain and overuse of painkillers. She resents her theatre students for their youth, beauty, high spirits, good health, and their voiced dislike of the play. She has become overly dependant on an assortment of painkillers, chiropractors, physiotherapists, acupuncturists, with no favourable results. She also will mix in booze with her medications. Doctors tend to ignore or disbelieve complaints, especially from women. She has alienated most friends and lost her husband due to her misery. Her acquaintances barely tolerate her disability and suffering, and her job is in jeopardy. The narrative is through a stream of consciousness, an inner monologue where we enter Miranda's mind. It is not a pleasant or comfortable place to be. She may be descending into madness. The story mixes reality with the surreal. While drinking in a bar, still on pain medication, she meets some characters who add a touch of magic realism. These new characters are aware of her mindset, her chronic pain, her search for a cure, and much about her past. They predict a more promising future for her. I found this to be a melancholy, depressing read and was oblivious to its humour. I know many readers will find this a compelling and satisfying read. I was neither engaged with the character or the storyline and am sorry for this. I received the ARC from NetGalley and the publisher in return for an honest review.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Kate

    4/5stars I quite honestly have no clue what I just read, no clue how I feel about it, and no clue how to review it but damn Mona awad is one of the most creative authors I've ever read. 4/5stars I quite honestly have no clue what I just read, no clue how I feel about it, and no clue how to review it but damn Mona awad is one of the most creative authors I've ever read.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Matt

    not sure what the FUCK i just read but i loved every minute of this trippy journey and Miranda Fitch is a character i’ll think about for a long time. favorite book of the year so far

  20. 5 out of 5

    Jessica Woodbury

    A phantasmagoria of love, loss, and Shakespeare. (I'm really very excited to use the word "phantasmagoria," which I do not think I have actually used before but it's the one that came to mind while I was reading and I am very pleased with it.) Our protagonist Miranda Fitch is miserable, maybe beyond miserable. Miranda has chronic pain after an injury that is so overwhelming that she isn't really functional. She is desperate but everyone around her has lost interest and patience in her pain, convi A phantasmagoria of love, loss, and Shakespeare. (I'm really very excited to use the word "phantasmagoria," which I do not think I have actually used before but it's the one that came to mind while I was reading and I am very pleased with it.) Our protagonist Miranda Fitch is miserable, maybe beyond miserable. Miranda has chronic pain after an injury that is so overwhelming that she isn't really functional. She is desperate but everyone around her has lost interest and patience in her pain, convinced it's likely not even real. She knows she's lucky to still have her job as a professor of Theater, even if it's at a college with no Theater degree. She's also facing a mutiny from her students, who do not want to perform her choice of ALL'S WELL THAT ENDS WELL for their annual Shakespeare production. (If you, like me, never read it, I recommend a quick Wikipedia read, the plot is important and it takes a while to get all the details.) It looks bleak for Miranda. Until one night drinking away her sorrows she meets three strange men and things somehow start to change. And from here it is a dark descent into the kind of Faustian bargains that we know never end well. Except can't they? Isn't that why Miranda loves Helen from All's Well so much, because she somehow manages a happy ending despite all that happens along the way? This was such dark fun, gradually getting more surreal as you read until it becomes a kind of labyrinthine fever dream of a climax. The way Awad weaves in Miranda's story with Helen and Lady Macbeth, the two iconic roles of her youth that also bookended her happiness, was particularly enjoyable. There are Shakespeare references everywhere and a kind of grandness the plot twists, with reversals and unexpected magic, while also being super readable. It's hard to classify, really, although I suppose Horror is where it makes the most sense, given the supernatural elements and the tone and structure. I guess Shakespeare has his fair share of Horror, too, if you think about it. (Once the body count gets high enough, you're basically a Slasher by default.) I liked this enough that I may go back to BUNNY, which I started but didn't finish even though I wanted to like it. (I may try audio, any thoughts?)

