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Like alot of the books I read, this one was being read by a friend and just reading the first couple of pages got me hooked. It is written with no punctuation and lack of quotation marks. This gives the book a confusing writing style however is easily picked up after the first few pages.
It is an excellent book based the authors own life (however a little exaggered) about the trials and tribulations of James who is an alcoholic and crack addict. He wakes up on a plane with no recollection of how or why he's on it. His parents take over the situation and send him to rehab. The book follows James' battle with his addictions while in a rehab clinic leading to his eventual release from the clinic and his anticipation of his family's reactions to his lifestyle of the previous years.
Relationships James makes during his time in rehab play a vital part in his life and consequent recovery. Leonard is James' rock throughout this book and is followed up in his next book 'My friend Leonard'.
This book is unique and I have encouraged many others to try it too and have all loved it. I couldn't put it down and I'm sure you'll feel the same!
My Dad had bought this book ages ago but had never read it, and so I decided to give it a go, and am really glad I did.
This is such a moving book about an addicts battles against a life time of drug and alcohol abuse after a few traumatic events in his life. It goes into his feelings, and the relationships he has with his friends and family and how they have been affected by his drug and alcohol addictions.
He is admitted into rehab and we are taken through conversations the character has with counsellors, and with other people he forms bonds with in the rehab centre. We are given insight into his past experiences, and the kind of other people who are in the rehab with him. We also see him form a romantic bond with another addict whom he meets there, and are taken through their relationship from beginning to end.
It is an amazingly moving book and I was, I'm slightly ashamed to say, reduced to tears more than once throughout the book.
It turns out though, that the reason my Dad never read it, is because he found out that many of the main parts of this book (drug abuse experiences, life, and criminal record) were actually lies, or very big exaggerations, which ever way you would like to look at it. There have been articles written about this, and James Frey himself has been on the Oprah Winfrey show a few times trying to explain himself.
Regardless of this though, I really did enjoy this book, and even if it was not true, I feel as though it is still (even if fictional) a very good read, which is worth a look at.
This is one of the most amazing books that you will ever read and i cannot recommend it highly enough.
It is based on the authors own life but has been exaggerated ( but what author does not do that) it is about his battle with alcohol and drug addiction, but is also about love, life and relationships. It is both hard hitting and romantic, it will make you cry, squirm and laugh out loud. I have now read 3 of this authors books and love his unique writing style, everyone that I have lent this book too has loved it too. If you want to find a book that you will not be able to put down until you have finished reading it, then this is definately the one for you. Be warned that some of the narrative is very discriptive and may leave you scared of visiting a dentist anytime soon. Happy reading.
I was given this book by a friend who insisted I would love it and started reading straight away...
Firstly, the book is written in a very strange style, with no punctuation other than full stops. However, it only takes a few pages for this style to seem normal.
The book is an account of the author's, James Frey, battle with a drink and drug addiction. He wakes up on a plane, covered in vomit and blood, he has no recollection of getting on the plane or how he ended up in such a mess.
His parents decide to take control of the situation and enter James into a rehabilitation programme. Whilst at the centre, he must go cold turkey. It is in this centre that James makes some friends who will stand by him for the rest of his life, meets the girl of his dreams and makes some enemies.
I don't want to give much more away, as it is an incredible story and I would recommend you read it to find out what happens.
I loved this book and have recently talked my boyfriend into reading it, who also couldn't put it down. The style of writing is very strange but, once you are into it, you do not notice it at all. I love how blunt James is about things and how he gives his honest opinion, rather than sugar coat his problems.
This book takes you through a range of emotions, I found myself giggling, cringing and even crying, as you follow James on his journey.
I follow this book by reading My Friend Leonard, which is also great and am trying to get a hold of it for my boyfriend now so he can carry on the story.
I would highly recommend this to anyone who enjoys a true story.
This book is billed as being a memoir of a 23 year old hardcore drug and alcohol addict who has abused his body to the point of near death before being checked in to a rehab clinic by his parents. The book found widespread fame in the US when Oprah Winfrey picked it in her book club. This pick was a break from the norm as she generally only picks 'safe' books that are considered classics and therefore a memoir full of tales of drink and drug abuse as well as violence and bad language from a relatively unknown author caused quite a shock.
The book hit the headlines again a year or so later when an independent investigation found that Frey had over-dramatized some events whilst flat out making others up. Finding this out after I had read the book somewhat soured it for me and I think this should be disclosed by the publisher and author at the start of it.
