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My Friend Leonard Hardcover – June 16, 2005


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My Friend Leonard + A Million Little Pieces + A Piece of Cake: A Memoir
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What If? by Randall Munroe
From the creator of the wildly popular webcomic xkcd, find hilarious and informative answers to important questions you probably never thought to ask. Learn more

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Riverhead Hardcover; First Edition edition (June 16, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1573223158
  • ISBN-13: 978-1573223157
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.7 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (452 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #772,554 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

In the bold and heartbreaking My Friend Leonard, James Frey picks up the story of his extraordinary life pretty much where things left off in his breakout bestseller and Amazon.com Best Book of 2003, A Million Little Pieces, the fierce, in-your-face memoir about Frey's kamikaze run of self-destruction and his days in rehab. Fresh from a stint in jail from pre-rehab-related charges ("On my first day in jail, a three hundred pound man named Porterhouse hit me in the back of the head with a metal tray."), clean-living Frey returns to Chicago and gets sucker-punched with a cruel blow that will leave readers ducking for cover in anticipation of the blinding bender that's sure to come. But then the titular Leonard, the larger-than-life Vegas mobster ("West Coast Director of a large Italian finance firm") whom James befriended in rehab, steps into the story and serves equal parts unlikely life coach, guardian angel, and father figure for the grief-stricken author, adopting him as his "son" and schooling him in the fine art of "living boldly":

Be not bold, be f-cking BOLD. Every time you meet someone, make a f-cking impression. Make them think you're the hottest shit in the world. Make them think they're gonna lose their job if they don't give you one. Look 'em in the eye, and never look away. Be confident and calm, be f-cking bold.

Hurricane Leonard storms into James's life, showering his young charge with multi-course feasts at steakhouses and Italian restaurants, courtside seats at Bulls' games, Cuban cigars, and an elaborate Super Bowl party in Los Angeles, all the while doling out wisdom on life and love and motivating James to stick to his burgeoning writing career. James even has a brief stint as an employee of Leonard's, though occupational hazards--like having a nine millimeter shoved in his face--prove too much for the novice bag man (though he does make enough to invest his earnings in a Picasso drawing). When Leonard drops out of sight for an extended period, his absence leaves readers aching to hear the familiar refrain of "My Son!" just one more time.

Frey sticks to the taut, staccato style that shot through A Million Little Pieces with such raw electricity. Surprisingly, the tone feels equally at home with this book's focus on friendship and extreme loyalty, and works to intensify the always-looming, adrenaline-rush threat of violence and the lure of the Fury that courses like a riptide throughout the book. Ultimately, it's a sense of hope, and humor even, that prevails and makes My Friend Leonard a stand-alone success. Despite his shady pedigree, you'll long to have a friend like Leonard just a phone call away. --Brad Thomas Parsons


James Frey's List of Books You Should Read


Paris Spleen

Tropic of Cancer

The Great Santini

See more recommendations from James Frey


Amazon.com's Significant Seven
James Frey graciously agreed to answer the questions we like to ask every author: the Amazon.com Significant Seven.


Q: What book has had the most significant impact on your life?
A: Tao te Ching by Lao Tsu. Completely changed how I think, behave, live my life. Nothing else comes close.
Q: You are stranded on a desert island with only one book, one CD, and one DVD--what are they?
A: The book would be the Tao te Ching, the CD would be some compilation of love songs from the 70’s and 80’s, and the DVD would be highlights from the history of the Cleveland Browns.

Q: What is the worst lie you've ever told?
A: No way I can answer that.

Q: Describe the perfect writing environment.
A: I've been working at the same desk since I started writing. It's old and beaten-up and black. The rest of my workroom is empty, except for some crazy sh-- on the wall in front of me: pictures of people I admire, reproductions of artwork I dig, sayings that motivate me, things like--bare your soul, be bold, page a day motherfu--er page a day. I listen to music while I work, have a pile of nicotine gum and a couple cans of diet coke. My dogs are usually a couple feet away from me. I've always worked this way, probably always will.

Q: If you could write your own epitaph, what would it say?
A: "Loved, lost, laughed, left."

Q: Who is the one person living or dead that you would like to have dinner with?
A: Winston Churchill

Q: If you could have one superpower, what would it be?
A: Immortality.



From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Frey achieves another stylistic coup as he develops a narrative thread begun in 2003's A Million Little Pieces. He chronicles his journey out of the terrifying darkness of addiction, and the friend he meets along the way, Leonard. A gangster, raconteur and mentor, Leonard was introduced in Pieces as one of Frey's new rehab friends. Here, he pushes Frey out into the world, pampering him one moment, giving him tough love the next. As in Pieces, Frey's style throughout is loose, untraditional yet perfectly crafted: "[Leonard] offered me his hand and said good, I'm fucked up too, and I like fucked-up people, let's sit and eat and see if we can be friends. I took his hand and I shook it and we sat down and we ate together and we became friends." There's something mesmerizing about the endless tumble of words, the nonstop spilling out of Frey's troubles and triumphs. In the hands of a less capable writer, all of this cool, tight narration might numb the reader and distance the experience. Instead, this book packs a full-body emotional wallop. Frey's eye is keen for detail: the inside of a county lockup; the flat, gray Chicago winter; an out-of-control Super Bowl party in Los Angeles; the grind of living day to day—all come alive in his sparse, powerful prose. At its core, this is an examination of a friendship. Frey's extraordinary relationship with Leonard is alive, a flesh-and-blood bond forged in the agony of rehab and sustained through honesty and trust. Agent, Kassie Evashevski at Brillstein/Grey Entertainment. (June)

More About the Author

James Frey is originally from Cleveland. He is the author of A Million Little Pieces and My Friend Leonard. He lives in New York.