  21. 4 out of 5

    h o l l i s

    All's well.. now that I have finished this book. Because this was not for me. I don't quite know what I expected from this; well, okay, this was one of those rare cases where I did read most of the blurb before requesting. So I expected the summary. Which does sound good. And yes, I had heard some strange and varied things about Bunny, the author's previous release, and thought, of the two, this might be more my speed to test the waters on a new-to-me author. But no. While the commentary surroundin All's well.. now that I have finished this book. Because this was not for me. I don't quite know what I expected from this; well, okay, this was one of those rare cases where I did read most of the blurb before requesting. So I expected the summary. Which does sound good. And yes, I had heard some strange and varied things about Bunny, the author's previous release, and thought, of the two, this might be more my speed to test the waters on a new-to-me author. But no. While the commentary surrounding chronic pain and how it is treated in the medical community, particularly with women patients, was definitely frustrating, and heartbreaking, the writing was.. manic? Stream of conscious strangeness? And that was before the was-it-magic-or-delusion-who-even-knows. This was just so strange, and often uncomfortable -- in the sense that it was visceral and I did, often, find myself in Miranda's shoes as if I, too, was haunted by her pain; at least in the beginning, before I started to check out. So I did feel things but I didn't like anything I felt and, again, the rest just felt like it went a bit off the rails. It was also a bit repetitive with the actual preparation of the play, which made it feel dragged out, and.. yeah, obviously, I didn't like this so why I'm still trying to justify the reasons, I don't know. I can't make myself round up on this and definitely can't recommend it, either. ** I received an ARC from NetGalley and the publisher (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review. ** --- This review can also be found at A Take From Two Cities.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Max

    All's Well is 100% a book I can see being adapted into an insane A24 film, because this book is nothing else than a massive trip. I love books jam-packed full of suspense, and All's Well is no exception. I was anxious for the characters, I was anxious for the ending, and I was anxious about the play! While I'm no actor, I think this might perfectly depict the chaos of what happens before the first showing. On paper this doesn't sound like a book I'd pick up, but Monda Awad's writing was incredibl All's Well is 100% a book I can see being adapted into an insane A24 film, because this book is nothing else than a massive trip. I love books jam-packed full of suspense, and All's Well is no exception. I was anxious for the characters, I was anxious for the ending, and I was anxious about the play! While I'm no actor, I think this might perfectly depict the chaos of what happens before the first showing. On paper this doesn't sound like a book I'd pick up, but Monda Awad's writing was incredible and really fun to read. One of my favorites of 2021 for sure, recommend to those who want other strange suspense novels like Leave The World Behind. Thanks Netgalley and Simon & Schuster

  23. 5 out of 5

    Dennis

    Mona Awad definitely gets the award for originality. When I read her last release Bunny, I loved how Awad was able to bring camp to mystery. It reminded me so much of The Heathers meets Mean Girls! I had a great time. Mona Awad's newest book All's Well is a bit different, but still provides the unique perspective of "what's real and what's not" all over again. This time, the story is focused on Miranda Fitch, a theater professor suffering from chronic pain, and her decision to choose a play Mona Awad definitely gets the award for originality. When I read her last release Bunny, I loved how Awad was able to bring camp to mystery. It reminded me so much of The Heathers meets Mean Girls! I had a great time. Mona Awad's newest book All's Well is a bit different, but still provides the unique perspective of "what's real and what's not" all over again. This time, the story is focused on Miranda Fitch, a theater professor suffering from chronic pain, and her decision to choose a play that many of her students do not want to perform. Miranda starts witnessing strange occurrences while rehearsals begin to kick up to high gear, but with her pain and previous misgivings, Miranda's mental state begins to waiver. Without going further, All's Well dives into the subjects of female pain, perceived reality, and the mental state. All's Well wasn't my favorite story, but I didn't regret reading it. It's being described as a darkly comedic story, but I think it was more of a drama focusing on one main character and their decisions, past and present, and how those decisions are affecting their health. I found the story a bit redundant at times, but overall unique and different than what I have read in the past. If you enjoyed Bunny and want a story that fixates on the bizarre, All's Well definitely has it. It just misses the camp aspect that you may have been wanting.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Latanya (Crafty Scribbles)

