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1 Beaverton Literature- A to Z

Half a Life

by

Half a Life Cover

ISBN13: 9781934781708
ISBN10: 1934781703
Condition: Standard
Dustjacket: Standard
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Awards

Staff Pick

Darin Strauss dissects the one event that forever demarcates his life: as a teenager, he kills a schoolmate after hitting her with his car.  To his credit, Strauss never once plays the pity card; instead he seems to question his every emotion and thought for signs of weakness.  As he grows into adulthood, he shares his story with others and sits unflinchingly while they either excoriate or coddle him.  No, this memoir is not for the faint of heart — demanding introspection and exhaustive emotional digging are the hallmarks of his life.  Half a Life not only describes Strauss's life but also his schoolmate's life, and he mines this reality for all its subtle and explicit meaning.  Kudos to Strauss for his strength in not only living this particular nightmare but for sharing it, as well.
Recommended by Dianah, Powells.com

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

"Half my life ago, I killed a girl."

So begins Darin Strauss' Half a Life, the true story of how one outing in his father's Oldsmobile resulted in the death of a classmate and the beginning of a different, darker life for the author. We follow Strauss as he explores his startling past — collision, funeral, the queasy drama of a high-stakes court case — and what starts as a personal tale of a tragic event opens into the story of how to live with a very hard fact: we can try our human best in the crucial moment, and it might not be good enough. Half a Life is a nakedly honest, ultimately hopeful examination of guilt, responsibility, and living with the past.

Review:

"Strauss's spare memoir begins with a confession: 'Half my life ago, I killed a girl.' Strauss (The Real McCoy) readily acknowledges the problems of writing about this event, the result of a moment's distraction-trying to avoid aestheticizing reality, questioning his own self-involvement, admitting to playing a role of contrition, even remarking that '...tragedy turns a life into an endless publicity tour, a string of appearances where you actually think in words like "tragedy"'-yet a discomfiting tone pervades, and some of the author's concerns, such as those related to public perception, may alienate readers. As Strauss breezes through key events that span over a decade, he reminds us that life seldom involves the drama of deep atonement, epiphanies, unadulterated grief, or nightmarish flashbacks. A much more complicated mixture of selfish relief, sadness, and survivor's guilt informs the aftermath of unthinkable events, and what proves most frightening is the gradual awareness that one has begun to forget; forgetting contains not just the drive to move ahead, but also the fear of erasure. Strauss delivers an unexpected take on remorse with the maturity that only comes from earnest reflection.
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved." Publishers Weekly (Copyright PWyxz LLC)

Review:

"At the center of this elegant, painful, stunningly honest memoir thrums a question fundamental to what it means to be human: What do we do with what we’ve been given?...What is truly exceptional here is watching a writer of fine fiction probe, directly, carefully and with great humility, the source from which his fiction springs." Dani Shapiro, The New York Times Book Review

Review:

"I recently went on a trip with a couple of friends, one of whom brought along Half a Life. The book's slender enough that the three of us devoured it in three days — and beautifully written enough that we spent the rest of the trip discussing it....You may have heard Strauss tell this tale on NPR's This American Life. Here's the written version, by a terrific storyteller who doesn't waste a word. (Grade: A)" Entertainment Weekly

Review:

"With honesty and sensitivity, Strauss looks not only at how that fateful incident decades ago ended Celine's young life, but also at how it greatly affected his. Out of undoubtedly complicated circumstances, he crafts a simple yet remarkable story about pain and guilt, maturity and responsibility, hope and understanding." The San Francisco Chronicle

Review:

"Strauss already has a few well-received novels under his belt, and his turn to nonfiction of a highly personal nature, a slow-release mediation on grief, is no less symphonic." Booklist

Review:

"[A] remarkable, beyond-brave memoir....With astounding frequency, Strauss pinpoints truths that most of us would find indescribable, and ultimately arrives at an insight as profound as it is impossible to accept..." O, the Oprah Magazine

Review:

"[A]n unusually honest, thoughtful and unsettling memoir, which readers and critics are destined to call 'brave' — for it is brave. But the book is more than simply brave, it is a searingly self-disciplined work of literature, and of self-examination....[T]he impact is staggering and unforgettable." Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love

Synopsis:

Strauss shares the true story of how one high school outing in his father's Oldsmobile resulted in the tragic death of a young girl, and the beginning of a different, darker life for the author. He delves deep into the meaning and consequences of that fateful, or possibly fateless, day.

