Saturday, December 20, 2008

School Book: A Million Little Pieces

This is not the kind of book that I would normally pick up, but it is on the reading list for one of my classes next term, popular fiction.
James Frey's A Million Little Pieces tells the story of the author's time in rehab. When he was 23, he woke up in a bloody mess on a plane with no memory of how he got there. At the time he was addicted to alcohol, glue and several other drugs. He went to a treatment facility where he was told he could either clean up or die before his next birthday.
The book itself is a very brutal account of addicts and treatment. James was an absolute mess when he got to treatment. A Million Little Pieces does not shy away from the horror you go through while trying to beat an addiction. You are there when James wakes up, with a hole in his cheek and his teeth missing. You are there when he goes through root canal without pain killers. You are there for everything.
The one thing that surprised me was the presence of love in the story. I didn't think that James would fall in love while in rehab. That was a very touching addition to this story.
Of course, after reading the back of the book and thinking about it for a bit, I was a little bit confused why Frey's memoir would be on the reading list for a class titled Popular Fiction. The mystery was soon solved when I started reading the book. In the author's note that is included, Frey admits that he embellished the story a bit. How much I am not entirely sure, but if you are interested, you can find some information on wikipedia. It appears there was quite a controversy on this issue. It takes a lot away from the story when you don't know how much of it is accurate.
A Million Little Pieces is also written rather weirdly. There are no quotation marks anywhere in the book to denote dialogue, and whenever Frey lists things, there are no commas. This made the book a little confusing at times (the dialogue you get used to as you read, but the lack of commas makes you have to stop and reread some passages). This is a minor inconvenience overall, but an inconvenience nonetheless.
Overall though, I have to agree with the Los Angeles Times Book Review's quote that is on the cover of my edition: "Gripping. . . A great story. . . You can't help but cheer his victory." Even though it is now considered a work of fiction, it was a good story. And among all the controversy surrounding the book, Frey managed to succeed in fighting his addiction. And that in itself is a wonderful thing.

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