That aside though, this is a great book. I read a lot but can safely say that this book is one of the first 300+ pagers that I have been unable to put down and gone through in a day. I honestly sat up until nearly 4am finishing it off and then went out and bought the sequel the next day.
The story starts with an injured Frey being loaded off an airplane and into the arms of his parents who take him somewhat against his will to a rehab centre. We then follow his detoxification and are introduced to a wide range of characters that he meets, befriends, becomes enemies with and falls in love with in the centre. We are also treated to him having root canal surgery performed on four of his teeth with any painkillers, not for the squeamish or those that already fear the dentist!
I want to say more about the story, however I am very mindful of spoilers and I don't want to give too much away.
Ultimately this a really good book and one that really rips open the full range of human emotion and lays them bare. If Frey did fictionalise most of this, then he is still one hell of a writer. The furore around it not being a true memoir did, as I said, sour it a bit for me and I felt a bit cheated when I found out. Had I known beforehand then this may not have been the case but that is the only thing stopping me from giving it 5 stars.
I have read this great book many times. I really enjoy reading about other peoples lives and compare them to my own. James Frey is a brilliant writer, but it must be said I found it slightly confusing at times as he does not use any punctuation apart from full stops. Once I read a couple of pages I started to get used to his way of writing and now find it very easily readable.
Its a true story about his struggles of trying to force himself through rehabilitation and other problems. It frequently makes me laugh and cringe. Theres was some controversy about this book when James Frey apeared on The Opera Winfrey show as many people believed that James Frey made up alot of the story and lied about events that happened. Whether this is true or not, im not interely sure, but even with all the controversy, this is a great book by a great author and I throughly enjoy reading it.
James wakes up on a plane. He has no idea how he got there. He is covered in vomit, urine and his own blood from a huge hole in his cheek that, again, is a mystery to him. His parents then decide to take action and send him to a Rehab center. There he undergoes lots of strainful procedures to try and kick his drink and drug habit, including having his teeth pulled out under no gas or painkillers! Ouch!
Things finally begin to get slightly better for James as he is coping easier with going 'cold turkey' and he meets a girl called Lilly. They go against the centers rules by meeting eachother at night and just lying in each others arms. He also becomes very close to a mafia boss called Leonard, who kind of adopts him at the end of the book as his son and they begin a special relationship with is all in the second book, My Friend Leonard.
I am currently reading My Friend Leonard and finding it equally enjoyable to read as Million little peices (My review will be coming up after im done).
James frey was 23 when he was admitted to a rehabiliation centre to deal with his addictions to alchohol and drugs mainly crack cocaine. This is his story (or some of it is) of life in a treatment facility and how doing things your own way sometimes works out for the best.
James was never one for rules so when he is admitted to the rehab centre he can think of nothing worse than having to attend lectures from people who's opinion he despises, follow the twelve steps of alchoholics annonymous of which he has no belief at all and of having to spend time in therapy talking about his problems. But as the book goes on you see just how much James changes, not in his views on lectures and the twelve steps but in his view on life and himself, and how maybe there is a light from the top of the very dark hole his life has become.
You are introduced to some very interesting characters that become part of James's life as well as some of those who were part of his life before and remember the way he was, drug addicted, hard and fond of breaking the rules. And we see how all these people each make their own marks on James's life and aid him in his recovery whether he wants their help or not.
My thoughts :-
The book or should we say the book's author causes a lot of controversy in 2006 when it was revealed that although claiming the book to be an autobiography, it was in fact not the case. Although it is true that James Frey did indeed have an addiction problem and was also admitted and treated in a drug and alchohol rehabilitation centre not all of the events in the book actually happened to him and some were said to be complete fabrications.
Copies of the novel published after 2006 now carry an author's note which does mention that some of the events were embellished and that the author was himself very sorry for anyone who has felt let down by his accounts of his life and treatment.
I personally don't have an issue with the fact that parts of the book were not James Frey's personal situations, as I have read biographies before where I have had a sneaky feeling that some of the information contained may have been embellished slightly.
I do think on the whole that A million little pieces was a good book, although I was initially put off by the rather odd writing style of Frey who writes literally as he speaks and thinks, it is certainely a very different style of writing than things I have read previously but I think as you get further into the book it becomes apparent as to why he has written the novel the way he has.
