A Million Little Pieces – James Frey

THE BLURB – At the age of 23, James Frey woke up on a plane to find his front teeth knocked out and his nose broken.  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 to stop using drink and drugs or expect to be dead before he reached 24.  This is Frey’s account of his six weeks in rehab.

REVIEW – There was much hype about this particular book following James Frey’s appearance on Oprah.   It tells the story of a young alcoholic and drug abuser, joining him at rock bottom and following him on his way through rehabilitation. While initially promoted as a memoir and endorsed by the TV show, Oprah later recalled James Frey for a notoriously confrontational follow up interview to address claims that he lied in many parts

Honestly, when I read the book I think it was pretty evident to me which bits were fictitious (or at least heavily slanted to make them sound more impactful than they were).  There are some areas where ego very clearly plays a part in twisting the story a little, but that said, surely we want a book to offer the extraordinary?  Frey was criticised for misleading people who had found the book helpful whilst battling their own addictions, or supporting and understanding the addictions of those close to them.  Personally, if a reader finds it an empowering tale then I am not sure it matters what type of book it is.  If you gain something from reading any book then it has delivered on its promise as I see it.   of the book and that it was in fact at least semi-fictional.

Fact or fiction, what I would commend Frey for is not trying to glamorise drink and drugs.  There is bleak ugly truth right from the outset, including some very gritty and painful details of drug withdrawal,violence, and the degradation of crack use as well as fascinating insight into the psychology of an addict.  On the whole, if you don’t mind taking some of it with a tiny pinch of salt then I think it is a well written and fascinating story – in short, it’s a must read.



13 responses to “A Million Little Pieces – James Frey

  1. I, too, loved this book……partly because it spoke to one man’s minute by minute struggle to overcome addiction. But beyond that, did you notice something else? Did you notice how he broke all the rules about proper grammar and punctuation? Whole conversations occur without a single ellipsis. The scene with Oprah ~ well, personally, I think it showed us worse things about her than it did about him. 🙂 ~ Love, Bobbie

  2. Thanks for sharing! I’m personally very interested in this question of memoir v. fiction.

    You might be interested in Herta B. Feely’s book, “Confessions: Fact or Fiction?” as it was written in response to the James Frey controversy. It’s an anthology of different authors’ work meant to challenge reader expectations and assumptions of genre.

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