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Book Review: Liar's book an emotional read

Diana Forbes | Interrobang | Lifestyles | January 16th, 2006

As it turns out, James Frey's brutally honest nonfiction book, A Million Little Pieces, which follows his stomach turning, vomit—glazed recovery from drug and alcohol addiction, is an exaggeration of the truth.

That was not something I wanted to hear, considering I was already two-thirds of the way into the book and fully committed to Frey's story.

Last Monday, the Smoking Gun published a lengthy online investigative report, which found that Frey embellished or fabricated events like the specifics of his dead childhood friend, as well as some of the crimes he claimed to have committed.

If you have not read A Million Little Pieces, the narrative follows a 23 year-old Frey from the time he enters a Minnesota rehab clinic for addiction to alcohol, cocaine, crack, gas and glue sniffing, to his dramatic recovery.

Frey's account leaves nothing to the reader's imagination. Images of the recovering addict leaning over a toilet, repeatedly ridding his body of toxins, blood and anything else that came up in between, are scattered on every page. This book is about rehabilitation and NOT about Frey's criminal past. A Million Little Pieces would make any drug dabbler into a reformed saint because it shines a bright light on the unglamorous side of addiction.

Although initially published in 2003, this past October A Million Little Pieces skyrocketed to the top of every bestseller chart when the Midas of the literary world, Oprah Winfrey, solidified the memoir in her book club. The book has sold more than 3.5 million copies and was the number two best seller, behind Harry Potter and the Half Blooded Prince, of 2005.

On the Oprah Winfrey Show, Frey said, “I think I wrote about the events in the book truly and honestly and accurately.”

The Smoking Gun's six-week investigation found many holes in Frey's account. “Frey appears to have fictionalized his past to propel and sweeten the book's already melodramatic narrative and help convince readers of his malevolence,” wrote the Smoking Gun in the article A Million Little Lies.

The Smoking Gun does prove that Frey embellished his past. But those same journalists must also turn the finger on themselves for sensationalizing those embellishments and subjectively researching the memoir's claims. Not once did the 13,000-word article question Frey's pain, anger and emotion as he weaned himself off drugs and alcohol.

When I sit down to finish the remaining hundred plus pages of Frey's memoir I will be constantly questioning the truth of his writings, but what I should remember is that is not the point. The point is about human suffering, will power, endurance and, most of all, recovery. A thousand books, fiction and nonfiction, have been written on this very topic, but none are as honest and human as Frey's, and that is exactly why people should read this book.
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