If you are looking for something to cheer you up after a hard days work then A million little pieces is probably not the book I would reccommend you reach for as it is in parts hard to read, somewhat due to the strange writing style but mainly due to some of the graphic scenes dipicted in the book, such as the story of a root canal minus anastetic that would make even make a person with the strongest stomach feel a bit queasy. But if you like your books with a bit of an edge and you have the stomach and mind for a bit of gross out information then this is a good read all round. With a few tear jerking sections, as well as some enlightening parts to make you smile and laugh thrown in for good measure so as not to seem a bit too morbid. It does leave you wondering what happened to him in the long run and if there was more to life than addiction for James.
There has been a lot of controversy of this book however whether the events were true or not does not matter to me, I enjoyed it.
When I first started reading I wasnt quite sure on the writting style. The book is written in a very matter of fact way. More or less stating his thoughts and although he states what he does and feels its not very descriptive. However, I pressed on with it and although it became repetative at points, I wasnt disappointed.
I came to realise that the writing style was used to emphasise how he had to take everything day by day. At points he had no future and so if he had written in a descriptive manner it may have shown the reader hope. In points of the book James Frey had no hope and the writing style potrays this brilliantly. He states every mondane tasks and event that happens at rehab being that a lecture he attends or his job of cleaning out the group toilets. Although this sounds boring it is done so well and it shows the reader how he felt his life had no point.
The book it not a "happy-ever-after" ending, and if it had been I would have been dissapointed. Its true many of the events are likely to have been embelished but it was a very good book and true or not, its definately a page turner.
Overall its a depressing book and I wouldnt recommend it for a holiday read, but it does give you an insight into how James hit rock bottom and managed to pick himself up again.
I can't say that I would have chosen this book myself. Sure the cover is attractive enough, but I usually like to steer clear of the trauma section at Waterstones, instead heading for works of complete fantasy, that I can read without being reminded that a less perfect world exists, and that I live in it. However this book, which does completely the opposite, was recommended to me by a friend so I decided to read it.
A million little pieces tells the story of James Frey, the books author, and his time spent in a rehabilitation facility. Here he was treated for a drug and alcohol addiction along with countless other men and women in the same predicament. But don't be fooled, this is not your typical addiction story. Instead it is a story of triumph, of love, of hope, of self-belief, and of realising that only you can change your life.
It was amazing how quickly this book sucked me in. From the very first pages I was glued, and for the next few days this book became part of my daily routine, fitting it in whenever I could. I can tell you that the TV suffered from severe lack of use those few days, something which is relatively unheard of for a 19 year old student during her summer holidays. If anything can drag your teenager away from a twelve hour marathon of Jeremy Kyle it's A million Little pieces.
For those few days James Frey became my new best friend. Someone who spilled his heart out to me on every page, who showed me his pain, his desperation, his complete lack of hope and his plethora of despair. I began to revel in his triumphs, no matter how small. The truly great thing about this book is it's ability to show you in the most subtle of ways how Frey travelled from a complete wreck of a man to someone who had at least a chance of becoming a functioning member of society. It is a very gradual process, one that you barely recognize is happening until that moment of realisation when you see that he no longer suffers by the hour but actually begins to enjoy himself. By the end, I felt real, genuine pride in his achievement, despite the fact that I had never met the man.
My favourite thing about this book is Frey's complete unwillingness to go along with the twelve step process taught by Alcoholic Anonymous. Told time and time again that this is the only way to overcome addiction that has ever worked, Frey steadfastly refuses to give in to this system that he doesn't believe. He refuses to accept the notion that addiction is an illness that you cannot be blamed for, and I was so glad that this didn't become another one of those stories where someone has to "find God" in order to succeed. Frey didn't believe in a God or a higher power, yet still he managed to free himself of addiction for good. To me, that's a real message of hope that shows help is in our own hands and that we just need to make the right choices.
There's been no end of controversy surrounding this book regarding what is in fact true and what is fiction, but my advice would simply be to ignore all the criticism, avoid any online articles name calling Frey as a fraud and take the book at face value. Who cares if some of the story was embellished, and some of it complete fabrication? I have no doubt that there are people who get themselves into so deep a mess as is presented here, and that some of those people are able to drag themselves out of it. What this book doesn't lie about is the extreme odds that those with a serious life threatening addiction face and just how difficult it is to shake off those addictions completely without relapsing. This book has helped people to overcome their vices and go back living normal, drug free lives, learning from this book simply that it is a choice. Frey never claims to be anything other than a drug addict, an alcoholic and a criminal, and above all a man who faced adversity but somehow managed fight that adversity and kick it out on it's ass.