    All's Well...That's Not Well There's magical realism, dives into madness, and some psychological thrills encrusted into lyricism. Unfortunately, they find themselves merged into a repetitious dance begging the reader to ask more than once the following questions: "Can we get on with it?" and "When's the intermission?" At first, the premise drew me into purchasing this book so I could witness a play within a play. Theater offers melodrama and cutthroat moments without even trying. So, I pressed my All's Well...That's Not Well There's magical realism, dives into madness, and some psychological thrills encrusted into lyricism. Unfortunately, they find themselves merged into a repetitious dance begging the reader to ask more than once the following questions: "Can we get on with it?" and "When's the intermission?" At first, the premise drew me into purchasing this book so I could witness a play within a play. Theater offers melodrama and cutthroat moments without even trying. So, I pressed my hands together and awaited the show. However, by two-thirds in, I found myself no longer captivated and just bored. Normally, I crave drama and women that need a good visit with a therapist. But, for me to savor their stories, they must be interesting. Miranda's not, and hiding her mind drifts behind lyrical, purple prose doesn't make her so. I spent nine days reading this book. NINE DAYS! It's overwritten, which slows the pacing. I get the point. She's putting on a play entitled "All's Well", but get it? All's not well. Yet, beating the joke into the ground doesn't make the story a good one. There's nothing dark or comedic residing on these pages. Just an incredibly painful experience that I'm glad is over. Not recommended. 2/5

  25. 5 out of 5

    -`ˏ Galaxi Faerie ˎ´˗

    -`ˏ 4 stars ˎ´˗ “Where was all this tenderness when I needed it most when I was lying on the floor dreaming of touch like this, of a voice that would say something, anything, kind? Nowhere.” Storyline -`ˏ 8/10 ˎ´˗ The stage is where she belongs, but not directing students as they silently mock her for her inability to properly carry out her duties as a university drama professor. Miranda was once admired by everyone, now those very eyes see her only with pity and doubt. Due to a tragic incident on -`ˏ 4 stars ˎ´˗ “Where was all this tenderness when I needed it most when I was lying on the floor dreaming of touch like this, of a voice that would say something, anything, kind? Nowhere.” Storyline -`ˏ 8/10 ˎ´˗ The stage is where she belongs, but not directing students as they silently mock her for her inability to properly carry out her duties as a university drama professor. Miranda was once admired by everyone, now those very eyes see her only with pity and doubt. Due to a tragic incident on stage, Miranda now suffers from chronic back pain. This resulted in the end of her acting career as well as her marriage. She tries various methods to alleviate her pain but they were all unsuccessful, giving the impression to many that her pain was only a figure of her imagination. Feeling completely overwhelmed in all aspects, her only wish is to put on Shakespeare's All's Well That Ends Well. Problems arise when students disagree with her play choice, at this point, Miranda has had enough, she will get what she wants and those who are trying to stop her would face misfortune. Nevertheless, the show must go on. Characters -`ˏ 7/10 ˎ´˗ Miranda is an unreliable narrator. She constantly misuses her medication with alcohol that makes her mind blurry. We spend the majority of our time listening to her inner thoughts, which makes it difficult to believe what she says. Not only us but the other characters she interacts with feel the same way, her mind tends to drift away and she forgets previous conversations. Atmosphere -`ˏ 8/10 ˎ´˗ Creepy but enthralling. The implication of magic makes the book take a dramatically dark and dreary undertone. There were times when I felt extremely uncomfortable about Miranda's internal dialogue, some of the comments she made about her students and coworkers were unpleasant and weird. It continues to escalate the further you read. Trigger warnings: drug abuse, suicidal ideation, physical violence, and explicit language Language -`ˏ 7/10 ˎ´˗ Some sections were very repetitive, making the story longer than necessary. Enjoyment -`ˏ 8/10 ˎ´˗ It became quite intense when we focused on Miranda's pain, it was almost as if we could hear her screams when she interacted with the physicians. It's heartbreaking to see the extent to which people didn't believe her discomfort. When things took on a mystical twist, it was amazing how people responded to her differently, but it was also quite terrifying. Overall, it was a very interesting read, I think my only drawback is that I probably miss some of Shakespeare's references that would have had a greater impact on the experience. e-Arc provided by the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. -`ˏ Thank You ˎ´˗

