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
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.
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.