I would recommend this book to almost anybody. So the ending isn't the happiest, and there are some truly gut wrenching moments of graphic detail that probably aren't for the squeamish. But I say read it anyway and find yourself immersed in something which can only be described as a damn good read.
This book has brought about lots of controversy, mainly due to people questioning whether it is true or not. The author James Frey, has admitted to fabricating some of his autobiography.
I had no idea about the debates, arguments and discussions which the book has invoked, and thus read it with an open mind.
The book is about James Frey, a 23 year old drug, alcohol and substance abuser. He took anything to keep high. The book begins with James, having been battered, being sent back to his parents, who place him into rehab. His addictions were soon likely to kill him if he did not stop. He went into rehab with no positive thoughts. James Frey was a total mess.
A Million Little Pieces explains his time in rehab, what he went through to get 'clean', and the people he met and bonded with. Slowly he comes to accept his addictions and goes into recovery, but will never follow the Twelve Step Program, which he feels is too religious. He forms a close bond with a group of men led by Leonard (a gangster figure) and develops a relationship (which is forbidden in the centre) with a drug addict called Lilly. James Frey also starts to forgive his wealthy parents and accepts them into his life again.
It is quite graphic in places, especially his trips to the dentist, involving root canals with no anesthetic, and his vomiting when detoxing!
The book was easy to read but quite repetitive in places. The way it is written, with no speech marks, does take a while to get use to. The book has been fabricated and maybe elaborated, but obviously some is true. I did enjoy it and still found it an interesting, thought provoking read.
It seems likely James Frey will forever be remembered for the contrived literary scandal of 2006. His former champion, Oprah Winfrey, raked him over the coals on national television after it was exposed by an internet gossip site that he had fictionalised portions of his best selling memoir, A Million Little Pieces, hitherto acclaimed as a heartbreaking and inspirational account of one man's battle to overcome drug and alcohol addiction, and afterwards denounced as a shambolic hoax perpetrated by a cynical fraud.
It little seemed to matter that discerning readers had recognised from day one the signs that Frey, a slightly egotistical self publicist during broadcast interviews, clearly belonged to the American tradition of mythologizers who blur the boundaries of fiction and non-fiction. Here was a writer who obviously wanted to be Jack Kerouac, Hunter S. Thompson, Tom Wolfe. They wondered how Winfrey had possibly managed to miss the sketchy lack of detail in the book about nice middle class boy Frey's life before he got to rehab; surely there must have been myriad debauched tales he could have regaled the reader with about his drugged up days as a student - except they're nowhere to be found. He's not exactly Russell Brand. Other than the allegedly gruesome and violent incident that leaves him immediately in need of help at the start of the story, Frey's past is largely left as a cypher. I certainly wondered how anybody could have been taken in by the wildly improbable denouement with his sweetheart at the warehouse, no matter how good a yarn it might be. Critics continue to insist that Frey continued to lie about the character Lily even after he changed his story and apologised. And then, what about his gangster friend Leonard? Some wonder if anything is even true at all.
The affair certainly brought Frey a lot of publicity, but his book had already been named as Amazon's favourite of 2004, and he had already received the sales boost from inclusion in Oprah's book club, showing none of the reservations that Jonathan Franzen had been so publicly discomfited by a couple of years earlier. When his publisher offered any dissatisfied reader a full refund, only a reported 1,729 people took the opportunity. The book has sold over five million copies. Frey's influential literary editor Nan Talese stood by him and has publicly criticised Winfrey's conduct during the affair. And well she might, lest anybody pry too deeply into why it would even occur to the publishing industry that it should matter whether a manuscript should be packaged as a novel or a memoir in order to more successfully generate sales. With the cat now long out of the bag, Frey's reputation as a novelist is uncertain. His new book, Bright Shiny Morning, has recently been received with wildly contrary reviews. It is hardly surprising that journalists and critics are divided how to handle him. Presumably he can only receive a fair appraisal once the nature of a full body of work becomes apparent. In the meantime, he has certainly made a name for himself.
What would seem to matter most of all is why A Million Little Pieces meant anything to anybody in the first place. And the answer here is easy. Although the book does not possess the finest technical style the message at the heart of it has a real power. By the time Frey walks into a bar with his brother after leaving rehab and orders a monumentally huge drink and doesn't drink it, he has you questioning, even if it's only for a moment, whether you will ever take a drink again either. Some of his insights into the psychology of twelve step programs are also very incisive.
