From Our Editors
In January 2006, nearly three years after the original publication
of his substance abuse and recovery memoir, A Million Little
Pieces, author James Frey acknowledged that he "embellished
many details about past experiences" and altered portions of his
From the Publisher
At the age of 23, James Frey woke up on a plane to find his
front teeth knocked out and his nose broken. He had no idea where
the plane was headed nor any recollection of the past two weeks. An
alcoholic for ten years and a crack addict for three, he checked
into a treatment facility shortly after landing. There he was told
he could either stop using or die before he reached age 24. This is
Frey''s acclaimed account of his six weeks in rehab.
From the Jacket
"The most lacerating tale of drug addiction since William S.
Burroughs' Junky." -The Boston
"Again and again, the book delivers recollections that leave the
reader winded and unsteady. James Frey's staggering recovery memoir
could well be seen as the final word on the topic."-San
"A brutal, beautifully written memoir."-The Denver
"Gripping . . . A great story . . . You can't help but cheer his
victory." -Los Angeles Times Book Review
"From the get-go, [Frey's] book sets itself a part, its narrative
unspooling in short, unindented paragraphs and barely punctuated
sentences whose spare, deadpan language belies the horror of what
he's describing - a meltdown dispatched in telegrams." -The New
York Times Book Review
"One of the best stories of transformation I've ever read. . . .
Anyone who has ever felt broken and wished for a better life will
find inspiration in Frey's story. This won't be the last we'll hear
of him." -People
"A ripping, gripping read. It's a staggeringly sober book whose
stylistic tics are well-suited to its subject matter, and a finger
in the eye of the culture of complaint . . . Engrossing."
"A frenzied, electrifying description of the experience." -The
"We finish A Million Little Pieces like miners
lifted out of a collapsed shaft: exhausted, blackened,
oxygen-starved, but alive, thrillingly, amazingly alive."
"One of the most compelling books of the year… Incredibly
bold…Somehow accomplishes what three decades' worth of cheesy
public service announcements and after-school specials have failed
to do: depict hard-core drug addiction as the self-inflicted
apocalypse that it is." -The New York Post
"Thoroughly engrossing . . . Hard-bitten existentialism bristles on
every page . . . Frey's prose is muscular and tough, ideal for
conveying extreme physical anguish and steely determination."
"Incredible… Mesmerizing…Heart-rending." -Atlanta
"A rising literary star… has birthed a poetic account of his
recovery. [A Million Little Pieces is] stark…
disturbing… rife with raw emotion..." -Chicago
"Frey will probably be hailed in turn as the voice of a
generation." -Elle Magazine
"We can admire Frey for his fierceness, his extremity, his solitary
virtue, the angry ethics of his barroom tribe, and his victory over
his furies… A compelling book." -New York Magazine
"An intimate, vivid and heartfelt memoir. Can Frey be the greatest
writer of his generation? Maybe." -New York Press
"Incredible… A ferociously compelling memoir." -Cleveland Plain
"Insistent as it is demanding… A story that cuts to the nerve of
addiction by clank-clank-clanking through the skull of the
addicted… A critical milestone in modern literature." -Orlando
"At once devastatingly bleak and heartbreakingly hopeful. . . .
Frey somehow manages to make his step-by-step walk through recovery
compelling." -Charlotte Observer
"A stark, direct and graphic documentation of the rehabilitation
process . . . The strength of the book comes from the truth of the
experience." -The Oregonian
"A virtual addiction itself, viscerally affecting . . .
Compulsively readable." -City Paper (Washington, DC)
"Powerful . . . haunting . . . addictive . . . A beautiful story of
recovery and reconciliation." -Iowa City
"An exhilarating read . . . Frey's intense, punchy prose renders
his experiences with electrifying immediacy." -Time Out New
"Describes the hopelessness and the inability to stop with
precision . . . As anyone who has ever spent time in a rehab can
testify, . . . he gets that down too." -St. Louis
"Frey comes on like the world's first recovering-addict hero. . . .
[His] criticism of the twelve-step philosophy is provocative and
his story undeniably compelling." -GQ
"[A] gruesomely absorbing account, told in stripped-down, staccato
"Frey has devised a rolling, pulsating style that really moves . .
