Saturday, 24 September 2011

A million little pieces By James Frey

I picked this book up during the book club session at the eating disorder unit, finding myself mainly attracted to the cover and the way it was presented, not once looking to see what it was about, or what the pages contained, merely because I assumed it was a book about a person living, suffering and recovering from an eating disorder. So when I did start to read it and discovered that it was instead a book about a guy with a drug and alcohol addiction, you can imagine my confusion. What does this have to do with an eating disorder, how am I meant to relate and connect to it. But none the less I decided to carry on with it and took it out of the book club, after all I am a sucker for the real life stories and do feel that they have a lot to offer in the way of advice. And in so many ways I was glad that I kept my determination up to read it, for it provided me with an amazing story and so much depth and advice, that it would be hard for any reader to say they were not able to connect to it.

The book is all about a young guy who has, for all intent and purposes, fucked up his life. He has struggled with drugs and alcohol since the age of 10, with no idea for why it all really started, other than it helped him to block out the realities and truths of life. However one night he is severely beaten up and he wakes up in a plane with his cheek bleeding and his four front teeth meeting, but no recollection or memory of what had happened or how it had happened. He has no idea where he is heading or how he even got on the plane, until he is told and made aware that his parents are meeting him at the airport. Of course, by this point you are already wondering what has happened to this guy, how did he get this far. Because naturally addictions dont just start because we fancy it or feel like, there is always usually an underlying cause for there existance, whether it be sub conscious or not. Yet the fact that you are already asking questions at the beginning of the novel seems to advertise that there is a lot that this book will offer you, and therefore has you grasped to its very words.

At first I was annoyed and irritated by the way it was written as a lot of was written in the form and basis of conversation, but in a way that goes he said and she said, but merely the words that were spoken. This meant the lines were short and if you were not really focusing on the novel you became confused with what was being said and by whom. Yet you do find that there are many advantages to this. for starters it makes the story feel more real, really gives that impression that this was not make up but is about someones life, but a life that has been full of constant battles, struggles and difficulties. Therefore, you find yourself becoming addicted to the character, wanting to know him better, to hear his life history, and you end up internally building an emotional connection with him, wanting to comfort him in his time of need, shout and scream at him when he is being stubborn, and help him when he thinks he can no longer cope.

He does outline his full history in the book, though it is a while before we get to that part, as first we have to meet the other patients that are there. The ones that he gets on well with and by the end considers as his best friends, but also the ones that he does not get along with, the ones that are there to merely cause problems, fights and complications. It shows a reality in this sense that it reflects the way we do connect with others, but what I noticed was that he seemed to connect with those who had a similar personality to his, or similar traits and addiction problems. It reminded me of the way that I always seem to be attracted to those who have had to fight the battle of anorexia, and for me that made me think about how a battle is sometimes best fought when you have your reinforcements and back ups there to add the extra support and strength. But at the same time, by watching him build relationships you get to really see the personality that he hides beneath the skin. After all, we are all, Im sure, quick to judge a drug and alcohol addict as a trouble maker, or someone that is tough and merely wants to cause "shit" to put it frankly. But he's not, deep down beneath the skin and the addiction, there is a sweet and caring guy, one who is vulnerable and shy and just needs his time and space to really shine and come out of his shell.

I suppose te strongest and most relatable part for me though was the things that he said, the way the voice of the addiction always seems to be stronger and in more control. Because it doesnt matter how hard you fight it or dont, its always there, making itself known and telling you that you can not escape from it. And I think that this is the same for any addiction or even mental health disorder. Its not something that can be mended with a magic wand, or just easily tuned out. It is a life long problem and a life long battle, one that we have to really understand and get to the bottom of, by learning about ourselves and the person that we truly are and the person the addiction has made us become. But its not just that which I connect to because within the book, we are introduced to his parents, and the relationship that he has with them. He is not close to his parents merely for the fact that he feels a lot of shame and guilt for what has happened, and what he has done with his life.

In many ways you could say that that guilt is there because he knows that he has not only wrecked his life, but theres. Because he is not the only one feeling guilt, it is only natural that his parents would feel the guilt as well, for they are the ones that brought him up and to see your child slip into such dispair, can surely make you feel like you have failed. In many ways I think this is again something that everyone with an addiction and mental health disorder can relate to, because we push them away out of shame. We do not want those close and most important to us, to see the battles that we are facing, the wrongs that we have taken part in and the crimes that we have committed. we try to keep them safe and away from them, and when James is telling his parents about everything that he has done due to his problem, he feels angry, not angry at his parents, but angry with himself for bringing such pain and darkness to their lives.

James has a wonderful way of showing that life is not an easy and simple track, that we are caught into many things. He shows a life of rebuilding and finding ourselves, of laying out the wrongs and confessing to them. He shows that it is important to have friends, but also that sometimes love can help us through complications that we are perhaps at first unwilling to change. So yes, this is a book that everyone can relate to. Because regardless of whether we will or will not admit to it, we all have an addiction to something. whether it be small or large, adn this addiction will take away a part of us.

A truly amazing read. One that I would be happy to share with the rest of the world

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