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A Million Little Pieces

by James Frey

About.com Rating 5 Star Rating
User Rating 4 Star Rating (1 Review)


A Million Little Pieces
It's embarrassing really -- not as embarrassing probably as it is for Oprah Winfrey, who more fervently embraced James Frey's A Little Million Pieces than any mere reviewer possibly could have, but embarrassing nonetheless. Duped? Shammed? Scammed like a tourist at a New York three-card monte table? Mostly I'm just feeling a little naive.

New articles on the piece emerge daily. Not only is there The Smoking Gun's well-documented contention that Frey's criminal record and subsequent consequences were largely fabrications, but now treatment center and medical professionals are coming out of the woodwork to dispute the author's account of his stay at Hazeldon:

"Carol Colleran, who worked for 17 years in the Hazelden system, including two years at the Minnesota locations, said that unlike Mr. Frey's contention on 'Larry King Live' that only about 5 percent of his book is in dispute, '98 percent of that book is false' in its descriptions of how Hazelden works.' "
The New York Times January 24, 2006
Unlike Frey's continued supporters, Ms. Winfrey among them (a few days after I wrote this, Oprah retracted her support of Frey confessing to feeling duped herself), I am of the opinion that memoir, by definition, is not truth-malleable, that the reader's expectation when purchasing and delving into a memoir is that the events described are remembered to the best of the author's ability, not fabrications.

Publisher's Weekly recently ran an article by recovery memoirist Heather King, who says it best:

"As a memoirist, it seems to me, something has to have happened to you that you're burning to tell. You've undergone some kind of transformation that matters not because it says something about you, but because it says something about the world; because it touches on the mysteries of suffering and meaning. There may be great leeway in being faithful to this emotional truth, but you have to have an emotional truth to begin with."

Despite an almost overwhelming urge to pull it down, I'll leave my initial review of A Million Little Pieces below. But if an honestly compelling recovery memoir is what you're seeking, you might check out Dry by Augusten Burroughs or similarly titled, Parched by Heather King.
2003 Review Follows:

James Frey is a mess. He's missing four of his front teeth, his nose and cheekbone are broken, and there's a hole in his cheek large enough for him to stick 2 of his fingers through. His sleep is invaded nightly by dreams of alcohol, crack-cocaine, and crystal-meth. Upon waking, he vomits chunks of stomach wall into the toilet. His mood ranges from rage to hopelessness and back, and his constant affirmation, "I am an Alcoholic. I am a Drug Addict. I am a Criminal," is nothing short of the truth.

When Frey checks himself into the world's oldest drug and alcohol treatment facility (undoubtedly Hazelden, though Frey never says), he is disfigured beyond recognition, has spent the preceding weeks in an alcohol and drug induced blackout, and is wanted in 3 states on a variety of charges.

He is 23 years old.
A Million Little Pieces is a memoir of Frey's time in treatment, of his struggle with addiction. In a writing style that is as stark as the experiences it recalls, Frey walks his readers through the daily reality of his withdrawal from alcohol and crack-cocaine, among other substances. He subsequently leads us into his recovery from years of substance abuse.

While utterly rejecting the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous, Frey simultaneously embraces one of its key tenets: rigorous honesty. He renders his stay at Hazelden with glaring candor as he details his struggles with what might seem mundane challenges - challenges like eating lunch, or looking into his own eyes. His writing is almost stream-of-conscious as he forgoes using quotation marks in dialogue and capitalizes random nouns.
User Reviews

Reviews for this section have been closed.

 4 out of 5
A Million Little Pieces, Member reader422

A book about truth that has been discovered to be untrue? A friend pulled this out of a stack of second hand books I had recently gotten. She read it ,loved it. The story helped her give up her growing habit of a bottle(big bottle ) of wine before bed. I read it knowing some facts were ""doctored"" but not sure which ones. Did this matter? to some extent yes. I never really liked James in the story. He had big problems,caused big pain to others, had a drink/use again and die sentence by 23 yet never seemed to take things serious.He was aragant,and refused to follow treatement plans.made a joke of many of them. If he was such a great ""I can do it my wn way"" person why was his life in such a mess to start with.

4 out of 15 people found this helpful.

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