. undeniably striking. . . . A fierce and honorable work that
refuses to glamorize [the] author's addiction or his thorny
personality. . . . A book that makes other recovery memoirs look,
well, a little pussy-ass." -Salon
About the Author
James Frey is originally from Cleveland. He is also the author of
My Friend Leonard. He is married and lives in New
James Frey is originally from Cleveland. He is also the author of
My Friend Leonard
. He is married and lives in New
1. A Million Little Pieces presents some
unusual formal innovations: Instead of using quotation marks, each
piece of dialogue is set off on its own line with only occasional
authorial indications of who is speaking; paragraphs are not
indented; sentences sometimes run together without punctuation; and
many passages read more like poetry than prose. How do these
innovations affect the pace of the writing? How do they contribute
to the book''s rawness and immediacy? How is James Frey''s
unconventional style appropriate for this story?
2. A Million Little Pieces is a nonfiction
memoir, but does it also read like a novel? How does Frey create
suspense and sustain narrative tension throughout? What major
questions are raised and left unresolved until the end of the book?
Is this way of writing about addiction more powerful than an
objective study might be?
3. Why does the Tao Te Ching speak to James so
powerfully? Why does he connect with it whereas the Bible and
Twelve Steps literature leave him cold? How is this little book of
ancient Chinese wisdom relevant to the issues an addict must
4. James is frequently torn between wanting to look into his own
eyes to see himself completely and being afraid of what he might
find: "I want to look beneath the surface of the pale green and see
what''s inside of me, what''s within me, what I''m hiding. I start
to look up but I turn away. I try to force myself but I can''t" [p.
32]. Why can''t James look himself in the eye? Why is it important
that he do so? What finally enables him to see himself?
5. When his brother Bob tells James he has to get better, James
replies, "I don''t know what happened or how I ever ended up like
this, but I did, and I''ve got some huge fucking problems and I
don''t know if they''re fixable. I don''t know if I''m fixable" [p.
131]. Does the book ever fully reveal the causes of James''s
addictions? How and why do you think he ended up "like this"?
6. Why are James and Lilly so drawn to each other? In what way
is their openness with each other significant for their
7. Joanne calls James the most stubborn person she has ever met.
At what moments in the book does that stubbornness reveal itself
most strongly? How does being stubborn help James? How does it hurt
or hinder him?
8. The counselors at the clinic insist that the Twelve Steps
program is the only way addicts can stay sober. What are James''s
reasons for rejecting it? Are they reasons that might be applicable
to others or are they only relevant to James''s own personality and
circumstances? Is he right in thinking that a lifetime of "sitting
in Church basements listening to People whine and bitch and
complain" is nothing more than "the replacement of one addiction
with another" [p. 223]?
9. What are the sources of James''s rage and self-hatred? How do
these feelings affect his addictions? How does James use physical
pain as an outlet for his fury?
10. How is Frey able to make the life of an addict so viscerally
and vividly real? Which passages in the book most powerfully evoke
what it''s like to be an addict? Why is it important, for the
overall impact of the book, that Frey accurately convey these
11. When Miles asks James for something that might help him,
James thinks it''s funny that a Federal Judge is asking him for
advice, to which Miles replies: "We are all the same in here. Judge
or Criminal, Bourbon Drinker or Crackhead" [p. 271]. How does being
a recovering addict in the clinic negate social and moral
differences? In what emotional and practical ways are the
friendships James develops, especially with Miles and Leonard,
crucial to his recovery?
12. James refuses to see himself as a victim; or to blame his
parents, his genes, his environment, or even the severe physical
and emotional pain he suffered as a child from untreated ear
infections for his addictions and destructive behavior. He blames
only himself for what has happened in his life. What cultural
currents does this position swim against? How does taking full
responsibility for his actions help James? How might finding
someone else to blame have held him back?
13. Bret Easton Ellis, in describing A Million Little
Pieces, commented, "Beneath the brutality of James Frey''s
painful process, there are simple gestures of kindness that will
reduce even the most jaded to tears." What are some of those
moments of kindness and compassion and genuine human connection
that make the book so moving? Why do these moments have such
14. In what ways does A Million Little Pieces
illuminate the problem of alcohol and drug addiction in the United
States today? What does Frey''s intensely personal voice add to the
national debate about this issue?
About the Book
At the age of twenty-three, James Frey woke up on a plane to find
his four front teeth had been knocked out. His nose was broken and
there was a hole through his cheek. He had no idea where the plane
was headed or what had happened over the preceding two weeks. He
had been an alcoholic for ten years and a crack addict for three.
When he checked into a treatment facility shortly thereafter, he
was told he could either stop using or die before he reached
A Million Little Pieces is Frey's acclaimed account of his six
weeks in rehab; fiercely honest and deeply affecting, it is one of
the most graphic and immediate books ever to be written about
addiction and recovery.
Oprah's Book Club