A Million Little Pieces
By: James Frey
Paige’s Rating: (4) of 5 Stars
Recommended for: Non-Fiction/Memoir Readers
At the age of 23, James Frey woke up on a plane to find his four front teeth knocked out, his nose broken, and a hole through his cheek. He had no idea where the plane was headed nor any recollection of the past two weeks. An alcoholic for ten years and a crack addict for three, he checked into a treatment facility shortly after landing.
Before I read this book, I heard about the controversy that surrounded it. While it is published as a memoir and was hugely successful due to Oprah picking it up for her book club, it became apparent to some people that the memoir was loosely a memoir and that some of the shocking details in the book could be less than real. With that said, I really don’t care whether this is a piece of fiction or non-fiction or somewhere in between. It is a story about addiction and it is a highly engrossing book.
The first 100 pages are gripping, as you see James as a man incredibly crippled by his addition to alcohol and drugs. The book really details the dirty mental and physical process of detox: from continual vomiting, increased heart rates and risk of heart attack and stroke, to insomnia and bugs crawling up your body. To believe that the human body can endure such abuse is oddly fascinating.
After the detox process, James’ attitude is what gets him through the rest of his program. Throughout the book, James refuses to believe that a higher power will keep him sober and forgive him of his miserable life thus far. He openly rejects the 12 Step Program and AA. He believes his only chance at staying sober is to believe that it is he, himself, who will have to make the difficult decision daily, weekly, and monthly to remain sober and that the only person who should forgive him is himself. Some readers have felt his attitude towards those trying to help him with proven strategies is stubborn at best, illogical and egotistical at worst. I find his attitude makes me indifferent to his progress: if he really believes that his way will keep him sober, then I hope it does. If it doesn’t keep him sober, than I really feel no pity. Either way, his success is not important to me, rather seeing the face of addition in various people throughout the book is what really matters. Addiction has no race, class or religious preference.
There is a little romance in the book as well, which may keep women interested in the book and soften up the harder details. The writing style is loose, not much punctuation, which I think clearly exemplifies the author’s loose thoughts and random ideas as an addict. However, at times the dialogue and inner monologues drag on, and I found myself skimming more than reading.
Overall, I recommend this book if you want an easy read. Obviously it is graphic and shocking, but it has a good pace and it shows a part of life most of us are unbelievably lucky to not know about and never see.