‘A Million Little Pieces’ is the most moving and comprehensive book based on alcohol and drug addiction of this generation. It is a memoir of James Frey’s tryst with drug addiction and his experiences while recovering at a rehabilitation facility center in Minnesota.
After graduating from the Art Institute of Chicago, Frey started his career in Los Angeles as a screenwriter, director and producer. He began working on his Memoir in 1996, which was published in 2003 by Doubleday. His next book ‘My Friend Leonard’, a sequel to ‘A Million Little Pieces’ was published in 2005 followed by ‘Bright Shiny Morning’ in 2008.
The memoir begins with James coming back to the world of consciousness and realising that he is on a plane to Chicago with no clue of the circumstances under which he landed on the plane. He is in a grave state with broken teeth and a battered body. He is covered lying in a pool of blood and piss urine. He is then taken to a rehabilitation facility center by his parents. Apparently his drug and alcohol abused body is beyond repair and a single shot of alcohol could very well spell doom for him his doom. His is 23 years of life seem to be nothing more than a harrowing story of a decade full of drug and alcohol addiction and a handful of police charges in three different states for which he is still ‘wanted’ by the police.
At the rehab centre he faces the agonising treatment process which requires him to abstain from any form of drug or alcohol completely. During his stay he stubbornly refuses to follow the Twelve Steps path which is considered to be the ultimate way out for addicts. His life becomes a monotonous cycle of eating, getting sick, working, eating ,getting sick, dreaming about drugs, getting sick……..this decade long affair with drugs makes it nearly impossible for him to control his urge to taste drugs. He tries to escape from the rehab centre thinking that his life is meaningless and desires one second moment of bliss and then complete silence. His escape attempt, fails as he is persuaded by old Leonard, a fellow drug addict and Mafia king. A strong friendship grows between the two, with Leonard making it the mission of his stay at the rehab to make James realise that life is not over and that his will power is not yet dead. James falls in love with Lily, another fellow addict. James feels at peace in her presence and she gives him hope.
James’ major hurdle is overcoming his pent up fury. However his lack of self pity, cynicism and piety gives him unflinching support- ‘a fearless candour that is at once charming and appalling, searing and darkly funny’. James finally recovers with the help of his family and fellow addicts but more importantly his will and he never relapses.
The lack of quotation marks throughout the book is a notable feature indicating direct discourse. At times the line between his internal thoughts and dialogues with others blurs, emphasising his agonising state of mind. The author makes frequent use of the stream of consciousness in his writing technique. Repetition of words and sentences makes the reader understand the frame of mind of an addict. The reader finds himself moving in slow motion just like an addict walking through twisted maze of his “fucked up” hopeless life.
‘A Million Little Pieces’ topped the New York Times Bestseller’s List for fifteen consecutive weeks and was also picked up as Oprah’s Book Club selection. However the memoir is controversial. It has been alleged that several accounts given by James Frey are over exaggerated and fictional. Thus its status of a memoir is debatable.
But the controversies can take nothing away from Frey. His writing style is exceptionally intriguing and hits your heart. ‘A Million Little Pieces’ is thus as put by FHM “Harrowing, poetic and rather magnificent”.
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