If you have never read James Frey’s A Million Little Pieces, there is no doubt that it will have you on a rollercoaster ride of emotions, and no matter how stoical you consider yourself, this harrowing story will undoubtedly bring tears to your eyes. The page-turner that is A Million Little Pieces will keep you deeply engrossed from start to finish. Anyone who has thought about how to write good, gripping content will know that one of the most important things is creating a protagonist character who the reader can relate to. There is no doubt that James Frey is a character we can sympathize with and feel close to. What’s more, as with any compelling novel, A Million Little Pieces makes you care about what happens to James. From an ordinary, but privileged background, James is a man whose addiction to alcohol and drugs spins wildly out of control leaving him trapped by his deeply intense addiction and desperation to escape an isolated existence.
The novel offers an intensely shocking and harrowing insight into drug addiction. Frey’s story is immensely compelling because it is such an eye-opener and highlights to the reader the abject suffering that millions undergo as a result of drug abuse. According to US Government statistics, there is a death every 15 minutes related to illicit drug use, a statistic repeated the world over. Thus, James Frey is one man who metaphorically represents the millions around the world who for whatever reason, have found themselves so immersed in their unstoppable addiction that they are on the brink of death. Like many, Frey ends up in a drugs recovery center; if you are unfamiliar with these, they are similar to those addiction rehab facilities reviewed online. This is where the extraordinary story of one man’s struggle to become ‘clean’ unfolds.
Just as we come to the end of the novel with tears streaming down our faces, we are snapped out of our reverie by the realization that much of what Frey wrote was made up! It is perhaps more shocking than the story itself and sadly cheapens autobiographical writing. The whole point in an autobiography is to find out the true story of somebody’s life. To find that this in itself is fictional brings into question the validity of any form of autobiographical writing. What makes it worse is the fact that truly horrific stories about drug addiction are real for some people and such writing makes the effects of drugs and difficulties faced by those who are sent to rehabilitation centers, seem false.
The memoir became a massive bestseller after Oprah Winfrey chose it for her TV show book club in 2005. Just a year later the book was turned into a major literary scandal as allegations increased regarding its many inventions (Frey claimed he had spent 87 days in jail when he had actually only spent a few hours in jail). Oprah wasted no time in having the writer back on the show demand answers.
Telling the embellished truth is something that is perhaps hard to resist when writing an autobiography. Perhaps, even for those who just want to get their story out there and are not so bothered about the financial gains, it can be easy to get caught up in a story and exaggerate. How often have you told an exaggerated version of a story to a group of friends to make it sound more interesting and worth telling? A Million Little Pieces however, is a novel that deeply impacted thousands of people who felt that they had gained an insight to drug addiction. To find out that most of it was untrue, really was shockingly disappointing. How are we ever to take autobiographical writing seriously now? After all, who knows what the truth is. What is clear to many autobiography fans however, is that we should take everything we read with a pinch of salt. It is a sad truth that in the past few decades there has been an increase in a whole new category of writing: the hoax.
James Frey really does tell the ‘incredible’ true story of one man’s fight against an evil addiction that will ruin his life if he doesn’t take control. The question is: is the addiction ‘drugs’ or ‘exaggerating’? The story is highly gripping and takes you to the viscera of a mind steeped in the depths of addiction…just bear in mind, you may finish it and feel deeply disappointed by such extreme deceit.