[I]t gives away nothing to say that he finds himself whole at the end of A Million Little Pieces. How that came to be would be a first-rate tale of suspense, if it weren't drawn so hideously from an actual life.
James Sullivan - San Francisco Chronicle
For as long as he can remember, Frey has had within him something that he calls "the Fury," a bottomless source of anger and rage that he has kept at bay since he was 10 by obliterating his consciousness with alcohol and drugs. When this memoir begins, the author is 23 and is wanted in three states. He has a raw hole in his cheek big enough to stick a finger through, he's missing four teeth, he's covered with spit blood and vomit, and without ID or any idea where the airplane he finds himself on is heading. It turns out his parents have sent him to a drug rehab center in Minnesota. From the start, Frey refuses to surrender his problem to a 12-step program or to victimize himself by calling his addictions a disease. He demands to be held fully accountable for the person he is and the person he may become. If Frey is a victim, he comes to realize, it's due to nothing but his own bad decisions. Wyman's reading of Frey's terse, raw prose is ideal. His unforgettable performance of Frey's anesthesia-free dental visit will be recalled by listeners with every future dentist appointment. His lump-in-the-throat contained intensity, wherein he neither sobs nor howls with rage but appears a breath away from both, gives listeners a palpable glimpse of the power of addiction and the struggle for recovery.
Frey wakes up on an airplane with four broken teeth, a broken nose, a massive cut on his cheek, and unsure where he is or where he's going. Where he ends up is a residential treatment center based in Minnesota. This is the story of his experiences in that center as an addict and alcoholic. Listeners will meet the residents, including some who helped Frey continue his treatment and his work toward sobriety. The author's tale is brutal and honest, providing a realistic view of the life of an addict, something not for the faint of heart. It's full of profanity and graphic depictions of violence and drug use. In fact, Frey's description of the repair of his teeth without painkillers or anesthesia may keep people from ever going to the dentist again. That said, this presentation, read by Oliver Wyman, is an important addition for all library collections. Organizations that provide support for substance abusers, counseling centers, and prison libraries also should consider purchase. —Danna Bell
Frey’s lacerating, intimate debut chronicles his recovery from multiple addictions with adrenal rage and sprawling prose. After ten years of alcoholism and three years of crack addiction, the 23-year-old author awakens from a blackout aboard a Chicago-bound airplane, "covered with a colorful mixture of spit, snot, urine, vomit and blood." While intoxicated, he learns, he had fallen from a fire escape and damaged his teeth and face. His family persuades him to enter a Minnesota clinic, described as "the oldest Residential Drug and Alcohol Facility in the World." Frey’s enormous alcohol habit, combined with his use of "Cocaine...pills, acid, mushrooms, meth, PCP and glue," make this a very rough ride, with the DTs quickly setting in: "The bugs crawl onto my skin and they start biting me and I try to kill them." Frey captures with often discomforting acuity the daily grind and painful reacquaintance with human sensation that occur in long-term detox; for example, he must undergo reconstructive dental surgery without anesthetic, an ordeal rendered in excruciating detail. Very gradually, he confronts the "demons" that compelled him towards epic chemical abuse, although it takes him longer to recognize his own culpability in self-destructive acts. He effectively portrays the volatile yet loyal relationships of people in recovery as he forms bonds with a damaged young woman, an addicted mobster, and an alcoholic judge. Although he rejects the familiar 12-step program of AA, he finds strength in the principles of Taoism and (somewhat to his surprise) in the unflinching support of family, friends, and therapists, who help him avoid a relapse. Our acerbic narrator conveys urgency and youthfulspirit with an angry, clinical tone and some initially off-putting prose tics—irregular paragraph breaks, unpunctuated dialogue, scattered capitalization, few commas—that ultimately create striking accruals of verisimilitude and plausible human portraits. Startling, at times pretentious in its self-regard, but ultimately breathtaking: The Lost Weekend for the under-25 set.
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