All’s Well by Mona Awad Review

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Reviewer: @fandomsandfiction_ (Instagram)

Rating: 4.25/5

A bizarre rating for a bizarre book! This is my second encounter with Mona Awad’s work and it was just as surreal and unpredictable as the first.

“All’s Well” is the story of former stage actress Miranda whose life in the spotlight is cut short after a nasty fall leaves her with chronic pain and an addiction to painkillers. The woman who once graced the stage, bringing popular plays to life, is now relegated to working a college drama course where she directs talentless students in the art of performance. And she hates it. That is until three strange men (peep the three witches from Macbeth) enter her life and offer her a fantastical opportunity to turn it all around.

This is a story that explores the struggles of chronic suffering, medical trauma, and female pain. Mona Awad takes ‘mid-life crisis’ to a whole new realm of conception with her eerie portrayal of a woman living in deep pain, deep envy, and deep fear. Reading this book made me think that if Oscar Wilde, Franz Kafka, and Hayao Miyazaki put together their most bizarre but brilliant ideas, this would be the result. And of course, we cannot forget Shakespeare. He is the key influencer and motif of this story. Drawing on Shakespeare’s “All’s Well That Ends Well” and “Macbeth”, Mona Awad presents a story that encompasses his many ‘tragic heroes’ but set in a modern world. However, despite all the links I could make between this book and other writers, “All’s Well” is quintessentially Mona Awad.

Awad writes books that reflect and critique the human psyche. I believe her protagonists are fundamentally unlikeable BECAUSE they show the innermost facets – desires, beliefs, inhibitions, unbridled emotions, etc. – of human character. These protagonists think and act and express in a way that makes you want to turn away in disagreement or revulsion, but at the same time, a part of you may empathize and/or relate. Like Mona Awad’s other works, “All’s Well” plays on the perception of reality. The story is told through Miranda’s twisted, distressed, and unreliable point of view. This creates a narrative made up of superstitious imaginings, rudimentary thoughts, questionable happenings, and dubious deductions stemming from Miranda’s own insecurities. Emotions are conveyed with depth and viscera. Commentary is made on gender and patriarchy. Flaws in the art, medical, AND education systems are brought to light. The use of intertextuality is brilliant. I mean, using one of Shakespeare’s problem plays to create a problem story of your own? That’s pretty badass Ms Awad!

I had great fun wrapping my mind around the peculiar world of “All’s Well” and picking apart my own brain as I pick apart the storyline. I am already excited to pick up another book by this author!

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