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Book Review| A Million Little Pieces by James Frey

Updated: Jan 14, 2021

Hi Friends, welcome back. Today we are going to do another fun color with me and book chat. So, grab your coloring books and markers. Like this video and subscribe to this channel if you want more of these book chats and book reviews. In the comment section below, let me know if you’ve read this book and what you thought about it. Let’s get started.

As always, I’ll post the completed version of the pages we color together on the ReadingOnTheRun blog.

Scandal Alert! A Million Little Pieces by James Frey is a memoir originally published in 2003 with rave reviews and even an Oprah’s Book Club shout out. It’s a memoir documenting James’ stint in rehab, at 23 years old, for a decade old Addiction to Alcohol, Crack, Cocaine and Glue. The writing style is superbly bursting with emotion and personality all of which ebbs and flows with his mental state changes throughout the process of attempting to get sober. The simplistic, repetitive language, absence of traditional story punctuations (quotations and chapter numbers) and stylistic run-on sentences transports the reader into the world of addiction. There is no doubt that James Frey is a distinctively talented writer. This is a recommended enjoyable read. One issue though…. it’s not true!

Ok, some of it is not true…it’s a bit complicated. Let me tell you. Now, if you are new to the literary world, let me orient you a bit. A memoir is supposed to be non-fiction piece of literature. Meaning, it’s supposed to be a true story. Shortly after this book was released it was found that some of the stories included in this memoir (and later, other books by Frey) was proven untrue. Specifically described as suspiciously untrue in this book is an occasion that Frey describes where he visits the dentist and gets two root canals and two caps on rotten, broken teeth without any anesthesia…only using stress balls and a favorite children’s book for comfort. Let. That. Sink. In. The Addiction Clinic in which James attended has no record of this incident.

“An Addict is an Addict. It doesn’t matter whether the Addict is white, black, yellow or green, rich or poor or somewhere in the middle, the most famous person on the Planet or the most unknown. It doesn’t matter whether the addiction is drugs, alcohol, crime, sex, shopping, food, gambling, television, or the fucking Flintstones. The life of the Addict is always the same. There is no excitement, no glamour, no fun. There is no future and no escape. There is only an obsession. An all-encompassing, fully enveloping, completely overwhelming obsession.” ~James Frey

The story opens up with Frey on a plane, drunk, high, with a hole in his cheek and no knowledge of how he ended up there. Over the next few chapters we, the readers, follow James from the care of his parents to one of the best recovery facilities in the United States. While in the Minnesota facility, through James’ experience, we meet a slew of interesting “characters”.

We initially meet Larry, a man desperately trying to get well so he can return to his family, only to find out he may have unknowingly given them all HIV. Another man, Matty, is introduced as the former light weight boxing champion of the world, now a shriveled-up addict fighting for sobriety. Ed is a loudmouth who had his hair plugs pulled out from the husband of a former lover before being admitted to the sobriety center. Leonard is an organized crime boss who grows fond of James and looks out for him while they spend time in the facility.

Miles is a Judge, astute, educated, an obvious leader who plays the clarinet when he feels the urge of addiction. Lilly is a damaged beauty recovering from addiction to make her grandmother proud and falling for James fast. The feeling seems to be mutual. Addictive even. The facility is filled with all types of people from every walk of life. Also, we meet interesting authoritative figures, leading the patients to sobriety from experience as all of the clinic employees are also recovering addicts.

James reveals bits and pieces of his life throughout the book including the fact that he didn’t believe his trauma originated from home. He grew up in a loving, healthy family. When his family moved to a small town his only friend was hit by a passing train in an accident that he was believed to be responsible because of a lie he told. We get to watch James weave in and out of his inner most feelings of love, betrayal, hate, pride, and fear. As he begins to build a relationship with Lilly, he reveals is virginity was given to a prostitute in a moment of pity for himself. This only make him hate himself more. You can’t help but root for James as he fights for sobriety.

I bought my copy of the book (could be your copy soon! See giveaway info below) during a book haul at a used bookstore some time ago (video is on YouTube channel). Included in it are notes from the author and publisher respectively addressing the untruth accusations and their respective actions that shortly followed. Frey explains that the story is from the mind of a recovering addict (his own) and may have been embellished. The publisher all but apologizes for backing Frey before knowing all of the facts. None-the-less Frey insists that the stories are true to him and his experience as a recovering addict.

Now if the knowledge that this is a well-written, highly engulfing, must-read doesn’t make you want to read this book, the scandal will!


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As Always, happy reading friends!




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