  26. 4 out of 5

    Carol

    Miranda, a somewhat successful former stage actress, is the theatre director at an obscure college, I think in Rhode Island but it wasn't very clear as I recall. She suffers from chronic pain as a result of a fall while performing on stage in the past. She's insistent on the students putting on "All's Well That Ends Well" as the annual Shakespeare production even though they'd rather do "the Scottish play". I'm not big on Shakespeare and wasn't familiar with All's Well before this. I had to goog Miranda, a somewhat successful former stage actress, is the theatre director at an obscure college, I think in Rhode Island but it wasn't very clear as I recall. She suffers from chronic pain as a result of a fall while performing on stage in the past. She's insistent on the students putting on "All's Well That Ends Well" as the annual Shakespeare production even though they'd rather do "the Scottish play". I'm not big on Shakespeare and wasn't familiar with All's Well before this. I had to google it to get a sense of what the play is about. This book descended into madness quite early on and I was very confused a great deal of the time. Like another reviewer, I spent most of the book not really sure how I felt about it. It's told in a stream of consciousness by Miranda and her mind is quite a labyrinth, probably not helped by the amount of drugs and alcohol she consumes. It was agony reading descriptions of her pain but I never really felt sorry for her; in fact I didn't like her much at all. At times her stream of consciousness veers into Yoda territory, like "Darker the sky is getting now" which was really disconcerting. At first I wasn't sure if I would be able to finish the book but after a while I found I was almost mesmerized and couldn't stop reading it. Still I can't really recommend the book although a lot of readers seemed to like it more than me. I'd give this 2.5 stars rounded up. If I never hear the phrase "Am I right?" again, it will be too soon! Thank you to Netgalley and Penguin Random House Canada for granting me access to an ARC of this novel. Published August 3, 2021

  27. 5 out of 5

    Kevin

    UPDATE: bumping this up to 5 stars because, BUNNY overlap aside, I cannot stop thinking about this one. Full review below: Wow. Okay. Uhhhh? Okay. What?!?!?! I first experienced Mona Awad's writing about a month ago when I picked up BUNNY per the recommendations of a few friends. It certainly lived up to the hype as one of the most over-the-top and bonkers novels I've read to this day. I was totally captivated by Awad's ability to lean into the melodrama of pretension and feminine literary tropes UPDATE: bumping this up to 5 stars because, BUNNY overlap aside, I cannot stop thinking about this one. Full review below: Wow. Okay. Uhhhh? Okay. What?!?!?! I first experienced Mona Awad's writing about a month ago when I picked up BUNNY per the recommendations of a few friends. It certainly lived up to the hype as one of the most over-the-top and bonkers novels I've read to this day. I was totally captivated by Awad's ability to lean into the melodrama of pretension and feminine literary tropes - and then to drag that melodrama way way wayyyyy out of reality. The plot was mind-blowing, the characters were hilarious, and the whole experience was wildly entertaining and intriguing. Needless to say, when a friend at Simon & Schuster sent over an ARC of ALL'S WELL (thank you!!!), I was beyond excited to dig in. ALL'S WELL follows Miranda Fitch, a (literally) fallen star of an actress turned tortured professor at an underfunded liberal arts theater program, as she struggles to manage chronic pain that the patriarchal world surrounding her cannot seem to comprehend. Meanwhile, she must also stave off a mutinous cast and administration hellbent on countering her creative direction. True to form, everything takes a left turn - and then about two hundred more left turns - after Fitch has a mystical encounter with three men who promise to change her production's fate and heal her pain. While BUNNY is a bizarre rollercoaster-ride-fever-dream of a tale, ALL'S WELL is a slow, mind-boggling descent into chaos that culminates in a climax and ending that will absolutely leave you speechless. A very sobering and honestly exhausting opening spins out into something bizarre and profound that falls about five dimensions beyond reality. ALL'S WELL offers one of the most compelling perspectives I've read on Shakespeare, on trauma and pain, and on the depth of the patriarchy's invalidation of the female experience. The edges of reality are blurred so expertly - with a finesse BUNNY was not able to achieve - that I'm still trying to understand what actually happened. And, in this struggle to process, I'm learning so much more about how Awad wants to challenge my thinking and assumptions- to make me go deeper. I'm still thinking about ALL'S WELL and undoubtedly will be for a long time. As you may have noticed, I've drawn several comparisons to BUNNY throughout this review. I do so because, frustratingly, there is a good amount of overlap between the two novels. Each protagonist is similarly sarcastic, emotive, and melodramatic; each novel uses higher education as its setting and springboard into mania; each one is written, characterized, and narrated in a very similar style. I could probably pull out a sentence from each novel, strip character names, and struggle to place its origin between the two texts. To me, this just ultimately takes away from the potency of ALL'S WELL. I wish its premise stood on its own more so it invited less conflation with a text that ultimately achieves less. Critique aside, you must read this book. This is going to have you scratching your head, laughing, panicking, and really thinking hard. And, honestly, just read it so I can have someone to unpack it with! This one only gets 4+ stars for now due to its BUNNY overlap, but make no mistake - it's one of my favorites.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Krista

