A Million Little Pieces is the semi- fictional memoir of James Frey’s time in rehab for his heart-breaking struggle with addiction and low self-esteem. In a writing style that readers will find both repulsive and riveting all at once, Frey walks us through the excruciating daily reality of his withdrawal from alcohol and cocaine, among other substances.
The book is a dark, gripping, fascinating read: an eye-opening insight into a bleak territory of abuse, addiction, Frey’s time in prison and the consequences of his tumultuous life-choices. It is a peek into the mind of the addict and into the horror that is addiction. In it, we watch as James Frey learns to live again, learns to be normal again. We see him develop honest and loving relationships as he opens himself up to the possibility of change, to the idea of love and to the magnanimous and healing power of friendship.
It is clear to see that something obviously happened to James: something that he was burning to tell in this explosive narrative. The details of his own experiences are still shrouded in mystery but surely he experienced some kind of transformation because in this book he manages to say very poignant things about the world; about the restorative powers of the human spirit and about love. It touches on the mysteries of suffering and its role in our lives. The lines between fact and fiction are blurred and there’s really no use trying to figure it out. The book will compel you to go along with James on his journey from death to life, from despair to hope and from self loathing to dignity.
Frey masterfully captivates his readers from the opening lines:
I Wake to the drone of an airplane engine and the feeling of something warm dripping down my chin. I lift my hand to feel my face. My front four teeth are gone, I have a hole in my cheek, my nose is broken and my eyes are swollen nearly shut. I open them and I look around and I’m in the back of a plane and there’s no one near me. I look at my clothes and my clothes are covered with a colorful mixture of spit, snot, urine, vomit and blood. I reach for the call button and I find it and I push it and I wait and thirty seconds later an Attendant arrives.
That’s a provocative way to start off a memoir, but it certainly does the trick.
A Million Little Pieces is an emotional and heartbreaking work of literature and the author’s recollections might be clouded and embellished by time but it is clearly one of the most engrossing and inspirational narratives that I have ever read.
Surely there are important lessons to be learned here. They have to do with drugs and alcohol, choices, self-respect, friendship, family and facing your own personal truth. Addiction is a plague of modern society and in our limited understanding we are quick to judge, quick to condemn and quick to alienate people who suffer with these demons. Little do we realize that in those moments of desperation and living hell, they are most vulnerable, most fragile and most in need of love.
I know the Smoking Gun controversy will always weigh heavy on the author and the book but whether Oprah likes to admit it or not, this book is beautiful. A Million Little Pieces is an uncommonly genuine account of a sacred human life destroyed and how that life can reconstructed because of the sheer tenacity of the human spirit.
As you can probably tell, I recommend this book very highly in spite of the fact that large sections of it could very well be fiction. But you see, we don’t get to read books like A Million Little Pieces very often and that’s reason enough to get a copy and join James on his turbulent journey. The one thing I can assure you of is this, this book will make you uncomfortable. This book will give you perspective. This book (like all good books do) will affect you.