All's Well: A Novel (Paperback)
August 2021 Indie Next List
“Gloriously bananas, dark and weird, and so, so good. All’s Well is a big, messy, strange journey about chronic pain, Shakespeare, friendship, mental health, witchcraft, and work.”
— Rachel Barry, WORD Bookstores, Brooklyn, NY
Webster’s first and second definitions of comedy include happy endings, while its third defines it as “a ludicrous or farcical event or series of events.” According to Webster then, Awad’s sizzling novel is indeed a comedy—albeit a dark one. I howled with laughter as I read All’s Well. But with remembered pain, too, as I followed untenured Shakespeare professor Miranda Fitch through not only a student production of “All’s Well That Ends Well,” the rebellion of said students and their ultimate determination to put on “Macbeth” instead, but also the throes of disabling back and leg pain. Throes that involve not just the pain itself but its treatment—the surgeries and the drugs, the physical and psychiatric therapies which too often blame, shame and otherwise disable the mind and body of the patient (or, more properly, the victim) in the current world of medicine. Anyone with a condition not highly visible or immediately amenable to treatment knows this world all too well. But the cocktail Awad’s genius makes of it (add Shakespeare, a sexy set designer, three mysterious strangers, and stir) is at once ironic enough to elicit serial paroxysms of laughter and lethal enough to create empathetic spasms of horror. Like the play itself, which is, as our professor reminds us, both a comedy and a tragedy, All’s Well plumbs the depths of illness and pain, their impact on the human spirit, as well as stirring our sense of irony. But Awad throws in elements of “Macbeth” as well, not to mention mind-altering psychotropic elements that turn the tale into a witches’ brew of diabolical payback as Miranda, helpless no more, meets head on the threat of a student revolt, a satanic therapist or two and the response of “friends” to chronic illness. Anyone paying attention to this blistering novel will think twice before labeling a colleague’s or loved one’s pain dismissively. And no one who’s read it will forget its long-suffering yet, in the end, formidable hero.— From Betsy Burton
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 a “fabulous novel” (Mary Karr) about a woman at her breaking point and a formidable, piercingly funny indictment of our collective refusal to witness and believe female pain.