A Million Little Pieces by James Frey
James Frey wakes up on a plane, with no memory of the preceding two weeks. His face is cut and his body is covered with bruises. He has no wallet and no idea of his destination. He has abused alcohol and every drug he can lay his hands on for a decade – and he is aged only twenty-three.
What happens next is one of the most powerful and extreme stories ever told. His family takes him to a rehabilitation centre. And James Frey starts his perilous journey back to the world of the drug and alcohol-free living. His lack of self-pity is unflinching and searing.
My thoughts throughout this novel were that it was amazing, inspirational and enthralling. Spurring these adjectives into life was the fact that the book is truth. These are James Frey's memoirs from his time in a rehabilitation centre, and all of the things that happen to him in the novel have happened to him in real life. It was moving, and I fell in love with him and what he'd accomplished. In the time between finishing the novel and sitting down to write this review (ten minutes, perhaps) I have found out that the book is in fact semi-fictional. I'm gutted, and I want to get this out of the way before I begin the actual review. I now know that later editions of this book have notes inside explaining that some parts are fabricated, but my copy must be an older print because there was nothing of the sort in mine. I am really, really disappointed and upset. It was a wonderful story, and wonderfully written. I just wish I had known that it wasn't as non-fiction as I had originally thought because now I don't know how I feel about the book. It hasn't diminished my opinion a lot, but it has a bit. The book would still be wonderful if it had been fiction. I will try to review it as best I can, but this has really thrown me. And all I did was try to find an image of the book cover! So, here goes:
I did really enjoy the book. I like books that are dark and dull, but have a light at the end of the tunnel. Memoirs especially have this because you know the person has lived to tell the tale, and you're just peering at their journey towards redemption. We are shown a "self-inflicted apocalypse", the despair that follows, and Frey's trudge away from it.
Frey's writing is wonderful. In the first 100 pages he has his teeth knocked out and it's a while before he gets them fixed. I kept checking my mouth to make sure my own teeth were still there, and I felt the pain when he was going through the corrective dental work. I feel emotionally drained after reading it, as though I have personally been through all of Frey's hellish situations alongside him.
There is a certain rhythm going on with his writing; he gives us repetitions and beats that are almost melodic. This pulls the reader along at an incredible pace, and allows discoveries to happen at the right times. His prose drifts at times, and I believe this is reflective of his experience at the time, drifting through the conscious and subconscious. Many sentences lack punctuation, emphasising Frey's erratic trains of thought.
There were a lot of Frey's opinions that I agreed with. Although I've never been an addict myself, it does seem futile to drum into recovering addicts that the only way they can get better is by believing in a higher power, that it's a disease, it's not your fault, something has happened in your past to make you this way, it might even be in your GENES! Your grandfather was an alcoholic? Well, there you go. Frey put across his opinion that addiction is each time a decision, and he put this across well. Of course it's not easy, it might be the most difficult thing in the world to do, but God won't help everyone, and your parents aren't to blame.
Now that I've calmed down a bit from the first paragraph I'd like to just note that I am aware that memoirs are never 100% accurate. I know there is no way that conversations that have taken place years ago can be replicated exactly on paper. Memories are faulty. I am now calm and my only gripe about the whole thing happened on the very last page of the novel and will be a huge spoiler if I go on to moan about it, so I won't. Frey has gone through somead to tell us about it in such a beautiful, compelling way. I would really recommend this, but please just bear in mind that things might not be as they seem. It'll make you feel something, and that's all that matters in reading.
67 / 66 books. 102% done!