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The book starts with James waking up on a plane and not knowing where he is going or how he got there. His parents pick him up at the airport and drive him to the best clinic money can buy. As he is admitted to the program he is very skeptical. He hates the idea of Alcoholics Anonymous and the Twelve Steps Programs. He presents this to the audience very well. Frey has a specific writing style that really keeps you in touch with the characters. He perfectly describes his feelings, so you can understand and relate. He sometimes repeats words. It is as if you are reading his thoughts.
“I reach for a glass of water and I take a sip but it’s too cold.
I reach for the orange juice and I take a sip but it burns.
I try to use the fork but it does too much damage.
I break up the toast and push the pieces down my throat with my fingers.
I do the same with the potatoes and the eggs and the bacon.
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"A Million Little Pieces by James Frey." 123HelpMe.com. 15 Dec 2019
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When I’m done I go to the bathroom and I vomit. I try to stop it, but I can’t. About half the food comes up, as does some blood and some bile. I am happy that I have kept half of the food. That is more than I normally keep.”
James eventually becomes friends with a man named Leonard. At first he told Leonard that he didn’t want to talk or make friends, but Leonard kept talking to him. After James warms up to him, Leonard tells him his story. Leonard is at the clinic because he was a mobster with his father, and after the death of his mother his father came to the clinic and became clean. Leonard’s story is very moving, and inspires James to keep holding on and trying to get better. Initially James had a sour attitude and was planning to run away from the clinic and kill himself, but after hearing Leonard’s story he decides to stay. It is presented to the audience very well. Your emotions are touched as he describes Leonard, a tough man, crying as he recalls his past.
“Leonard breaks down and starts weeping. It is a strong shaking sobbing wracking weeping, the weeping that comes from a wound that will never heal. I let him weep, leave him be with his memories and his loss and his pain. I would offer him comfort, but it wouldn’t matter. The wounds that never heal can only be mourned alone.”
When James’ parents come to do the family program, James gets really mad. For as long as he can remember any time he gets around his parents he gets really mad. He has to tell everything he has done to them and his mother cries so hard she cannot breathe. Frey wrote this very well, describing his guilt and his parents’ reactions to his confession. He has always hidden everything from his parents, and it is really hard for him to tell them. Frey presents this very well as he describes his thoughts towards his parents and seeing them cry.
“I look at my parents. They are still crying. There are tears dripping from my father’s face and my mother is having trouble breathing. I would like to do something to make them feel better, but I’m incapable of it. I hate myself too much to do anything.
I stand and I walk out of the room. Joanne is holding the door open and she closes it behind me. As soon as it is shut and as soon as I can no longer see feel touch or hurt my parents, I start to feel better.”
While staying at the clinic James falls in love with a girl named Lilly. Even though the men and women are not allowed to talk to each other, James and Lilly meet out in a clearing in the woods and share stories and cry to each other. When Lilly finds out her grandmother is dying, she and James meet in the woods but get caught. When her counselor tells Lilly that she cannot see James again or she will be kicked out of the clinic, Lilly runs away. James hears this and goes after her, finds her in town smoking crack, and brings her back. He is so close to the crack, but he does not smoke it. He wants to, but he doesn’t. This is clearly presented, and it describes how James wants the crack so bad but stays away from it in order to save the girl he loves. It is very interesting how close he is to the substance he is addicted to, yet he is strong enough to choose not to do it.
“There is a burst of anger and fear and punching and pushing and she stops. Goes limp. I feel the pipe and the bag against my chest. I feel them fall away, hear them hit the floor. I think about picking them up the urge is so fucking strong I hold on to her. I hold on until it goes away. Hold on. She starts crying against my shoulder weeping.”
Finally, when James is released from the clinic, he tells his brother he wants to go to the bar. His brother is utterly disappointed, but takes him anyway. James orders a large glass of whiskey. He touches it and smells it but he has the strength not to drink it. He gives it back to the bartender and tells him to pour it out. This is a very triumphal ending, you really feel like he has won. It was very interesting to read, because as he held the glass and stuck his nose in it you were on the edge of your seat, hoping he would not give in to the temptation to drink.
“Time stops. I do not move. I sit with the tip of my nose in a glass filled with alcohol. I breathe. Deep Thorough breaths. All the way in, all the way out. It ebbs when I inhale, ripples when I exhale. I can smell it and I can taste it and I can feel it. Inside and out.
The fury screams pick it up pick it up pick it up. The fury screams drink it drink it drink it. The fury screams more more more more more the Fury screams want need have to have can’t live without you I own you, motherfucker, pick it up drink it give it to me or I will make you pay.”
The essence of this book is described when James makes the decision to get better. He gains more control over himself and his success makes the reader proud. As he holds on, as he gets better, you cheer him on with every step toward recovery.
Frey introduces a character near the end that does not have anything to do with anything else. It is a man with no arms, who is not nice to anyone. Shortly after arriving the man runs away from the clinic to get some crack. This man has nothing to do with the rest of the plot, except maybe to show that James is being nice to someone who perhaps does not deserve it. The book would be the same without this man. He has no effect on the other events or characters.
The main strengths of this book are how you can feel James’ feelings because they are described so well. Frey’s particular writing style is to thank for this, he uses such simple words and descriptions that make you feel in touch with the character.
The main weaknesses I found when reading this book were that fact that he used no quotation marks, so sometimes I had to read a paragraph twice if it was a conversation, to figure out who was saying what. After reading many reviews I found the true weakness of this book. James Frey made up most of this book, even though it was published as nonfiction. However with this aside the book is excellent.