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Jennifer Weiner and fans bond at New York reading as she promotes new novel, 'All Fall Down'

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NEW YORK, N.Y. - Jennifer Weiner had so much to share with her readers.

The author of such bestsellers as "Goodnight Nobody" and "In Her Shoes" spoke before around 100 fans Tuesday at a Barnes & Noble on Manhattan's Upper West Side. They came out on a humid evening for the chance to learn more about her new novel, "All Fall Down," and to hear the latest from a woman they think of as a friend, whose stories are in some ways their stories.

"She's very relatable, especially for young women," said Shira Zeif, 32, a kindergarten teacher. "She gets very personal with her characters and you feel like you know her, too."

As her followers on Twitter would have already learned, Weiner has been in a good place. "All Fall Down" has received strong reviews, with her hometown Philadelphia Inquirer calling it her best, and is in the top 40 on Amazon.com. The new book, Weiner explained Tuesday, tells of a woman who seemingly has everything — a big house, a husband and daughter, growing fame as a blogger — yet finds herself increasingly unhappy, hooked on painkillers and eventually forced to get clean at a rehabilitation centre.

It was a story so wrenching that Weiner dropped her usual happy resolutions for a more ambiguous ending.

"You can't pick up a newspaper or a magazine without the issue slapping you in the face," said Weiner, who spoke on stage with Hoda Kotb of NBC's "Today's Talk." But, of course, the book is also personal. She noted that her family has a "boatload of mental illness" and talked about her father, who left when Weiner was a teenager, saying he wanted to be a "fun uncle" instead. Years later, she would receive a call from police in Connecticut informing her that her father had died and, to her shock, had been using crack and heroin.

"He's not a jazz musician," Weiner remembered thinking. "He's a Jewish psychiatrist."

The audience, virtually all women, commiserated, laughed and rooted for her. They loved the story of how a devastating breakup inspired her to write her debut novel, "Good in Bed," and how she got a contract with Simon & Schuster after numerous rejections.

They nodded in sympathy when Weiner, the mother of two children, spoke of adjusting her writing time to family life. They have followed her very public campaign to get more women reviewed in New York Times and other newspapers and magazines, and applauded when Weiner revealed that The Times, which had long ignored her work, would be praising "All Fall Down."

Interviewed by The Associated Press after the event, Weiner said that when she first gave readings she assumed about 12 people would show up, "eight of them women she knew from Weight Watchers." She has long learned not only to make peace with fame, but to thrive on it, whether tweeting live updates about "The Bachelor" or fretting about what critics think of her. She doesn't see social media and publicity tours as distractions from her work, but as extensions of it, an ongoing dialogue between herself and her fans.

"They feel like they know me, and in a way they do," Weiner, 44, told the AP. "A lot of times, I feel like I'm talking to a bunch of people I went to summer camp with."

History

Updated on Tuesday, June 24, 2014 at 11:40 AM CDT: Updates photo.

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