It is easy to understand why Winfrey felt so deceived - these are weighty issues with a spiritual quality to them and the confessional style of the book appears to demand honesty from the narrator, and she thought that was what she was selling to her fan base. But it's more difficult to agree that Frey is a liar. It is a mistake for a reader to presume that she knows a writer personally; she should be content with what she finds on the page. It's not like A Million Little Pieces was presented as an academic history book. With such small and personal narratives who is to say whether fiction or non-fiction has a greater ring of truth about it concerning the human condition? Why should it matter whether the reader knows the provenance of how the author arrived at the perceptions that the text shares with the world?
When Joel and Ethan Coen placed a caption at the start of their 1996 film Fargo stating "This is a true story", nobody suggested they should hand back their Oscar for screen writing because they had deceived the audience. In fact, the industry knew better than to nominate them in the category for adaptations, honouring them instead for originality.
Similarly, the memoir these days is seen as an acceptable framing mechanism within the publishing industry, one that can add to the spell of a book for the audience. And at least James Frey never hired a ghost writer.
Dont judge a book by a cover they say but it was the cover which attracted me to this book. Call me shallow but I loved the way that sparkly little gems were inlaid into the white card so picked it up and after reading the blurb decided it looked like a good read.
A Million Little Pieces is James Frey's autobiographical account of his time spent in a drug and alcoholic treatment centre. He is, as he keeps reminding us, an alcoholic, a drug addict and a criminal and was forced into rehab by his wealthy parents. He enters the rehabilitation centre as a broken man but has no interest in the 12 step philosophy offered there and instead rebels and finds love in the arms of the lovely Lilly, a crack addict, and they manage to develop a touching love affair against the rules of the institution. What will happen to this tragic pair? Will their love blossom and save them from themselves or will they succumb to their addictions again?
James Frey has an unique way of writing and follows his own rules regarding punctuation and grammar, at times this unique way of writing works well and at other times becomes tedious. At some points the story is compelling and you can't rip yourself away from the book but at other times however it drags and it is a chore to get through long repetitive passages. Stories from the addiction centre and its grim daily life are peppered with anecdotes about his previous existence as an addict and criminal and overall it is a good and colourful story.
The book begins with a note from the author telling us that he embellished many of the facts in the book inlcluding making himself "tougher and more daring and more aggresive" than he really was. When I did a bit of research about the book my blood was boiling as I realize exactly how many embellishments Frey had been outed as making. An example is that he had used the death of a high school girlfriend as a plotline claiming that this was a major cause of his descent into addiction but when you read the interview with the girls mother she tells a different story and that the pair were mere aqquaintances. I hated James Frey at this point for playing with the emotions of this girls family and using a tragic event and twisting it for his own gain, the work is largely a work of fiction rather than a true autobiography.
Overall, this book is a reasonably good read but I urge you not to buy it. James Frey has already made enough money and got enough publicity from this bookto last him a lifetime. I did enjoy reading his book, but ended up feeling cheated. Not only was the author an alcoholic, and a drug addict and a criminal but he is a liar too.
I love reading autobiographies, and I particularly enjoy reading about other peoples' experiences with mental health problems, and drug and alcohol addictions. Perhaps I find that reading about other peoples' misery makes me feel better about my own life. Perhaps I also like the sense of optimism at the end of these books where the author ultimately gets their life back on track and manages to write a book about their past experiences. Perhaps in a way I'm doing research for when I write about my own experiences!
Most of the stuff on my Amazon recommended book list ends up there in error - trying to encourage me to buy children's books due to the fact that I have purchased so many books about moose. This is because I'm obsessed with moose, not because I'm a child. Anyway, interspersed between "Alan the Alpaca meets an Aardvark" and "Ollie the Ostrich goes to the dentist" was "A Million Little Pieces" by James Frey. I was drawn to it because it's an autobiographical account of recovery from alcohol and drug addiction. I didn't buy the book - instead I mooched it from BookMooch, so only paid for it in posting away to other people books that I no longer want.
---The Controversy Surrounding the book---
Before I started reading the book I was already aware that there was some controversy surrounding it. Basically, since the book was published in 2003, it has come to light that certain aspects of the story are fabricated, and even Frey has admitted that certain parts have been embellished. More about this can be found at the following link and it makes interesting reading - I would recommend that it is read after reading the book (it will make more sense then):
A publisher's note has been included in subsequent editions of the book - however my edition is one published in 2004 with an "Oprah's Book Club" sticker on it. My copy is 430 pages and is a US edition.
