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A Million Little Pieces

James Frey

From James’s encounter with Leonard to the Bald Man’s story

From being exposed to AA to walking out of the clinic

From James’s encounter with Leonard to the Bald Man’s story, page 2

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Summary

James is having a hard time sleeping after his decision, so he spends some time outside thinking about the girl in his past that he’s referred to several times before, the girl he loved. He recounts the first time he was ever in her room. By sunrise, he’s convinced that he’s permanently destroyed what he had with her. James goes back to his room and examines himself in the mirror. He still can’t look himself in the eyes. He decides to remove the stitches from his cheek with nail clippers borrowed from Warren, which makes his face a bloody mess. At breakfast, Leonard recounts his life story. His mother and father died when he was young, he explains. He followed around a mobster named Mikey the Nose, who took Leonard under his wing and eventually adopted him. Leonard implies that he’d like to help James in the same way. James turns him down, and Leonard changes the subject to the day’s football game, in which James’s favorite team, the Cleveland Browns, is playing. Lincoln apologizes to James about taking Roy’s side: he’s learned that Roy likely trashed the bathrooms after James cleaned them. They agree to “start over.”

James’s brother Bob and two friends, Julie and Kirk, come to visit him at the clinic. They bring him presents: cigarettes, chocolate, clothes, and books. They watch some football together and then go for a walk in the woods, where they meet Lilly and her grandmother. Bob, Julie, and Kirk urge James to try and get better and give him a list of people who have asked about him. Back at the clinic, Julie goes to the bathroom. She runs into John, who gives her his business card. James explains that John is his roommate.

In the lounge, Leonard announces that he’s called a Cajun restaurant to cater that evening’s dinner. James goes to the telephone with his list of people. He calls the friend who put him on the airplane to Chicago, and his parents, who tell him they would like to participate in the facility’s weeklong Family Program. James refuses. He goes back to his room. John tries to make amends for giving his card to Julie by offering his daughter up to James, a suggestion that repulses James. John curls up under his covers, cursing and punching himself. James recounts John’s life story of being molested by his father.

At the Cajun dinner, James stuffs himself and barely makes it to the bathroom in time to throw up. Later, he gets a phone call from Lilly, who tells him that her grandmother thought he had pretty eyes. James goes to sleep that night smiling. The next day James’s new job is making coffee for the group, a clear sign that he has progressed and moved further up the clinic ladder. He has breakfast with Leonard, Ted, and Ed. Ed is in rehab for the fourth time, and he tells everyone that this is the last time his union will pay for it. Ted skipped bail and is trying to lessen his sentence by going through treatment.

James’s psychology test results reveal that he is highly intelligent and angry and has low self-esteem. Joanne tries to convince him to accept the Twelve Step program, which is solely accountable for the success rate of the facility, but James refuses. James leaves Joanne’s office to go to a speech by the Bald Man, who is sharing a humiliating story of how he was so drunk that he peed all over his clothing in front of his daughters and neighbors and had to be restrained with a dog leash. This is a serious moment for the Bald Man, a moment in which he reveals when he knew he had hit rock bottom. Despite stern warnings from Lincoln, most of the men laugh, and the Bald Man leaves the room sobbing. James goes outside to think and comes to the conclusion that he must try to get sober.

Analysis

At the opening of this section, James is counting down the twenty-four hours he has promised Leonard he will remain in the clinic, and he is taking an inventory of damage. He notes that he just doesn’t want to look like Frankenstein anymore, but the reader can infer that he’s not just fixing his face so he can die pretty. James finds unexpected satisfaction from his visitors. Although some small part of him may have expected his brother to come visit, he certainly does not expect to see Kirk and Julie, people with whom he assumed he’d burned bridges. One critical detail that the narrative omits is just what egregious harm he’d done Kirk and Julie, to make James think that they’d never want to see him again. Kirk treats this past situation just as it ought to be treated, simply by not speaking of it. The visit also effectively joins past and present in James’s life. His old friends and his brother spend some time watching a football game played by James’s favorite childhood team, but they are watching in the facility, where James’s current life is. At the same time, the brief conversation with Lilly and her grandmother in the woods implies that there is a future to speak of.

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