on 1 June 2011
Let me tell you about the good bits:
The book is a compulsive read - it takes you along at a pace - and it's enjoyable. It gives some insight into the world of drugs and drink. What is particulary appealing is the thought that this is some sort of biography of life as a drug addict going through rehab - and for this reason it draws the reader on.
Now for the bad bits:
This is not a truthful account and as soon as the penny drops one is left with a sense of being cheated.
The book is irritating: the writing style is just annoying - there are some horrible sentence constructions and the repetition of words and phrases is pointless and adds nothing to the narrative or the story. For example "The Dealers I have seen don't deal what she uses they offered me pot or meth...." Should there be some sort of punctuation there?
And in the same paragraph: "I know she is either here or she has been here. I know someone has seen her. I know. I stare. I know. I stare."
The narrator does a lot of staring in the book - he seems to be always staring at something or other. But the constant repetition is very annoying after a while. I have noticed that he does it in his other book "Bright Shiny Morning" too - so it appears to be one of his literary techniques.
(MEMO TO THE AUTHOR: drop the repetition - it's pointless and irritates the reader)
I also didn't believe in the hero of the book - James Frey himself. The narrator swaggers into the rehab centre with lots of attitude - is monosyllabic and resentful but still attracts a fan following of people who really like and love him. Goodness knows how he worked that one.
There is also too much preaching about philosophy and our hero rejects the concept of God and Christianity but latches onto some wishy- washy Tao philosophy and gives little quotes from his Tao text - which to me seemed just vacuous mutterings - but to him they were jewels of wisdom. Each to his own, I suppose; but his mini rants do get up your nose after a while.
It is very hard to like the narrator - he is boorish, arrogant and not believable - almost a sociopath (judging by the nasty tricks he's pulled on people during his life) - living his life hating everyone - but at the end of the book there he is putting his arms around people and loving them all. It was not credible.
Oh and his mother is always crying - whenever he speaks to her - there she is having a sob - down the phone sobbing, in the waiting room sobbing away, in the counselling room sobbing quietly- it's all too much crying.
I was not convinced that this book was a real account of anything other than the writer's sense of self importance and conceit. It's a good read but I would not recommend it to anyone - least those who are really suffering with the problems he describes in the book.
This book has put me off reading anything else by this author - I simply don't believe a word he says - his writing is too self-consciously stylised for effect and renders it redundant and irritating.
on 13 January 2012
James Frey's account of addiction is honest and leaves no grimy details spared. Unlike other books of a smiliar subject I have read, Frey does not try to glamourise or sexualise addiction in any way. He tells the degrading, embarassing, frightening and demoralising truth of living as an addict. His anger, resentment, fear, volatility and self hatred are believable and reflect the truth in his journey of addiction and recovery. His writing style is that of an established author, that keeps one turning the pages. However....
... I feel this book is a heavy, weighty drop of oily truth, thoroughly diluted into a sizeable pond of fabrication. It all reads far to like a Hollywood Movie, comparable to 'One flew over the cuckoo's nest' - with rival/enemy 'Leonard' transforming into an adopted 'Father' I found this conclusion rather predictable, weightless and 'cheesey' for want of a more refined word. The same can be said for the concluding relationship with his parents. Going from grossly uncomfortable with their presence to hugging them and exchanging 'I love you's'that had never before been said. The 'fight' watched on TV towards the end of the book, where there is cheering and whooping and a suprise 'party' with lobster, and steak ordered by a once cranky, authorative 'Lincoln' for Leonards departure is once again resemblant of 'Murphy' in 'One flew over the cuckoos nest', it becomes a little unbelievable and fictitious.
Frey's writing style can be 'annoying' with the constant repetition, it is obviously used for effect, perhaps to depict his mind state, however it is a bit of a wasted technique as it doesnt have the power intended and becomes frustrating.
However, The non-acceptance of the '12 steps' 'let go and let go' mantra is refreshing and honest. It gives hope to those reading it with personal experience of addiction that 'AA IS NOT the only way' I like his candour that ultimately it is HIS choice, HIS responsibility and not the fault of his parents or genetics and believes he can only recover with accpetance of responsibility and self will.
Overall, an interesting, honest, raw, painful and insightful read that offers the reader the horror and truth of being an addict, and a look at the slow, painful process of recovery. Frey is a good writer and I enjoyed this book, however I feel it should have perhaps been advertised as 'BASED on a true story' rather than claiming to be fully autobiographical.
I dont think i shall be reading the follow ups......
on 12 November 2006
The book follows James Frey's time in rehab, following a priveliged childhood, a good university career, dabbling in drink and drugs and finally ending up a hopelesss addict. This leads him to his time in rehab, and his story of how he overcome that addiction.
James' point is that the 12 steps, and believing only God can cure you, is a flawed theory. He feels that only the addict can decide to get clean, in the same way that the addict decides to take the next drink/hit/whatever. He spend his early time in Rehab fighting the system, and anyone that tries to help.