Customer Reviews

There are some descriptive scenes, but you can't escape his hurry to be done.
Diana Mivelli
James Frey's new book, "My Friend Leonard" is every bit as good if not better than "A Million Little Pieces".
Margareeta J. Everett
The book is very good written and read, and I also would have a friend like Leonard, he is very good.
W. Thijsse

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

41 of 50 people found the following review helpful By Jason Smith on December 2, 2005
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Like many others, I found out about James Frey through Oprah and her book club. I read A Million Little Pieces quickly and intensely. I didn't question it at the time. I just wanted to finish it and see what happened to all the interesting characters. I immediately bought the follow-up and had it delivered with the 2 day option. I couldn't wait for the book to arrive. Then, I started thinking more about AMLP and wondering how true some of the parts might be, like the part where they have the boxing match and the authorities leave and they are allowed to bet and eat as much as they want from a catered company. I started to realize there might be some over-elaboration from Frey. Maybe he made some of it up, maybe a lot more than some of it.

Then MFL arrives and I read it quickly. It lends itself to being read quickly because it is so repetitive. I agree with other reviews that say his style works much better as an addict than as a person who is distanced from that addiction. This style becomes difficult and tedious. I tire of it I take a break from reading I care less about what happens to the characters get a cold tasty cola. Skip a few pages. The writing becomes a parody of itself at times. It worked before but it doesn't in this book. In the "real world" Leonard becomes a much less believable character to me. Snapper is one dimensional at best. I lose interest in his loves he can't get it up with his beautiful new girlfriend he won't tell her why he still misses Lilly cries buys flowers cries. We hug. We seperate. We order steak, creamed spinach and a nice cold tasty cola.

OK, you get it. I'm disappointed I hoped for better I feel like it was made up makes the first book less believable stop now stop stop.
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26 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Sara Holding on January 13, 2006
Format: Hardcover
(...)
Forget that this story is just SO unbelievable from Day 1. I know the disclaimer says they changed names and sequences of events - but every character in this book rings untrue. From Lilly, the crack whore who hangs herself hours before James can make it to her side... Porterhouse, the 300-lb, illiterate murderer who laughs and cries at the classic stories James reads him ... to Leonard, James' mobster "father" who is so touched by art in galleries that tears stream down his face. Let's not forget his wisecracking bodyguard/driver, Snapper. The girl from one of the top families in town dating James even though he has no job and no pedigree. Good Lord! These characters could come right out the screenplay Christopher Moltisanti wrote in the first season of The Sopranos.

The dialogue is some of the worst I've ever read. "James, I want you to be my son. I will introduce you as my son and you will be treated as such. All I ask in return is that you keep me involved in your life. If you ever have any issues with your real father, I must insist you defer to him." "I will send fresh red roses every week to this grave!" I found myself wincing at some of it.

I know as a frat boy, Frey probably dreamt of running with the tough guys, and this is his way of realizing that dream. However, he should admit this is just fiction. James admitted he never spent any real time in jail. It's not a memoir in the way that the book-buying public thinks of the genre, and it's really bad as fiction.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Brett Benner VINE VOICE on May 23, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I know the book and it's predecessor are all a big heap of lies, but if you approach it as strictly fiction, there's no denying the guy's a really great writer.Frey's frenetic style is the same as in "...Pieces", and although it's not the brutal foray into addiction recovery, it still manages to be both compelling and fast paced, as he pieces his life together after rehab and continues forging his relationship with gangster Leonard. Moralizing about integrity and honesty aside, I'll be interested to see what Frey produces next regardless of whether it's in the fiction, bio, or big fat liar section
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31 of 38 people found the following review helpful By DFW Book Lover on January 21, 2006
Format: Hardcover
There are aspects of James Frey's writing that standout. For example, like any good writer, the book opens with a bang. Literally! Writing in first person, Frey describes getting hit in the head by another inmate.

But ultimately, the book drags on in too many places. And, recent accusations of fraud aside, the book truly lacks verisimilitude. It's almost like Frey is telling a story like it happened to him, but is actually a friend's tale.

One of the larger problems I have with the book is Frey's grammatical style. With no paragraph indentations and no quote marks separating the dialogue, it's almost like Frey is trying to channel the beatnik writers of the 1960's. And doing a poor job of it. Overall, it's a rather forgettable read.

And I just keep getting this feeling, like the hairs standing up on the back of my neck, that this is just some farce, and that only about 20% of what Frey claims happened to him actually happened to him. And he's laughing all the way to the bank.
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17 of 20 people found the following review helpful By T. C. Wilson on December 27, 2005
Format: Hardcover
A sad thing happens somewhere in the middle of this book: you learn that James Frey is a screenwriter and a producer and a director and you begin to question almost every sentence. Did it happen? Or does it simply make for a good story? Like others, I found the ending to be completely contrived--perhaps real, but related in a way that stinks of Hollywood. I put the book down and wished I had stopped at A Million Little Pieces, which was devastatingly brilliant whether contrived or not.
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