Note that this annotation contains spoilers. The sequel to A Million Little Pieces (see this database), Frey's follow-up memoir begins with James serving time in an Ohio prison for crimes he had committed while an addict. On his release, he goes to Chicago where he plans to reunite with his girlfriend, Lilly, and start a new life. As soon as he arrives at the halfway house where she was living, he discovers that she had committed suicide the night before. Shattered again, he tries to establish himself in Chicago without relapsing (with notable bravado: working as a bouncer in various bars).

His friend and "father" Leonard, a mobster who unofficially adopted him during their stint in rehab together, as chronicled in A Million Little Pieces, tries to help him get on his feet financially. After a period as a runner for the mob, James decides to move to Los Angeles to become a writer, with some success. Leonard remains a benevolent father-figure and as their friendships develops, the larger-than-life Leonard and his mob henchman meet James's friends, his family, his girlfriends, even his girlfriends' families--until Leonard disappears. James eventually locates Leonard, and discovers that Leonard is gay, has AIDS, and the two of them spend Leonard's last few days together.


For those who found James Frey's first memoir compelling, this sequel has many of the same strengths (a formidable prose style that is often as compelling as it is uncompromising) and some of the same weaknesses (a tendency to state the obvious; the unabashed sentimentality that may temper the machismo but can also be rather maudlin). The weaknesses are a little bit less forgivable in this sequel. In A Million Little Pieces the narrator was an entirely fractured man, a wreck rejecting any kindness and love: the moments of obviousness and sentimentality seemed to be a rediscovery of the banal everyday pleasures he had lost sight of in his addiction.

On the other hand, in My Friend Leonard, the narrator is having some mild successes in Hollywood with his writing (which was true of James Frey at the time), but the same tendency to let sentimentality slip into the melodramatic seems like the sign of weak writing rather than a revelation in itself. Some of the descriptions seem like they are gleaned from travel books or airline magazines (nothing he says about Chicago or LA are at all surprising, and might even be called clichéd): his eyes were opening up again in A Million Little Pieces, but now that they are open in My Friend Leonard, we would want to witness him see something a little bit more interesting. Nevertheless, despite these criticisms, this is a potent tearjerker where the author's focus is not on addiction and alcohol but on keeping his focus off addiction and alcohol.

The memoir is book-ended by two suicides, with the euthanasia of his beloved and vicious dog in the middle. The fierce autonomous will that drives James and prevents him from relapsing are also mirrored in uneasy but interesting ways in the suicides of his beloved girlfriend, his beloved dog, and his beloved father figure.

1/27/06. Editorial note: 1/27/06. Editorial note: Since this annotation was first written James Frey has been accused of fabricating significant material appearing in A Million Little Pieces and My Friend Leonard. The author subsequently admitted that episodes in these books never took place or were exaggerated or changed. Hence there is a question whether the books can be classified as memoirs.



Place Published

New York



Page Count