(Kui Gitei) James Frey, if this book is to be believed, is superhuman; a super-human with quite the lucky streak.
A Million Little Pieces, when first published, was listed as a memoir; a collection of Frey’s experiences while in a rehabilitation facility. It was already gathering some attention when Oprah chose it as book of the month for her book club, which guarantees any author best-seller status of extraordinary proportions.
Then some curious from The Smoking Gun website realized there were some gaping discrepancies in the book. In an article titled A Million Little Lies, the journalists discovered Frey’s alleged jail time had been exaggerated to a few months when it was in fact a few hours.
A train-car collision mentioned in the book also was fictionalized, as were many other details. And it was back to the news for Frey, who vigorously defended his book, as did Oprah, whose producers relied on the publisher to have vetted the book before publication.
Turns out they didn’t, and that led to a ruthless confrontation on Oprah’s show with Frey and his publisher. Frey then apologized for “stretching the truth” and all subsequent publications include an apologetic note from the author. The controversy has of course not dented the sales, although aside from all that it truly is a book worth reading.
Frey’s style of writing has been described as “immature” and “irritating” …and it is certainly not a writing style many are used to, but even that does not negate the book’s power.
Frey, or the 23 year old he was, is a highly cynical and easily irritable young man who has spent most of his life doing drugs of all kinds; in fact he describes his first encounter with alcohol at the age of 10.
By the time he gets to the rehab facility after getting high and falling down a fire escape (losing teeth and tearing a hole in his cheek), he is on the verge of death. In every page you can feel the anger, desperation, hopelessness, greed and, though rarely, his love. The book is basically about his stay in rehab, and there are pages that will have you literally wincing due to their graphic nature, as it is truly a no holds barred account of an addict’s journey to recovery.
At one point he has to have a root canal and tooth replacement-without anesthesia as drug addicts aren’t permitted drugs of any kind- and the account of it is truly horrifying. The story doesn’t just revolve around Frey and his struggles though, it also encompasses the eclectic mix of friends he finds at the facility-from a Supreme Court judge, a former boxing champion and a mobster who becomes his mentor.
There is also the woman he falls in love with and later risks his life for .All these characters are battling their own addiction demons, and your heart breaks for them. Frey would have made his life much simpler by simply classifying this book as a fictional story inspired by real events. But then again, controversy sells so maybe it was a deliberate decision.
There is a sequel to the book called My Friend Leonard which is a continuation of his life after rehab and prison. Either way, A Million Little Pieces is an incredible chronicle of the quintessential addict’s life, and a fascinating story as well.