A Million Little Pieces is a semi-fictionalal book written about the harrowing life of a young man who is struggling with an overwhelming and deadly drug and alcohol addition. The central character and author of the book, James Frey, is a 23 year old man who finds himself entering a drug and alcohol rehabilitation center after an incident that leaves him battered, bruised and broken. The young man has hit rock bottom after chronically abusing his body and mind for years with mind altering substances.
The book begins with James awaking on an airplane in flight. He has serious injuries and no recollection of how he came to be where he was. After questioning staff on the plane, he is told that he is on his way to Chicago, but he still does not know why. Upon leaving the plane, James find himself greeted by his parents who he has not been in contact with for some years who take him to a family home. They ask him to seek help and James agrees. They take him to the Hazelden rehabilitation center in Minnesota, USA where he begins the painful, terrifying and rewarding process of quitting drugs and alcohol.
For years, James has been abusing drugs and alcohol, running from the police, ruining relationships and slowly killing himself. His life has little meaning or purpose. He has caused pain and suffering to those closest to him and has lost hope in having a life worth living. Alcohol and drugs are the only thing that he knows and he has been unable to part with them. He is angry, hurt, pathetic and lost.
A Million Little Pieces shows another side to rehabilitation that most people have not gone through in harrowing detail. The pain, suffering and courage that drug and alcohol addicts experience as they undergo rehabilitation is detailed. It also reveals the extreme lengths that addicts go to in punishing themselves for things they have done wrong, for feeling depression or even for things they do not know they have gone through, like childhood trauma.
For those who have a friend or family member who has grappled with the curse of a drug or alcohol addiction, it can be very difficult to understand why they can’t stop. The pull of an addiction is very hard to comprehend without having one. And this book provides an open door into the mind of an addict, revealted to be dark, hurt and weak. Others can see what is really going on, what works and what doesn’t work, what ordeals the addict really gets up to. It is enlightening, inspiring and challenging.
A key aspect to the success of the novel is the experience of the rehabilitation center and how the process works. This book shows the reliance on a 12 step program that may or may not work for an addict. Critics of AA and other 12 step programs believe that this process is only one of many rehabilitation treatments that could work in a social or clinical setting. Some believe that AA is a cult and has recruited law enforcement and medical professionals into the cult and believe it is the only way to get off drugs and alcohol for good. James rejects the program and faces up to his addiction, blaming himself and only himself for the problem. Although heroic, it is not necessarily the way that other addicts are able to overcome their problems.
Friendships, humility, guilt, anger, compassion and kindness are some of the other themes that the author reveals and how that given the opportunity, time and support an addict can move on from a substance abusing lifestyle.
James Frey’s work was placed on the list of the popular Oprah’s Book Club and promoted as a must-read memoir. Oprah Winfrey’s promotion of the book ensured that there would be massive sales and stardom for the author. Once on the list, the book was praised by critics and met with utmost respect and awe for the author who had seemingly gone through hell and back and lived to tell the tale.
However, it was discovered though an investigation by The Smoking Gun that the work was a piece of semi-fiction. Oprah Winfrey met these revelations with anger and called out the author to explain his position and apologize to her and friends and fans who had been duped by the author. The investigation revealed that court records, criminal career, outlaw status and other key facts in the book were either completely fabricated or embellished. Events that were central to the character development were untrue, such as the death of a childhood friend that impacted on the character so significantly that they were purported to be a factor for the drug and alcohol addiction.
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