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A Million Little Pieces by James Frey was one of the few books I have bought on a whim, without having it on my wish list first. I try really hard to stick to my wish list when buying books, because there are already so many I want to read without adding “unscheduled” ones in there. Not to mention that the boyfriend would probably strangle me if I bought every book that caught my eye.
I found this while perusing the used bookstore at the beach that I mentioned before (If any of you ever travel to Ocean City, NJ, USA, check out The Bookateria Two. You won’t be disappointed). Something about the cover just caught my eye (see previous post), and when I read the description, I was sucked in.
From the back of the book:
“At the age of 23, James Frey woke up on a plane to find his four front teeth knocked out, his nose broken, and a hole through his cheek. He had no idea where the plane was headed nor any recollection of the past two weeks. An alcoholic for ten years and a crack addict for three, he checked into a treatment facility shortly after landing. There he was told he could either stop using or die before he reached age 24. This is Frey’s acclaimed account of his six weeks in rehab.”
As a sidenote, I was originally going to use the Goodreads summary here, but it didn’t have much to say. I’m very glad that I didn’t look up this book on Goodreads until after I read it, however. More on that later.
I’m often intrigued by other’s lives, especially when there is some big Issue (with a capital I) they have dealt with or gone through. Actually now that I think about it, I’m surprised I haven’t read more memoirs in my life, I really do find them inspiring. This book also rang true to me because addiction runs in my family and I am fully aware of its consequences.
The best part of this book for me was how it was written. I loved the stream of consciousness, especially the way it moved from speech to thought to emotion and back again. At the same time, it was sometimes hard to follow who was saying what if you weren’t paying attention. Reading it this way made the story feel very raw, rather than just scripted from memories like some memoirs feel.
Notice how I phrased that last sentence – “the story”. As I was reading, I kept thinking in the back of my head “there’s no way that happened?!”. I personally know someone who was mentally institutionalized for several days and I know treatment centers tend to follow the same guidelines in care, so occasionally the events that transpired seemed a little outlandish. But we often feel like that about certain subjects; for example, how many people in the world have read memoirs such as Elie Wiesel’s Night and thought to themselves, “How did this [the holocaust] happen???”. So I kept reading, thinking it really had happened, totally oblivious.
It turns out that after this book was put on Oprah’s Book Club list, a scandal arose which ultimately led to the author admitting that he had embellished parts of the book. Well, I’d be lying if I said that didn’t deflate my balloon a little bit when it comes to this book. But I’m glad I found out the truth.
In the end, I still enjoyed reading the book, even if certain events and parts of it were embellished. I think it really gave some insight into how an addict’s mind works, and like I said, I enjoyed the style of the writing.
There are probably far better reads out there when it comes to addiction memoirs (I haven’t read it, but Keith Richard’s Life comes to mind [Did I just add another book to my To-Read list?]), but I’d still suggest A Million Little Pieces if you want to learn what goes through an addict’s mind.
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