About the Book
At the age of 23, James Frey woke up on a plane to find his front teeth knocked out and his nose broken. He had no idea where the plane was headed nor any recollection of the past two weeks. An alcoholic for ten years and a crack addict for three, he checked into a treatment facility shortly after landing. There he was told he could either stop using or die before he reached age 24. This is Frey's acclaimed account of his six weeks in rehab.
This book is a bit of a conundrum. It's ruthlessly "honest," but also up for a massive amount of debate as to whether or not it should truly be considered a memoir. First, though, lets look at the book itself.
This book is Frey's experience as a recovering addict, first and foremost. It catalogues his experience in a rehab center and his journey in getting clean. In all honesty, it was an intriguing book. I thought it had a good flow, with a strong view of Frey's internal dialogue and how he experiences the pain in his life.
If I hadn't googled it, I wouldn't even doubt it's "honesty" and the "truth" of his experience with addiction. I would gawked at the root canals part, but I'd probably not really even bat an eye. Worse things have been done. Brutality is an experience humankind is familiar with.
I enjoyed the stream of consciousness style throughout the novel and Frey's discussion of "Fury," which was an abstract, formless villain throughout. I had read memoirs that involved suffering and overcoming difficult times and his discussion of Fury seemed especially honest, and also a good way to step back from addiction and sort of put form to it. It was a really interesting perspective, truthfully.
I read the book in about two days, if that explains how well the flow of the book was. I was never bored or distracted, just happily along for the ride. I was rooting for him, however unsavory his past was.
I find it wildly interesting how it's "truth" is being questioned. Perhaps they should've penned it as a piece of creative non-fiction, rather than as a memoir. I think that would've allowed for some leeway for some of the now revealed exaggerated moments of the book. Yet, when it comes down to it, I think it's an excellent book, regardless of if it is fabricated or not.
This tale grapples with addiction, failure, fear, and triumph. It is an incredibly human tale, and I think it's the kind of book that works on multiple levels: the level on what is in the book and the level on truth in literature.
It's a good book. And it's also an excellent conversation starter.
Reviewed by Amy Richardson