Written by James Frey
Read by Trevor White
Published by: John Murrays
Price: from £9.89
I winced a little as I popped this audiobook in my player. I’ve been meaning to listen to it for ages, and so my opinion of it had already been sullied by the furore that exploded just after its publication.
James Frey’s career seemed to be finished before it had begun after allegations emerged that he had inflated large portions of his ‘Memoir’, A Million Little Pieces. Oprah Winfrey had picked it for her book club, and very publicly admonished Frey, accusing him of betraying millions of readers in an interview on her live television show.
It’s harrowing and gut wrenching. If it had been 100% true (which, if you think about it, how could it be as Frey starts the book waking up from a coma on a plane!) it deserved the kudos and Winfrey’s primetime slot.
It’s about Freys’ time as a 23-year-old at death’s door due to severe (and I mean severe) alcohol and drug addiction. He had been using alcohol since he was 10 and drugs since he was 12 years-old.
It starts with what I assume is a Japanese proverb, and then I’m sitting bolt upright behind my steering wheel after listening to the Trevor White’s pleasant and ‘real’ sounding voice: ‘’I wake to the drone of an airplane engine and the feeling of something warm dripping down my chin. I lift my hand to feel my face. My four front teeth are gone. I have a hole in my cheek, my nose is broken and my eyes are swollen nearly shut.”
From that plane ride, he’s met by his father and sobbing mother (who actually sobs her way through most of the book) and taken to the Hazelden Rehabilitation Centre in Minnesota . He feels a rage he names “the Fury” every time he talks to his parents, or has a craving.
The first anxiety I have with regard to the production of this audiobook is the author’s writing style. He seems to write as he speaks, and thus sometimes reels off a stream of consciousness, thought or feeling with word staccato word tumbling out into my VW in a heap. At times the relentless stream gave me road rage.
Frey has met some strong characters, of which White subtly defines and brings to life; Miles, a trumpet-playing judge, and Leonard a shady but strangely likable man who befriends Frey stand out amongst others. As does love interest Lily, (I rolled my eyes, but not as much as I wanted to or I’d have crashed the car) is a crack whore, who’d been beaten and abused. She sounds like a girl (some male readers have laughable women vocals!)
One gruesome scene that still makes me cringe is when he undergoes root-canal surgery to fix the damage done by jumping down a fire escape face first. He’d already had 41 stitches in his cheek without any form or pain killer because he’s in withdrawal. He then has the root-canal surgery without anaesthetic, squeezing two tennis balls until his fingernails break off. Ugh!
True or false…I couldn’t wait to get into my car to listen to this!
This post is brought to you by Audio Book Update – your source for the latest audiobook reviews, news about audio books and portable mp3 player price comparisons.