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A Million Little Pieces

James Frey

From James finding out his parents are coming to visit to his second secret meeting with Lilly

From the introduction of Matty to the first secret meeting with Lilly

From James’s first days in the Family Program to Lilly’s confession about her abusive past

Summary

James has dreams in which he’s abusing drugs and alcohol. He revisits some of the places he’s been while on drugs. He wakes each time struggling to remember the good in his life and reminds himself that he has more than he needs. In the shower, he observes that he’s becoming more of a human being. He tries once more to look himself in the eyes and finally succeeds, noting that they are pale green. He goes downstairs to smoke a cigarette and have a cup of coffee and sees Leonard coming back from a jog. Leonard asks James about Lilly. James asks how he knows. Leonard says Ted told him. James sits with his friends at breakfast and talks about the upcoming Heavyweight Championship. Matty knows both the fighters.

Joanne and James talk about the Twelve Step program. James still refuses to follow it. He hints that he does not like churches and priests. Joanne insists that the program is not about God. At lunch with Leonard and the usual crowd, Bobby, the new man, starts talking trash about Mikey the Nose. Leonard doesn’t make a move, he just watches Bobby more closely. After lunch Ken approaches James and asks him to sign a release so that the facility can start helping him to resolve his legal issues (James is wanted in three states).

Ken also tells James that he’s worried about James hanging out with Leonard. He tells James that Leonard is involved in the mob and that being involved with Leonard could hurt James somehow. James tells Ken that Leonard is a trustworthy friend and that he does not intend to stop being friends with him. Against his wishes, James’s parents have enrolled in the family program and are arriving from Japan the next day. James is livid but controls it. He leaves Ken and goes outside to think.

He meets Lilly at their appointed place and time and tells her about the girl from his past. He tells her that he fell in love with her but that when they were at a bar together he was arrested by the local police and the FBI for dealing drugs. The girl from James’s past told him that she wanted him to be who he is around her and not some person that she heard bad stories about. James agreed to try, and they got together. Lilly says that she wishes she were the girl, because she wants someone to love her. James tells Lilly that his parents are coming tomorrow and that he doesn’t want them to. She tells him he’s lucky to have parents who care enough to come.

James goes back to his room to find Miles sobbing. He goes back out again. At dinner Leonard tells James that members of the facility staff have been asking him about his relationship with James and James’s relationship with Lilly. James walks back and watches TV. The show is about a group of ER doctors treating a heroin addict. James goes back to his room, and Miles is still crying. James leaves and spends the rest of the night watching TV.

Analysis

As life settles into a routine for James at the facility, he begins to explore more spiritual questions and seek deeper answers than he’s pursued before. Joanne’s conversation with James sets the stage for him to question the idea of a faith and a God who may be able to help him through the process of healing. But it’s not until Ken reveals that his parents are arriving that James really feels a need to find a calm place. In his walk outside just before he meets Lilly, he questions nature and life and all that is around him. He wonders if it is a God-given landscape, or if it is simply something that is. He wonders if he can label the beat of his heart, the feelings that are within him, as being God-given.

After much thinking, James settles on the thought that what he seeks is calm, and that he is the only one who can generate the calm that he needs to make it past the obstacles that life throws at him. He gets one example of self-imposed calm when he observes Leonard listening to Bobby talk trash about Mikey the Nose. Leonard keeps his feelings in check, when he must be seething on the inside, listening to someone he doesn’t respect at all talk trash about his adoptive father, but Leonard is old enough and wise enough to know that violent action at the moment would not be nearly as effective as just staying calm and quiet until he can really do something about the situation. Another good example is James’s new roommate, Miles, who seeks his own solace in his clarinet playing and in his own private moments: when James walks in on Miles crying, Miles doesn’t acknowledge him and just goes on doing what he needs to do to get through the tough times.

James finally tells the story of the girl he knew in school. He recounts an encounter with the local police, which consists largely of the police making ridiculous accusations and James playing the young tough guy. The story seems to have no bearing whatsoever on his later problems with the girl in his past, except to set her up for total disappointment. Lilly doesn’t seem to be interested in the girl either—she is more interested in how James feels about her, which serves to underscore the fact that Lilly is real and the girl in James’s past is just that: a girl in his past and nothing more. Lilly interjects a further reality into James’s life. She grew up with a mother who sold her to buy drugs, so she is encouraged by the fact that James’s parents want to come see him for the Family Program.

One very telling moment in James’s day is his experience at dinner, just after he sees Lilly. Seeing her has “filled” James, momentarily, and he now has a heightened sense of when it is that he feels he needs something. He’s come to grips with the fact that he is constantly feeding some addiction or another and that Lilly is a type of addiction for him. Therefore, he makes a conscious effort at dinner not to eat so much that he throws up, as he’s done in days past. He eats one soggy fish stick after another, bite by bite, slowly, until he clears his plate. He remembers Leonard’s advice to just hold on and follows it until something else comes along for him to do.

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