Title: A Million Little Pieces
Author: James Frey
Date Read: November 10, 2013
Summary: At the age of 23, James Frey woke up on a plane to find his front teeth knocked out and his nose broken. 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. There he was told he could either stop using or die before he reached age 24. This is Frey's acclaimed account of his six weeks in rehab. goodreads
Review: To be honest, I picked up this book because I LOVE a good scandal. (PS Scandal the TV series is phenomenal. Check it out!) If you don't remember how all of this went down, let me remind you. Frey classified this book as a memoir from the very beginning. This was his downfall because it turns out, it's not really true. At all. Granted, he had some substance abuse problems and did time in rehab but all of the arrests and severity of drug abuse was grossly exaggerated and manipulated. In addition to lying to the general media, his publishers, and his readers, he also lied to Oprah Winfrey. Lied to her face! When Big O found out about this, she essentially crucified him on her show for lying and making her look like a fool (because she adopted this book for her book club and brought him on the show to brag about him.) Oh goodness, 2006 was a bad year for James Frey. But it did get him a lot of publicity (really bad publicity) and that's how this book ended up in my hands. Going into reading this book, I was aware of most of the scandal but not the extent to how much be made up or altered so my review is based on knowing some of it is lies but believing big parts of it (which now I know was pretty naive...)
The story follows James through his stint in rehab with a lot of flashbacks to his history with drugs and alcohol. He is made out to be this total bad ass who doesn't care about anything and is looking for pain and punishment in the form of substance abuse. The stories, such as serious dental surgery without anesthesia, make him sound like a bad ass but there are parts that don't totally ring true whether you think it's a memoir or know he lied. From what I know of substance abuse, most addicts can't tell you what they did last night much less their entire substance use history and details of how it affected those around them. First red flag. Then he goes on to ignore all of the statistics and studies surrounding the 12-step program and make a decision to be sober which just so happens to work for the rest of his life. I think most people know how unlikely this is but I have to admit that there are people who go cold turkey and get control of their lives. Most of them aren't life long drug addicts or alcoholics who have reached the pointed Frey did, but whatever. We'll let that one slide.
When it comes down to it though, and you can let all of the exaggerated stories go, this is actually a relatively enjoyable book for what it is. James was an ass hole his whole life but starts to finally come around in rehab and make connections and friendships that he has never been able to do before. He reconnects with his family and somehow manages to survive everything he has been through and come out on the other side of it ok. This book gets relatively graphic at times but in a way that feels honest (ironic, I know) and adds to the story rather than deters from it. The writing is very odd with random words capitalized and very few commas but it helps the reader understand the chaotic thoughts that go through an addict's head. Parts of it were just ridiculous, like his relationship with Lilly and successfully breaking the big rule of rehab and not being kicked out, but part of me wanted to believe all of it. I wanted to believe that someone could overcome this level of addiction simply by deciding not to do drugs anymore. To believe that he was able to pick of the million little pieces of his life and move on with his friends and family and be successful. To believe that there are people like the employees at the rehab who look out for people with addictions and mental health issues and do what's best for them. I want to believe and at parts, I did. But then I come back down to reality and am extremely disappointed that James Frey made bad decisions, which negatively colored a book that could have impacted people in a positive way. I enjoyed this book for what it was and will always wonder which parts were actually true (you know, other than the proof that he was not arrested all those time or when he created a sick, made up relationship with a girl who actually was killed by a train). I may or may not also pick up his follow up book to this which centers around his friend Leonard. I liked Leonard and would like to find out what happened to him before he died. Granted, I may never know because Frey lies like a rug but it still may be interesting because whatever else Frey is, he's a good story teller.