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A Million Little Pieces
By James Frey. 
Random House, Inc., 2003

This book is relentless, at times very harsh, but ultimately very uplifting and hopeful. A Million Little Pieces is the autobiographical account of James Frey’s final plunge to hell and back, and the various characters he mests along the way who pulled him back to health and well-being. The book opens with Frey on a plane destined for the famed Hazelden Clinic in Minnesota. He is barely able to function having fallen down a fire escape during a bender. It is sickening and almost unbearable to read his physical description of himself on the plane:

“I wake up to the drone of an airplane engine and the feeling of something warm dripping down my chin. I lift my hand to feel my face. My front four teeth are gone, I have a hole in my cheek, my nose is broken and my eyes are nearly swollen shut.”

The reader is given a clear idea of how low this college graduate from an affluent Midwestern family has sunk. 

Frey’s shocked parents pick him up at the airport and take him to the clinic, a place where he initially does not want to be, but slowly people around him there and ensuing events change his perspective. It is especially touching to read about his friendship with fellow addicts Leonard and especially Lilly, an emotionally wounded young woman with whom Frey begins a poignant relationship. Frey claims in the book that he is an atheist and does not believe in God; however, the ending of the book, while a bit on the fantastic side and over-the-top, seems to imply that he possesses faith in something, beyond willpower, to lead him out of his hell and onto a clearer path.

The book is written in an unconventional style, in the first-person, with run-on sentences and hardly any punctuation. However, this style is critical to the book's message, as it makes clear what is going on in Frey’s mind as he battles his many demons. Characters are fleshed out so we also get a sense of who else is in this clinic, their relationships with Frey, and how they ultimately shape his transformation.

Chris Chagaris  3/3/2004


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