After a potentially career-ending interview with Oprah regarding falsities in his so-called memoir, “A Million Little Pieces,” James Frey crawled into a hole and hid from his disappointed fans, and the entire disgusted literary world.
Or did he? With the release of his new novel, “Bright Shiny Morning,” Frey seems to have been writing up a comeback for some time. Thankfully, this one is fiction, all the way, complete with a clearly printed disclaimer adorning the first page: “Nothing in this book should be considered accurate or reliable.”
This book is good.
This book is full of sentences.
Sentences like this.
It is dramatic.
More dramatic this way.
If this style doesn’t bother you.
You should read.
You should read this novel.
Wisecracks aside, Frey knows how to deliver a great read, (even if the above is primarily how it sounds) After the first few pages the choppy writing becomes likable; endearing to a point, and truly adds to the grittiness of the story.
Throughout the novel’s 501 pages we follow four main story lines, all taking form within the high-low world that is Los Angeles, California. The stories all offer something unique, and bring forth a different emotion with each transition.
We are introduced to Dylan and Maddie, 19-year-old lovers who flee to Los Angeles from Ohio in search of a better existence, old man Joe, the homeless guy with a heart of gold, Amberton and Casey, famous movie stars who lead shocking double lives, and Esperanza, the American-born Mexican girl with body issues and big dreams.
While these tales would be enough to keep the story afloat, Frey adds in clips of other lives that begin and end on one page. Sometimes horribly depressing, sometimes perfectly wonderful, and always interesting, these short-lived looks into other plots and characters provide relief from the rigors of the main stories. There are also a few pages dedicated solely to “fun facts” about Los Angeles.
Frey uses a timeline of historical points to separate the stories, which is a nice touch, although it is unclear whether the information should be taken seriously. (He did say not to believe anything he wrote, right?) Confusion aside, he provides little known details regarding LA. History lesson, anyone?
Don’t let the light-hearted tone of this review fool you. This book is serious stuff. It would be safe to say it will take you on an emotional rollercoaster. One minute you will be at a Hollywood movie premiere, and the next you will be in an alley with a 15-year-old meth user looking for her next fix.
Through the characters we are entwined with a larger picture: a portrait of the City of Angels through the eyes of four different situations, four different minds and four different hearts.
Frey is able to take semi-cliché situations and broaden and develop them into entrancing tales of human nature pushed to its limits. While the book is busy and over-detailed at times, you will find it impossible to become bored within its pages.
If you can set aside your preconceived notions regarding the author, (if you have no idea what I am talking about, happy reading!) then you can thoroughly enjoy and appreciate this daring and original work of fiction. And that’s the truth.