Frey Builds Up the City Of Dreams While Simultaneously Knocking It Down

by capreviewroom

The creation and building of the city of dreams, L.A., stages the perfect background for James Frey’s “Bright Shiny Morning,” which takes the reader through several characters stories of hope, and new beginnings which are intertwined inescapably with the darkness and hard times life can throw at us all. The reader is introduced to four main stories connected only through theme and setting. They include: Dylan and Maddie, a young couple who turn to L.A. to escape their abuse ridden lives in a small town in Ohio; Esperanza, a pretty, intelligent girl whose parents did everything they could to have her born on American soil in an attempt to better all of their lives; Old Man Joe, a very positive poverty stricken man who has spent his life in love with cheap wine, and finally, Amberton, a successful movie star with the perfect house, career, wife, and children whose life is spent shielding his sexual identity from the public.

While these four stories have no real story connection to each other, they all show L.A. in different manners, painting a tragic but typical portrayal of L.A. showing the true darkness the city can bring. This different views come from the immigrants trying for a better life, an A-list movie star with a huge secret, the runaway teenagers chasing a dream, and the homeless man waiting for his chance to be the hero. All are characters somewhat tired as they have all been seemingly done, seen, and heard before, but Frey does a nice job of giving each character very specific details leaving them hard to forget, such as Esperanza’s abnormally large thighs, or Old Man Joe’s love for Chablis. He also splashes the novel with other very minor character stories and facts about the development of Los Angeles, which at times read as a bit of a distraction, but does help in putting the setting into context. This combination allows Frey to not only build up L.A. as the city of dreams, but also knock it down as it’s dark secrets emerge.

The only other connection between the four stories is the theme of hope that they all bring while yearning for the ‘American dream.’ While achieving ones dreams is something everyone hopes for it seems like L.A. has been designated as some sort of flagship for making these dreams a reality, a reality that Frey is trying to illustrate is a far less fantastic one than is often dreamt of. I believe this is seen best in Amberton’s character, as he is the epitome of perfection and success and has achieved the ultimate dream, yet he has done it by portraying a character to the world that is far from his true self. With these four main stories it is evident Frey is trying to drive across a message that things are not always as they seem and confidence in one’s own self and remaining positive through the negatives that life throw’s at us helps us to achieve our goals and make life what we want it to be rather than what the American dream says we should strive for. In the end, “Bright Shiny Morning” provides for an intriguing and captivating read that would appeal to many audiences, and is very well worth the time.

Ali G.


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