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This book is the journey of James Frey as an alcoholic, drug addict and criminal from total depravity to sobriety at one of the oldest treatment centre in the world. At the age of 23 James finds himself on a plane, his front four teeth are missing, his nose is broken, his cheek has a hole big enough to put two of his fingers and he does not remember what he has done in the past two weeks.
He has been an alcoholic for 10 years and a crack-cocaine and Meth addict for many years. James starts drinking at the age of 10 and quickly gets drawn to drugs. He does anything and everything to fuel his addiction and is also wanted for crimes in three states. He has abused everything right from Cocaine, crack-Cocaine, PCP, Glue, crystal meth to alcohol and he has blacked out everyday for many years. At the treatment centre he is told that his body is so badly damaged that if he does not quit, he will soon be dead. His body is so destroyed, that doctors at the treatment facility wonder as to how he is still alive.
The book is graphic in many places and I visibly winced while reading it. The writing is stark and you can actually feel the emotions and pain. The book is a window into the mind of an addict and you get an actual glimpse of how the author had to struggle with his addiction.
Everyday tasks like eating breakfast or even taking a shower are described through his eyes and how James learns to live like a normal human being. How he struggles at everyday tasks like eating food and even looking into his own eyes. His anger towards his parents and how he deals with it and starts having a normal realtionship with his parents is also described quite well. He learns to make lasting friendships and life long friends with fellow addicts that include a mobster and a judge.
Some incidents described in the book sound too over the top and unbelievable. There was a huge uproar and criticism from the journalists and James Frey even appeared on the Oprah show and was questioned for the authenticity of the details in his book after it was published. Since this book is a memoir and the author wrote it from his memory, I have ignored whether these incidents were real or not and have stuck to the crux of the book. At several places, the author does sound arrogant when he shuns the treatment plans and the 12 steps of recovery designed for addicts. At such times, it makes you wonder whether this attitude is what made him an addict in the first place.
A million little pieces is an honest account of the author's life. I admire the courage of the author to write about his life and talk about his mistakes with so much candour. James Frey does not blame anyone for his addictions and accepts responsibility for his actions.
The book horrifies and fascinates you at the same time. There are times when you would want to shut the book and keep it aside but the book is powerful enough to draw you towards it. The writing jumps through the page with its rawness. 'A million little pieces' is about hope and strength, it is about a life that is destroyed to a life that is reborn, it is about the human spirit and what it can endure and conquer. A must read for the strong hearted.