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The entirety of A Million Little Pieces is
told through James Frey’s point of view and is strictly limited
to his thoughts, emotions, and reactions. James’s troubles begin
roughly a decade before the beginning of the novel. James was a
privileged child who grew up feeling like an outcast, despite the
fact that his family was well-off and fairly stable. He claims he
began drinking and smoking pot at age ten. Now, at age twenty-three,
his addictions have spun wildly out of control. He is using alcohol
and drugs in lethal quantities, is wanted in several states, and
is blacking out constantly. When we first encounter him, he is on
a plane but has no idea where he is going. He is bloody and his
teeth are broken, but he has no idea what caused his injuries. His
parents are waiting for him when he lands, and they take him to
a world-renowned rehabilitation clinic, where the majority of the
story takes place.
James has problems following rules. This extends from
his behavior in the clinic to the style of his writing itself. He
uses no quotation marks, relying instead on paragraph breaks to
denote who’s speaking, even in conversations with multiple characters.
His sentences are terse, and he sometimes fills entire pages with
single-sentence paragraphs. He capitalizes about half of his nouns.
Only a scribbled line marks the major sections of the book. As a
patient, he rejects the Twelve Step program, the entire basis of
the treatment. He rejects assistance at almost every turn. He violates
a major rule and begins a relationship with a female patient named
Lilly. The clinic staff members despair of James and tell him that
if he doesn’t follow their treatment plan, he is almost guaranteed
to relapse. It is understood that a relapse will likely kill him.
At first, James just seems difficult and self-centered.
In time, though, his stubbornness turns into resolve, and he becomes
determined to get sober. He becomes part of a group of friends that
come from all walks of life and transcend all social and economic
barriers, including a judge, the former Featherweight Champion of
the World, a mobster, and a steelworker. He learns to accept help
from other people and also how to support others. When Lilly is
in trouble, James puts everything on the line to save her. In the Tao
Te Ching, he finds a philosophy that compliments his worldview
and makes the book the basis of his personal recovery plan. In the
end, using his own willpower, James triumphs over his addiction.
Ace your assignments with our guide to A Million Little Pieces!