So, now we've got that out of the way, onto the book!
James Frey was 23 when he was admitted into rehab following an incident which left him with a hole in his cheek, a broken nose, no front teeth, and not knowing where the hell he had been for the past few weeks. Frey admits throughout the book that he is "an Alcoholic and I am a drug Addict and I am a Criminal." The book looks at how he has got to this stage and how he deals with getting away from it.
James goes through the withdrawal process - there are some very graphic descriptions of this time, particularly of his physical sickness. There were times I found myself cringing, and feeling sick myself. I did also find some things a bit hard to believe (although of course that might be because they are not true). I would hope that someone who is that physically ill would be given some sort of care rather than being expected to carry on going to three meals a day in the dining hall and cleaning the group toilets - especially in such an exclusive and expensive rehab centre.
Addicted to crack cocaine and alcohol, James has had problems with addiction since the age of 10, gradually getting worse and worse. He comes from a privileged middle-class background, and there isn't really a clear reason underlying his problems. Mind you, I can relate to that on a personal level - my depression, self-injury and alcohol problems have not really had a clear reason behind them, they have just happened. James makes so much of a point saying how much everything that has happened is his fault and that he deserves to be punished that I get the impression that rather than the usual self-hatred associated with depression, James is actually fishing for sympathy. I have to say I get quite irritated by his character and he can come across as a bit cocky. But at the same time he can be a likeable. He stands up for what he believes in, and follows his heart.
Through his time at rehab James meets and makes friends with lots of people. In particular his friend Leonard ('My Friend Leonard' is the sequel to this book), who becomes a second father to him, Miles who is a judge, and Matty an ex featherweight world champion. Although it is not allowed for male and female patients to say more than "Hello" to one another, James still manages to develop a relationship and fall in love with a crack addicted whore called Lilly, and that is an important part of the story. Another subplot (if you can call it that) is James' relationship with his family. Most importantly it is about James' relationship with himself and how he comes to terms with his past and looks towards the future.
The thing that makes this book stand out is its unique style. It's difficult to describe the writing style without giving an example - I opened the book on a random page and will share a section with you:
You think you can do that?
Yeah, I can do that.
You're not gonna fight me on this.
I shake my head.
No, I'm not going to fight you.
You're getting better, Kid.
I chuckle. I turn and I look back across the Lake. The mist is gone and the ice diminished, the drip of the icicles quick and heavy. The Sun is up and the Sky is blue empty blue light blue clear blue. I would drink the Sky if I could drink it, drink it and celebrate it and let it fill me and become me. I am getting better. Empty and clear and light and blue. I am getting better." (Page 195)
What you'll be able to see from this is:
* The lack of speech marks, and lack of distinction between the spoken parts and the non-spoken parts.
* The use of capital letters on certain nouns e.g. Kid, Lake, Sun, Sky. This occurs throughout the book - Room, Mother, Unit, Doctor, Group Toilets, Cathedral, People - as you will see mainly when referring to a place or a person.
* The repetitiveness ("I am getting better") - the dialogue is very repetitive, and there were times I was reading thinking that I'd already read that line. It was irritating at first (like the capital letters), but as I got into the book it didn't bother me.
Clearly Frey is not a literary genius. In fact it can be quite hard to read at times. There are often no commas where there should be, and I found myself having to read lines twice to understand what they meant (which added to the repetitiveness!) However, his story is gripping, and it is a page-turner, although I was able to put it down and read it over several days rather than in one sitting.
I have to say that I am disappointed about the controversy surrounding the book. I don't like the thought of someone making out that something is true when it isn't. However, this is not the first 'autobiography' I have read which has been fabricated. I do think that I have been more critical of the book than I might have been had I read it prior to 2006 when this all came out in the press.
Whatever the truth is, James Frey did have a drink/drugs problem and he was in rehab, and I am certain that it is not a complete work of fiction. Whether or not it is true doesn't alter the fact that the book does give hope for people to overcome problems, and it is a compelling read.
I'm have since read the sequel to the book "My Friend Leonard" and have to say I found it a bit disappointing, and not as enjoyable as this book. I think the events in that had to be taken with an even bigger pinch of salt!
