The first few pages of A Million Little Pieces reeled me into a chaotic, troubled and graphic series of events. Relentless descriptions of destructive behaviour. Confusion. Pain. Addiction. In no time at all I was questioning whether something uplifting would ever happen in these pages.
I kept reading.
I couldn’t stop.
Just before we went on holiday I had asked Cherith for a book recommendation. I was fresh from listening to the S-Town Podcast. I’d been moved like millions of others by the troubled world of John B. McLemore. I wanted to read something from a similar dark world. A world that shocks. A place that wasn’t my own experience. I think that’s how I described what kind of book I wanted to read. Fiction or non-fiction. Didn’t matter. As long as the book was gritty. As long as the subject was unsettling.
And now, here I was. On holiday. Relaxing in a hotel room in Edinburgh.
Unsettled by what I was reading.
Unsettled but compelled to keep reading.
James Frey writes brilliantly. Honestly. Brutally. I knew almost instantly. I can’t think of a writer who has ever grabbed my attention so abruptly. He delves deep into his pain, his thoughts and beliefs and churns up wave after wave of poetic troubling memoir. There are no chapters. Just occasional scribbles between pages which serve as a kind of pit-stop. A pause. A moment to reflect before the next remarkable flurry of dark experiences. Wave after wave.
Alcohol. Drugs. More destruction than you can imagine.
Pain. Recovery. Blood. Vomit. Anger. Addiction. Cravings. Fear. Love. Loss. Violence.
Two hundred and fifty pages in I was still wondering if something uplifting would ever happen.
The twenty three year old Frey is self-centred, angry, tragic, violent, broken, hopeless.
And then when I really wasn’t expecting it.
There is hope.
A tiny glimmer of hope.
A glimmer which gets brighter.
Frey has controversial opinions about recovery. His ego seems to overpower his rationale at times. But his world is not my world. I don’t understand his pit of addiction and pain. Not even close.
I wondered how tough, resilient, stubborn you need to be to take on ‘the fury’ in the way he eventually does.
To tackle those demons head on.
To endure the pain.
To live to tell this story.
And make no mistake, A Million Little Pieces is a great story of healing and hope which initially seems impossible.
But then there’s the controversy surrounding how much of this book is true and how much is fiction.
I knew about the controversy before I started to read the book.
I didn’t care beforehand.
I didn’t really care afterwards either.
Here’s what James Frey has to say on that;
It’s just a book. It’s just a story. It’s just a book that was written with the intention to break a lot of rules in writing. I’ve broken a lot of rules in a lot of ways. So be it.
A Million Little Pieces is supercharged. Emotional. Hopeless. Hopeful. Full of darkness. Full of light. There are many contradictions within. There should be no surprise at the contradictions in it’s aftermath.
Whether a memoir, semi-fictional, true or exaggerated James Frey has written a brilliant monster. I devoured page after page in a few days while on holiday.
And to be honest, I wish I’d found it sooner.