Friday, 5 October 2012

Book Review | A Million Little Pieces by James Frey

One of the best feelings in the world is the feeling of being so engaged by a book that you just cannot (and will not) put it down, it is this beautiful feeling which makes this book one of my absolute favourites.

I was introduced to this book when I was youth hostelling in Barcelona with my best one. A girl in the hostel passed the book on to my friend Sheri and she passed it on to me - I have since bought the book three times over, having passed it on to friends twice.

Ma Bicyclette: Book Review | A Million Little Pieces by James Frey

A Million Little Pieces is the story based on the life of author James Frey, his struggle with drugs and alcohol, the time he spends in rehab and the people he meets along the way. Before we get into this review, when I initially read it I believed that it was a memoir - like many other readers will have done. A few years after the release it was discovered that Frey embellished many of his stories included in the book and therefore it is more of a fiction book than a biography.

Either way, I loved its gritty realism and brutal honesty. Due to this I would not recommend the book to those who find the concept of a gory description sickening, I tended to read this book on the hour long bus to university every morning and I often found myself feeling nauseated by the in-depth descriptions of drug use and of injuries sustained.

Frey narrates the book, sharing his story with the audience and at times you find yourself feeling like you're intruding. It begins when our 23 year old protagonist awakens on a plane to a destination unbeknown to him with broken teeth and a broken nose and a hole in his cheek. In fact the plane is en-route to Minnesota where his parents await his arrival in order to take him to a rehabilitation clinic, slightly naïve as to the extremity of their son's true state. Once at the rehab clinic, James stands his ground over a seat in the communal living room, this does not help the already strained relationships he has with fellow inmates which include a judge, a mobster, a one-time world-champion boxer, and a fragile former prostitute.

Over dinner one evening, he befriends Lilly, a former prostitute with whom he falls in love with and Leonard, an older and seemingly wiser man who is Frey's unofficial mentor throughout his stay there. We witness Frey getting closer to these two characters in different ways throughout the book and we begin to learn the true stories surrounding their own problems with drugs. Leonard grows closer to Frey and becomes a father figure within the rehab complex, even talking him into completing his time at the centre and funding Lilly's time there too. His relationship with Lilly is less than platonic and the pair fall in love and, despite it being forbidden throughout their stay at the clinic, the pair find a way to spend time with each other in secret. 

A Million Little Pieces contains a series of beautiful quotes, some concerning life whilst others state Frey's feelings towards fellow patients. One of my favourites by far is when James talks about his love for Lilly,

"When I see you, the world stops. It stops and all that exists for me is you and my eyes staring at you. There's nothing else. No noise, no other people, no thoughts or worries, no yesterday, no tomorrow. The world just stops, and it is a beautiful place, and there is only you.”

This is a story of self discovery, about how a young man discovers the truth behind his family, his upbringing, his own life choices. It is about his acceptance of his drug abuse and the way in which he overcomes his demons and regains responsibility over his own life. At times it can almost feel as if you are reading someone's diary. I would recommend this book to those who do not buy into the usual happy endings of much of today's literature. Despite there being questions of the authenticity of the stories, the book will grip you till the very end.



  1. This book sounds incredible, although I'm not one for gore, but it sounds as if it is a crucial part, so I'm sure I could get over it. They way Alexa has described it, it sounds too much to be true, but that's no bad thing! xxx

  2. I love this book!
    You need to read the follow up 'My friend Leonard'
    It's one of my favourites

  3. I used to love this book. I found it tucked away between other books in a book shop I worked in when I was 15. I read it and re-read and learnt so much from it. Then I found out that he lied. A lot of what happens is exaggerated for literary effect he said. It made me distrust him and I haven't read it again since. Before I found out I had ordered a copy of My Friend Leonard in the shop to read... it's probably still sitting on the shelf for me to collect.

    Does knowing he doctored the truth change how you feel about it? I wish it hadn't changed how I felt, I wish I'd known before because it's still a beautifully written and thought provoking book. Maybe I'll give it another go. M xo