I was not aware of the controversy surrounding the book when I read it, so took it at face value. However at many times the story felt unreal.
I am pretty sure most of this is seriously embellished (even more than the author now admits) - the story reads like a hollywood movie script - a fatherly mafia boss, a boxing champ, a supreme court judge and a deep, caring, loving crack addicted girlfriend are all major characters.
However the few moments when you feel that James is actually baring his soul are what makes the book. He is self obsessed, whiney, self hating and self indulgent, angry and defensive but desparate for acceptance, but he has a bitter humour which stops the book descending into a pity tale.
He obviously creates a lot of the characters and situations, but he could not have written this unless he had some experience of addiction, and his true story I expect would not have been quite as interesting.
Overall this is a great read, and a refreshing outlook on addiction rather than the usual "God saved me, Praise be!" stories. His exaggerations keep the story exciting, making it easier to suspend disbelief. If read as fiction this book is fantastic. It is also a great book for parents of teenagers to read, as it does give a great insight into the mind of a confused young guy falling a bit too far into the drink and drug scene. For an insight on serious addiction though, I would look elsewhere (Piece of Cake is great)
The inevitable movie will no doubt be a box office smash
on 17 November 2015
I don't know what it is about this particular book but it compelled me and completely blew me away. In all honesty I didn't care much for the characters but for some reason I was absolutely hooked. Read in one sitting until 4:00am. I had to finish the story. I had to know. Never before has a book evoked such a physical reaction. I cried at times and held my body tense. I felt pain. For me it is the tale of a broken mind, tortured souls, complete and utter despair and also kindness. It is far from a positive self help book or one with a strong moral message. It is gritty and brutal and honest. I care not about whether this is fact or fiction nor about the media and Internet hype. I don't feel like I have been sold a dead horse. In short read this book.
on 10 September 2015
Review from AntonySimpson.com:
A Million Little Pieces by James Frey is addictive like crack cocaine. Once you pick it up and start reading, you’ll find it near impossible to put back down.
From the cover:
'Aged just twenty-three, James Frey had destroyed his body and his mind almost beyond repair. When he enters a rehabilitation centre to try to reclaim his life, he has to fight to determine what future, if any, he has. His lack of self-pity, cynicism and piety gives him an unflinching honesty – a fearless candour that is at once charming and appalling, searing and darkly funny.'
(From: Frey, 2004)
Frey takes the reader on his rollercoaster of a journey to recovery from alcohol and drug addiction. It starts with him waking up on a plane with no memory of how he got there, what happened to his face or where he’s going.
A Million Little Pieces is set during Frey’s stay in rehab; is well paced and has plenty of tension, conflict and resolution. Both internally and externally. He recalls memories of his dysfunctional and chaotic alcohol and drug using past.
Stylistically A Million Little Pieces lacked speech marks, but this was possibly deliberate. Not having speech marks was a noticeable stylistic change to the normal layout of a book. Frey was probably using this to subtly hint that his story wasn’t like the story of most people. Frey’s lack of dialogue tags was generally acceptable, but on the odd occasion where Frey had written a scene with a group of people, it did get difficult to establish who had said what.
Towards the end of A Million Little Pieces it began to feel fictional. As I was coming to the end of the book and had enjoyed reading it, I decided to look into other books that Frey had written.
After doing a Google Search, I discovered the story of A Million Little Pieces and understood why it felt fictional – because parts of it were.
A Million Little Pieces was commercially hugely successful both in the US and internationally after being featured on the Oprah Winfrey Show. But then The Smoking Gun revealed in an article titled ‘A Million Little Lies’ that some of Frey’s claims around his criminal past didn’t match up with court records.
Oprah had to respond to these revelations and interviewed Frey on a few occasions. The most recent, a few years after A Million Little Pieces was exposed as being in part fictional.
I can understand while some people felt lied to, as A Million Little Pieces was promoted and marketed as a memoir.
But I wasn’t in the slightest bit surprised that some of A Million Little Pieces was fact and some was fiction. Because that’s how it read. Who wouldn’t change some of their past if they had the chance? Don’t we all do that all the time? Change things to make them sound better or worse than they actually are with the aim of making our stories more interesting to our friends, family, co-workers, etc. Can we really blame Frey for doing the same for the reader?
Regardless A Million Little Pieces is still a great read. Worth reading if you are interested in addiction, crime, alcohol, drugs, rehab and recovery. Just hold on is a phrase often repeated in the book and was a phrase that I adopted when I was suffering from severe clinical depression.
My Friend Leonard is the follow up book and picks up where A Million Little Pieces ended. I’m currently reading My Friend Leonard and enjoying it just as much as I did A Million Little Pieces.
A Million Little Pieces by James Frey is available to buy on Amazon.
on 12 June 2015
The Independent dubbed this as 'turbocharged' and I think it is a good overall summary. Like many of my book purchases, I procrastinate for a long time and then hit the purchase button in the hope that I will be swept away into the authors world and come out smiling. A Million Little Pieces did this for me.
