Before I get on with this book review I would like to take this time to celebrate the meeting of a challenging goal - I have now completed 50 books in the year 2010! My friend, Joy, asked me back in December of last year if I would set out to read 50 books with her this year. I quickly agreed thinking 50 didn't sound so overwhelming. Later, as I drove home I realized that was almost a book a WEEK! In what has been in some ways the craziest year of my life to date, it was a challenge. But I'm thankful to Joy because her challenge pushed me to make reading a priority this year.
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I truly believe that access to literature and the ability to read are a gifts. I try my hardest not to take them for granted. I have learned and expanded my mind through literature this year and have stretched myself to expand my reading horizons. I have truly read a little bit of everything this year. Autobiographies, fiction, non-fiction, christian literature, bible studies, memoirs, etc. You can find the now completed list of my readings here. Also, I've now linked to reviews for any of the books from this list that I have written about along the way. So if you're looking for reading material, maybe one of my reviews will spur you on towards something I've read this year.
Now, on with my review...
First off, I want to start by saying I'm not going to give this book my stamp of approval for two major reasons - language and adult content. The language in this book is horrific, which I imagine is pretty true to alcohol and drug rehabilitation centers. I've never been forced to sweep over so many f-bombs in a book in my life. The content of this book is explicit though it could be argued, realistic. Similar to R rated movies, I don't recommend to anyone with my stamp of approval something I would define as vulgar.
That being said, I got curious about James Frey's depiction of his time as a drug addict, alcoholic, and criminal and coming to terms with each through rehabilitation after seeing first hand this year the effects addition has on a person. Not in my own life but in the life of a friend who's spiraled downward over the past 10 or so years. I wondered to myself what that life must be like and the empty, sad existence it leads too. Frey's book was recommended by Oprah who's opinion I rarely agree with but it got my curious and I checked the book out at the library.
Frey's book was met with much attention as it was originally released as an autobiography of his time in rehab but was later found to hold a large amount of fiction. I read it as an interpretive work, one in which he relives as he recalls it, his experience with trying to overcome a disease. His fight against his own mind and body in order to survive.
I was most struck by how young his downward spiral began. He describes his crossing the line from recreation to out-of-control as happening at the age of 10. 1o years old. I remember playing with Barbie and swimming in our pool every day at 10 years old, not blacking out from alcohol poisoning and missing large pieces of time in my memory.
Frey writes himself in what I imagine addicts would see as a hero type role. He doesn't play by the rules. He falls in love with a girl he's forbidden to talk too. He won't follow the AA plan. Doesn't believe in God or a higher power. And immediately after his release from rehab goes to a bar to see if he can overcome his own temptations. He's a rebel with a cause and he's unwilling to take advice. Most of all he finds successes where those who came before him met with failure.
He also portrays himself as winsome in some ways. He makes friends with the most deviant of his rehab-mates and they help him get a fresh start. The fight for him. They lie for him. The protect him against all opposition with in the facility. They also help him escape a 3 year jail sentence - one through criminal means and one who though spending time in rehab is still a judge through pulling his strings. They reduce the sentence he will face when he is released and they both desire to stay a part of his life and look out for him when he leaves.
Hard to decipher through to what may hold some truth but the story did give me a dark look into addition, rehabilitation, and the hopelessness of a life where substances win out as the most important thing in life. A look from the addicts eyes of the destruction they leave in their wake. The hurt they cause. The relationships they ruin. The people who's lives they destroy along the way. A sad reminder of what life without hope or faith is like. Moving, impactful, terrifying, and somehow beautiful, I close 2010 with this dark and twisted memoir.
This has been a great literary journey - 50 books in 2010. I look forward to the new worlds that will be opened through my reading in 2011. Thank you for following along with me.