Summary and book reviews of My Friend Leonard by James Frey

My Friend Leonard

by James Frey

My Friend Leonard by James Frey X
My Friend Leonard by James Frey
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Jun 2005, 368 pages
    Paperback:
    May 2006, 416 pages

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
BookBrowse Review Team
Buy This Book

About this Book

Book Summary

Perhaps the most unconventional and literally breathtaking father-son story you'll ever read, My Friend Leonard pulls you immediately and deeply into a relationship as unusual as it is inspiring.
Before considering reading this book, please see the BookBrowse note on the book jacket/review page.

BookBrowse Note: January 9th 2006: An article in the Smoking Gun claimed that James Frey (author of A Million Little Pieces and My Friend Leonard) fabricated key parts of his books.  They cited police records, court documents and interviews with law enforcement agents which belie a number of Frey's claims regarding criminal charges against him, jail terms and his fugitive status.

In an interview with the Smoking Gun, Frey admitted that he had 'embellished central details' in A Million Little Pieces and backtracked on claims he made in the book.

January 26th 2006. Frey's publisher stated that while it initially stood by him, after further questioning of the author, the house has "sadly come to the realization that a number of facts have been altered and incidents embellished." It will be adding a a publisher's note and author's note to all future editions of A Million Little Pieces.


Perhaps the most unconventional and literally breathtaking father-son story you'll ever read, My Friend Leonard pulls you immediately and deeply into a relationship as unusual as it is inspiring.

The father figure is Leonard, the high-living, recovering coke addict "West Coast Director of a large Italian-American finance firm" (read: mobster) who helped to keep James Frey clean in A Million Little Pieces. The son is, of course, James, damaged perhaps beyond repair by years of crack and alcohol addiction-and by more than a few cruel tricks of fate.

James embarks on his post-rehab existence in Chicago emotionally devastated, broke, and afraid to get close to other people. But then Leonard comes back into his life, and everything changes. Leonard offers his "son" lucrative—if illegal and slightly dangerous—employment. He teaches James to enjoy life, sober, for the first time. He instructs him in the art of "living boldly," pushes him to pursue his passion for writing, and provides a watchful and supportive veil of protection under which James can get his life together. Both Leonard's and James's careers flourish…but then Leonard vanishes. When the reasons behind his mysterious absence are revealed, the book opens up in unexpected emotional ways.

My Friend Leonard showcases a brilliant and energetic young writer rising to important new challenges—displaying surprising warmth, humor, and maturity—without losing his intensity. This book proves that one of the most provocative literary voices of his generation is also one of the most emphatically human.

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. I was standing in line for lunch and I didn't see it coming. I went down. When I got up, I turned around and I started throwing punches. I landed two or three before I got hit again, this time in the face. I went down again. I wiped blood away from my nose and my mouth and I got up I started throwing punches again. Porterhouse put me in a headlock and started choking me. He leaned towards my ear and said I'm gonna let you go. If you keep fighting me I will fucking hurt you bad. Stay down and I will leave you alone. He let go of me, and I stayed down.

I have been here for sixty-seven days. I live in Men's Module B, which is for violent and felonious offenders. There are thirty-two cells in my module, thirty-two inmates. At any given time, ...

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Although My Friend Leonard has not come under the same detailed scrutiny as Frey's first book (see above), it has to be assumed that it too would be better described as a "novel based on a true story".   (Reviewed by BookBrowse Review Team).

Full Review (343 words).

This review is available to non-members for a limited time. For full access, become a member today.

Media Reviews

Newsweek - Malcolm Jones
As smart as it is heartfelt, this tribute to friendship is a far sunnier book than Frey's debut.... Frey's cool, shrewd eye for detail ties it all together, whether he's describing the inside of a jail, a Super Bowl party, or the plaintive rootlessness of life in Los Angeles.

People
The engrossing story of a bizarre friendship between the author and a dangerous mobster.

Poets & Writers Magazine
Suffused with anger and regret, written by a man who has straddled the line between life and death and has taken his time figuring out which side he wants to jump to. He spares no gory details.

Elle
Frey's appeal lies in his ability to tell his down and dirty, hair-raising story in sparse, hypnotic prose--in this sense he's already a master stylist, of kind. No subject , no height or depth of human experience is too extreme for him to come around on with deadeye grace and force of his beautiful, sad, potent, irresistible prose.

Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Frey achieves another stylistic coup... Frey's style throughout is loose, untraditional, but perfectly crafted... This book packs a full emotional wallop... Frey's extraordinary relationship with Leonard is alive, a flesh-and-blood bond.

Kirkus Reviews
Starred Review. A fine, grim tale full of smarting immediacy... small fortune could be made by bottling this story and selling it as an antidote to self-pity. Frey will have to settle for the small fortune it will make in big sales.

Booklist
Starred Review. A raw, often visceral, reading experience. With Frey's emotions so close to the surface, it's impossible not to care about Frey's struggles to reintegrate into society and prosper. Another powerful read from a talented, dynamic author.

Reader Reviews

Natasha

Honesty
This book allowed me to explore human emotion in a way that I had not experienced before and have not come across since. Throughout the entire story, I felt as if James Frey were speaking to me personally and that he understood the way I felt in all ...   Read More

NIKKICOLA

AWESOME
This book is amazing. I started reading it a while back, then I told my mom about it and then she started reading it before I had a chance to even finish it, So she finished it before I did and she said it was a great book. I am about done with it ...   Read More

Daniella

Nothing expected
You expect a great book coming from the James Frey, but not one that's got a situational irony at the end. what surprises me most is that everything is true and quite heartbreaking. This book is shocking, heartbreaking, and just as great as the ...   Read More

timmy

Nothing compares.
I just finished reading My Friend Leonard. I am absolutely speechless. I was in tears at the end of the book. Frey knows how to get to his reader. The book (and a million little pieces as well) is brutally honest and Frey can really, really write ...   Read More

Write your own review!

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Readalikes

Readalikes Full readalike results are for members only

More books by James Frey

If you liked My Friend Leonard, try these:

Non-members are limited to two results. Become a member
Search Readalikes again
How we choose readalikes
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: The Pianist from Syria
    The Pianist from Syria
    by Aeham Ahmad
    Aeham Ahmad became famous as the face of Syrian suffering when a photo of him playing piano in the ...
  • Book Jacket: The Smiling Man
    The Smiling Man
    by Joseph Knox
    Joseph Knox's latest turns on a simple premise: an unidentified and unidentifiable murdered man is ...
  • Book Jacket: The Heavens
    The Heavens
    by Sandra Newman
    I've been a big fan of Sandra Newman's writing ever since reading her 2014 novel The Country of Ice ...
  • Book Jacket: Sugar Run
    Sugar Run
    by Mesha Maren
    Mesha Maren's debut novel is a plunge into the depths of the dark Southern gothic with pulsing and ...

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    A People's History of Heaven
    by Mathangi Subramanian

    A story of love and friendship, and fighting for the places we love.
    Reader Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    American Princess
    by Stephanie Marie Thornton

    Rated 4.9 stars by BookBrowse members - one of the highest scores of all time!
    Reader Reviews

Book Club
Book Jacket
Girls Burn Brighter
by Shobha Rao

An extraordinary and heart-rending tale of two girls with all the odds against them.

About the book
Join the discussion!
Book Club Giveaway!
Win The Summer Country

Win up to 12 copies to share with friends or your book club!

A sweeping epic of lost love, lies, jealousy, and rebellion set in colonial Barbados.

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

D T T! Full S A!

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.