It is unique as I have never read anything similar. It is fast moving, hence the verdict of turbocharged and subsequently I was never bored at any point. The writing style reflects the story, as one might expect a drug addicted, alcoholic, criminal (he dubs himself as this several times over) to write. The are no speech marks and few commas, which to an English teacher would probably be considered a sin. There is plenty of obscene language and confrontation, yet somehow it is beautiful. We hear of so many stories of the guy or girl that had to climb the greasy pole to fulfill their ambition of being a millionaire or sport star, but in this story, it is about a drug addict trying to escape not only his vices, but his crazed mind. There are rumblings about James Frey fabricating much of what really happened to him, but don't let that ruin your reading pleasure.
If you are looking for a book that has what I would define as an anti-hero for the main character, where love is found in unusual circumstances, friendships are made in crazy ways then read this book. In addition to this there are interesting perspectives on religion, the origins of why an addict might become that way and family reconciliation. Finally do yourself a big favour if you buy this, DO NOT READ pages 513 - 14; this will tell you the outcome of every character you get to know, love and hate during the course of the book.
on 29 December 2009
I think this book has good points and bad points, and I agree with many of the diverse reviews I've read here. The writing explodes out of the page - it was rushy and fast and I felt like I'd been taken into the childish haphazard world of an addict. I was pleased that you don't have to be an Oxford scholar to be able to convey your experience in a meaningful way. I found the short sentences and incorrectly placed capital letters fit in well with how the writer wanted to express himself - placing importance randomly and unevenly and inventing his own laws and systems like an out-of-control person would. His world was distorted and mad and so was his punctuation and grammar. His short sentences gave the impression of speed and a short attention span, all fitting in with his character and how he had learned (or hadn't learned) to deal with life.
What a shame the writer didn't put this talent for writing into his real story. I felt like I was reading a fantasy. It was like when you replay an incident in your mind, with yourself saying all the things you should / would have said with hindsight. So I felt like I was reading the action replay in James' mind, rather than the truth of what really happened. He was always saying all the right things, giving the right amount of eye contact, always coming out on top, to the point where I felt I was reading about a comic strip hero.
However I was fascinated that he rejected the 12 steps. I've read the 12 steps and I decided that I didn't like them either. Changing your belief system in order to recover is no easy feat - how can you change what you believe so radically without deluding yourself? If you're only believing in god or a higher power to recover from addiction do you really believe? I thought that was a really interesting part of his story and I wanted to know more. What was disappointing was that his story wasn't completely real and one of my reasons for finishing the book was because I wanted to find out about his alternative to the 12 steps. I don't feel enlightened.
on 17 November 2015
This is an exploration of addiction, or what can influence or impact upon degrees of addiction, threads of which surely exist in us all but can be devastatingly and darkly compelling for some.
The writing style perfectly conveys the highs and lows of what is surely an acute mind, which makes you wonder how one so potentially sharp - brilliant, even -can become so ensnared and so very lost.I found myself willing the protagonist to overcome, and concerned that the chances of that are very, very slim.
This narrative describes one man's journey to a different normality. It describes, with wit, irony, sarcasm and a good deal of humour and humanity, the friends and associates who play significant roles on that path, mostly within the confines of a rehab centre.
It might not sound like a barrel of laughs but, this story is so unusual, so well written and so cleverly put together, I simply couldn't put it down. As well as being highly entertaining it has a message for everyone, I think, to some degree (and whether we like it or not!). It's so much more than any synopsis might suggest. My advice is to read it and be surprised at where it takes you!
on 13 March 2010
If your'e into fiction this book may just entertain you, Frey underestimates his readers intelligence when he writes this story that leaves so many unbelievable questions unanswered like for instance which airline would actually take on an injured obviously drunk/drugged up individual alone without medical supervision, who bought him the ticket, which detox centre that relys on the 12 steps would allow a patient to stay there without taking part in the only proven method to help addicts recover. Im sorry but I don't believe a word of this book and if your'e thinking of buying something simmilar have a look at Mark Johnson's WASTED a true accurate account of a similar story.
on 6 February 2016
Shocking, well written (I normally don't like American writing) and excoriating account of an ascent from the hell of drug and alcohol dependency of a young man. It wasn't easy or comfortable to read, but it was compulsive and wholly believable. It was also pretty much life-changing in that it has moderated my rather set and self-satisfied views about addiction of any kind. James Frey spares no detail, and I was surprised to discover his almost total lack of self-pity. I have no idea where he finds his strength, and I cannot express how much I admire his stance of accountability: no-one but he is to blame for his situation. I'm not sure why I bought this book in the first place - it is so far removed from my normal choice of reading matter, but I'm so glad I did. I think that if people were compelled to read this at a very young age, it might prevent more than a few falling into a similar destructive cycle. The ending, to my astonishment, had me crying, and I still feel (some months later) physically and emotionally bruised by this book.
If you can bear it, please read it. It is an education.