    When I get to the theater, they’re already sitting on the stage as they were in my daymare. Legs swinging over the edge. Faces shining but unreadable. Mutinous? Maybe. Hard to tell. Still, they’re here. They each appear to be holding a copy of All’s Well (my director’s cut) — that’s something. They haven’t torched them in a communal burning. Yet. That’s something too. Third rehearsal. They have already formed vague alliances in accordance with the social hierarchy and are sitting in their res When I get to the theater, they’re already sitting on the stage as they were in my daymare. Legs swinging over the edge. Faces shining but unreadable. Mutinous? Maybe. Hard to tell. Still, they’re here. They each appear to be holding a copy of All’s Well (my director’s cut) — that’s something. They haven’t torched them in a communal burning. Yet. That’s something too. Third rehearsal. They have already formed vague alliances in accordance with the social hierarchy and are sitting in their respective clumps. Not smiling. Not frowning. Waiting. Just staring with their young eyes that think they see. Miranda Fitch was a rising star of live theatre when a tumble from the stage left her with debilitating chronic pain that an endless string of surgeons, physiotherapists, and alternative healers have been unable to alleviate. No longer physically able to perform, at the suggestion of her (now ex) husband, Miranda applied to become a Professor at a small New England college (where her duties include teaching three Drama courses per semester and directing the annual Shakespeare play), and five years into this job, Miranda’s pain is crippling, she has alienated herself from the few friends she had made, and her students neither respect or trust her. When Miranda decides to mount All’s Well That Ends Well as this year’s production (the “problem play” in which she herself had once shone in the role of Helen at the Edinburgh Fringe) — despite the students suggesting insisting it would be more fun challenging to do “the Scottish Play” — Miranda will be forced into a battle of wills against privileged students, scheming faculty, and obtuse administration; a battle her broken body and sapped spirit are not up for. But all of that is just the opening premise. (Note: I read an ARC through NetGalley and passages quoted may not be in their final forms.) All’s Well seems set in the same surreal universe as Mona Awad’s last novel, Bunny — the decrepit campus, the cliquey students, the possibility for magic — and for all the reasons that I loved the former, I loved this one, too. My brain sizzled with frisson as I read this; Awad writes straight to the pleasure centres of my own brain (and I will preemptively and whole-heartedly acknowledge that this is a highly personal aesthetic experience; this won’t work for everyone). Further, Awad elevates this beyond a purely pleasurable reading experience by using this fantastical storyline to examine feminist issues: a woman’s power linked to her health and beauty; the jealousies and cattiness that cause women to subvert one another; the male-dominated health care system that tells women their problems are in their heads if they can’t fix them. And I should note that Awad isn’t pushy with these themes: Miranda is filled with self-pity, you can see why people shrink from her, and for all we know, her problems are all in her head; but that doesn’t make her less human or less worthy of empathy. I’ll still have to teach for the health insurance. They’ll wheel me into the theater like the ailing King. My body burning like a star, like a planet of mercury. Pull over. Just pull over now to this dark cold shoulder of the earth, hit the brakes on the gravelly ice. Take the pills rattling in your pockets. Won’t matter which pills from which pockets. Just swallow. Swallow them down. Swallow them all down, why not? Be done with it. Close my eyes. Stare at the dark behind my lids so heavy, just as starless. My breathing will slow. Everything will slow. The silence will sound like music. Forget my broken body once and for all. Cold won’t feel cold anymore. Nothing. I’ll feel nothing. Let the dark be the Dark. Enter the real Night. Not here though. Not here on this loveless New England road. Ice still on the windshield. Trucks roaring past like laughing devils. I think of that golden drink. What did they call it again? The golden remedy. How it made me glow from the inside, how it made a blue sky of my body. The three men at the bar. The middling man seeing my pain, seeing all. One more drink. One more drink for the road, why not? After about the third chapter, with Miranda thinking and talking at length about the play she wants to mount, I decided to read All’s Well That Ends Well; and while knowing the plot, characters, and key scenes from the play did make everything more clear, it’s not strictly necessary. On the other hand, some knowledge of Shakespeare is valuable — from recognising the name “Miranda” to being wary of a grouping of three hunched figures who offer potions and visions; dreams granted always come with a price. Am I supposed to feel guilty? That I feel fine for once? That I’m not limping and moaning around? Lying on the floor, crying into my ears while everyone else around me rolls their eyes? I’m supposed to feel bad that I’m better now? I’m supposed to cry over a little cut. To what? To make you feel like I’m not a monster. I need to perform my little bit of pain for you so you’ll know I’m human? But not too much pain, am I right? Not too much, never too much. If it was too much, you wouldn’t know what to do with me, would you? Too much would make you uncomfortable. Bored. My crying would leave a bad taste. That would just be bad theater, wouldn’t it? A bad show. You want a good show. They all do. A few pretty tears on my cheeks that you can brush away. Just a delicate little bit of ouch so you know there’s someone in there. So you don’t get too scared of me, am I right? So you know I’m still a vulnerable thing. That I can be brought down if need be. (Note: I did edit this passage from a dialogue to a soliloquy.) A potion, a ballad, a meaningful touch and Miranda seems cured of her phantom pains. The plot goes from curious to curiouser, but no matter how surreal the circumstances become, Awad uses the events to explore women’s experiences in a way that felt entirely truthful and relatable. I loved the whole thing.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Matthew