"A Million Little Pieces" is available on Amazon for £5.99.
I first became aware of A Million Little Pieces when a friend started reading it. I didnt know what it was about at the time, but the frequency with which her face was screwed up in distaste at something shed read was intriguing. All she told me was that it was the story of a man in rehab which, having recently read and enjoyed Dangerous Parking, the story of a mans battle with cancer, I didnt think Id find as distasteful as she had.
James is 23 and hes an addict. Hes not addicted to any one thing in particular, merely whatever he can get his hands on. He can claim to be an alcoholic, glue sniffer and having taken drugs from marijuana to crack cocaine and more or less every thing in between. When we first meet him, he wakes up in a plane with four broken teeth, a broken nose, covered in cuts and bruises and with no memory of how he got there, where hes going and why hes in the state hes in.
From there, via a few bottles of wine, whisky and vodka, he goes into a rehabilitation centre. He first has to go through detox and withdrawal from all the drugs hes been taking and have himself fixed up, before rehabilitation begins. We follow his experiences, as related by James himself, during his time in the centre.
Strangely, its not the subject matter that causes the reader immediate problems, rather the style. Its very much a stream of consciousness novel with conversations, thoughts and feelings tumbled out onto the page in one lump. Its a relentless stream of words, with very little to break them up. There are no paragraphs or speech marks, so the whole does seem a little daunting at first glance and it can be a little difficult to follow at times where he switches between conversation and narrative.
Once youve adapted to the style, however, its a compelling read. The situation James finds himself in and the lifestyle that led him to that point in his life is one that relatively few of us are ever likely to experience. Its tough to relate to his experiences but its not nearly as difficult as I expected to warm to him as a person. Although hes in a pretty bad way and although he is, as he puts it an Alcoholic and a drug Addict and a Criminal and although its mostly self inflicted, as he starts to recover he comes across as a determined and likeable person.
The continual stream of words and actions, mostly presented in short fragmented sentences, make the words fly by, and its a surprisingly easy read. Although there are points where the reader requires quite a strong stomach to make it through easily, the overall tale of addiction and recover is strangely addictive. Whilst youre aware that what may happen to James next is unlikely to be pleasant, thats not enough to prevent you from finding out what it is. This is especially true as he becomes more likeable further into the story.
Despite my huge enjoyment of the book, its far from being perfect. Being a memoir, its recounted as accurately as possible, in word and in deed. This means that theres a large amount of bad language, so this isnt one for people who dislike or disapprove of that kind of thing. Its not for those who are weak of stomach, either, as James details various bodily functions and things that are done to him. Very few of these memories are pleasant and more than a few are either disgusting or disturbing or both.
There are also a couple of places where the story doesnt quite ring true. Given how James life has gone and how lucky he is to be alive, I guess I shouldnt be surprised at anything he might do, but there are a few things that seem a little too sensational to be true. I suspect they are, but most of the telling seems so grounded that the few truly amazing incidents feel a little unlikely in comparison, a little like a big explosion added to a film for effect.
There are, however, moments of true beauty scattered around. There is beauty some of James actions and those of the people around him. There is encouragement to be found in the strength of the human spirit, which is mostly what the story is about. There is even the odd poetic phrase or description that appears within the story, showing like a diamond in the rough. It is easy to be disgusted whilst reading A Million Little Pieces, but it is equally easy to be enthralled, encouraged, amazed and humbled.
Book for a quiet Sunday afternoon read, as its likely to have an impact on you that will shatter the calm of a peaceful weekend, and quite possibly ruin your dinner. Its not one to be read late at night, as there are images that could haunt your dreams. Whilst being a memoir, this has the essence of a modern horror story, as James isnt really all that different to the rest of us, and the horrors that he has brought upon himself are ones we could easily duplicate.
For someone with a strong stomach who isnt scared of something a little different, this is definitely something worth trying. Its available from Amazon at £6.39 or from play.com at £5.99 and Sainsburys Entertain You at £5.36 and is definitely decent value for something that virtually demands to be read more than once. There may also be copies available from £3.00 at eBay, £3.75 from Green Metropolis or £3.90 from the Amazon Marketplace.
It can be edgy and nasty, but its a book full of hope. Its one that needs to be given time to digest and consider. Its a book for those who enjoy looking for new experiences and who is unlikely to be offended or too disgusted by what they find in them. However youre likely to feel about it, this isnt a book that will leave your emotions untouched, in one way or another.