    I once dated an actress. Well, “dated” might be a stretch; it was more a surface-level mutual infatuation than anything. That’s not to say it could not have been something more. Problem is, once I got to really know this girl, I realized she’d been performing the entire time; I was nothing more than a fellow actor. But hey, all the world’s a stage, right? We are merely its players, right? Right?! Sure. I grew up in and around the theater, so being around those who were seemingly perpetually affec I once dated an actress. Well, “dated” might be a stretch; it was more a surface-level mutual infatuation than anything. That’s not to say it could not have been something more. Problem is, once I got to really know this girl, I realized she’d been performing the entire time; I was nothing more than a fellow actor. But hey, all the world’s a stage, right? We are merely its players, right? Right?! Sure. I grew up in and around the theater, so being around those who were seemingly perpetually affected was nothing new to me. But this girl took things to a new level; it came as no surprise to find out she had once auditioned for The Real World. Aside from that, our every instance together felt less like a moment and more like a scene, replete with blocking and musical accompaniment. All that had been missing was a director, although she’d been all but directing us from the get-go. Our final act was proof positive. By this point I’d caught wind to her schtick, decided to test her sincerity (or lack thereof) by simply not taking her bait. See, she’d tended to drive the conversation, practically feeding me my lines so that the narrative always went according to whatever imaginary script she followed. We had already spent a rather strange weekend together whereupon her actions and reactions had been more pronounced than ever. It wasn’t so much as if she were on an audition as she were reprising her greatest role (as herself, natch) for her personal reel. Or maybe it was her “Oscar moment,” of which she’d mentioned – and obsessed over – during our short history. Either way, I was on to her. And when I didn’t follow her script as I had many times before, she knew she was cooked. And yet hubris got in the way, prompting her to give one final, tour de force performance, begging and pleading we “work it out.” To which I could only respond: “work what out? Another scene?” We never saw one another again after that night, but I’m fairly confident my actress ex landed on her feet just fine. What’s that they say? That the show must go on? Yeah, no doubt hers did. But hey, in the off chance it did not, and her ego remains bruised to this very day after being called out on yet another one of her performances, she can at least take solace in knowing that “theater heals.” How, might you ask? Simply turn your attention to Mona Awad’s new brilliant and bizarre novel, All’s Well, of which this refrain centers. Fresh off her equally bananas satire on self-absorbed artists, 2019’s Bunny, Awad has crafted a near-perfect follow-up, eschewing the college writing program from her previous novel for a, well, college theater program. And to say Awad has upped the ante here would be an understatement. If you’ve read Bunny and found it as perplexingly dynamic as I did, prepare thy mind to be blown with All’s Well. For nothing about its protagonist, the unforgettable Miranda Fitch, is well. And that’s just what makes her so damn unforgettable, and what makes All’s Well one of the most unique reading experiences I’ve had this calendar year. In fact, I’d argue only Nightbitch, Rachel Yoder’s searing post-partem epic, compares. For both novels take on a surrealistic quality that quickly turns horrific, renders its leads to something other than human, something animalistic, primal. All’s Well begins with Miranda watching a pharma ad documenting “invisible pain,” something from which she suffers. We soon learn that her pain is so debilitating it’s already begun to impact her school’s performance of Shakespeare’s oft-forgotten “problem” play, “All’s Well That Ends Well.” And by impact, I mean threaten to unravel before her very eyes. For while it’s clear Miranda is suffering, it’s difficult for anyone outside of her orbit to understand precisely what she’s suffering from. Because Miranda, once a promising actress in her own right (of which she references ad nauseum), is never not performing. It doesn’t help her students aren’t too into the play of which she’s chosen. While they don’t reference it by name for fear of bad luck, they’d rather do “Macbeth.” But Miranda has history with her choice; the greatest performance of her lifetime came by way of “All’s Well…”. It also marked her literal fall from grace. Miranda believes this is the source of her chronic pain and makes no bones about expressing her constant state of agony. Yet it’s clearly more than just a “bad back… and hip.” She visits several different healthcare providers, none of which can provide her with the relief she so desperately needs. She’s frustrated, stuck in a rut, often turning to pills to help dull the pain. Nada. Even her best friend from the program, Grace, begins to question Miranda’s disposition, suggesting she seek therapy of a less physical and more mental sort. This causes a divide between the two women, yet Miranda remains steadfast in her suffering. She’s sticking to her script. There’s more to it than just a work-related injury, however. Miranda is also recently divorced from a man named Paul, whom she continually fantasizes about to the point of thinking he and her set designer, Hugo, are one in the same person. What’s more, her fellow teacher, the wonderfully and pretentiously named Fauve, is seemingly hellbent on bringing her performance down. But Fauve isn’t the only one. As aforementioned, Miranda’s students question her decision to stage such a “boring” play, with the lead actress, Briana, leading their charge. This causes dissention from the get-go, pitting Miranda versus everybody. And yet Miranda is still at battle with her own self; who could she possibly turn to in such dire times? Three figments of her imagination, that’s who. While at her local bar Miranda is introduced to a trio of mysterious men: one fat, one beautiful, and one a greasy salesman-type. Are they wise men? Prophets? Or are they simply Miranda’s pain manifesting itself into her subconscious? It’s difficult to tell. For by this point, nothing in Miranda’s script is going as planned. And that’s what’s truly fun about All’s Well, that just about everything is far from being anything close to resembling “well.” I’m barely scratching the surface to the lengths of which Mona Awad takes her sordid, satirical tale, though if you’ve read her before I imagine you have some indication. I certainly went in expecting madness, and while I did receive it, All’s Well gave me so much more. It offered a deep exploration into a troubled soul at their breaking point, and society’s refusal to acknowledge such pain as it deserves to be acknowledged. For while Miranda may have been performing throughout the entirety of All’s Well, that doesn’t mean her pain was absent. If anything, it drove her performance to otherworldly levels. Because at the end of the day, all the world’s a stage. The show must go on, and because the “theater heals,” in All’s Well it does.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Janelle Janson

    Review to come

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