About the Author

Darin Strauss is the international bestselling author of the New York Times Notable books Chang and Eng and The Real McCoy, and the national bestseller More Than It Hurts You. His work has been translated into fourteen languages and published in seventeen countries.

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Average customer rating based on 2 comments:

Diane Prokop, March 22, 2011 (view all comments by Diane Prokop)
The first line of Darin Strauss’s award-winning 2010 memoir “Half A Life” is the most stripped down, high octane, attention-grabbing opener I can ever remember reading. It reads, “Half my life ago, I killed a girl.” That sparse, almost objective, tone sets the stage for the rest of this brutally honest book where Strauss recounts the journey of his life since that day.
Most of us don’t have the defining moment that Strauss had on that fateful day when he hit a young girl on a bicycle who swerved in front of him while he was driving his father’s Oldsmobile on the way to play miniature golf. We drift along absorbing the highs and lows and the outcomes and repercussions of our actions without much consequence. And I’ve seldom read a memoir that didn’t mash through a troubling childhood toward an equally dark adulthood to get to the crash and burn part, but for Strauss that certainly was not the case. He was an average high school kid, not too outstanding in school, surrounded by family and friends who loved and supported him. After the accident, for which Strauss was found completely faultless, that averageness quickly turned into a dark and tragic drama that would forever change his life.
But Strauss goes to college which he calls a “witness protection program” where he is able to keep the accident under wraps. He picks and chooses with whom he shares the gritty details and finds that no one’s response is quite right. He graduates, finds work, dates, marries and has children all the while wearing the weighty memory from his adolescence like a hair shirt for penance.
This is not an emotionally-charged melt down of the sort that it would have been had it been written right away. It’s an adult’s story written long after the accident. As it is, Strauss has had years to gain perspective and is able recount the tragedy to his readers without the hand-wringing or self-pity that might have been the case earlier. He could have become a shadow of himself, committed suicide or faded away but instead he picked up the pieces of his life and carried on. This is how I did it, he seems to say. It worked for me.
Hopefully this memoir has been cathartic for Strauss because living with a secret is exhausting. It becomes who you are at your most basic level. Now he can say: this is who I am, this is the pain I inflicted and endured - do you still love me?
“Half A Life” will make your heart beat fast and, as for me, I barely took a breath and was unable to put it down until I finished it. I hesitate to call it my favorite memoir of 2010 only because it’s like saying something is my favorite natural disaster but it is the most haunting and touching one of the year and it is a must read!
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No
(1 of 3 readers found this comment helpful)
Miss Heidi, January 29, 2011 (view all comments by Miss Heidi)
I love reading memoirs but I'm also very picky about what books I read. 'Half A Life' is on my top 10 list of best memoirs. The phrase "we can try our human best in the crucial moment, and it might not be good enough" is the line that made me pick up the book and then I couldn't put it down. I wish I could use words as beautifully as Darin Strauss does. His writing is genuine and wonderful.
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Product Details

ISBN:
9781934781708
Author:
Strauss, Darin
Publisher:
McSweeney's Books
Subject:
Personal Memoirs
Subject:
Biography - General
Copyright:
Edition Description:
Trade Cloth
Publication Date:
September 2010
Binding:
HARDCOVER
Grade Level:
A</B>"<BR>&#151;Pam Abrams, <I>Entertainment Weekl
Language:
English
Pages:
204
Dimensions:
7.5 x 5.25 in

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Related Subjects

Biography » General
Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z

Half a Life Used Hardcover
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Product details 204 pages McSweeney's Books - English 9781934781708 Reviews:
"Staff Pick" by ,

Darin Strauss dissects the one event that forever demarcates his life: as a teenager, he kills a schoolmate after hitting her with his car.  To his credit, Strauss never once plays the pity card; instead he seems to question his every emotion and thought for signs of weakness.  As he grows into adulthood, he shares his story with others and sits unflinchingly while they either excoriate or coddle him.  No, this memoir is not for the faint of heart — demanding introspection and exhaustive emotional digging are the hallmarks of his life.  Half a Life not only describes Strauss's life but also his schoolmate's life, and he mines this reality for all its subtle and explicit meaning.  Kudos to Strauss for his strength in not only living this particular nightmare but for sharing it, as well.

"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "Strauss's spare memoir begins with a confession: 'Half my life ago, I killed a girl.' Strauss (The Real McCoy) readily acknowledges the problems of writing about this event, the result of a moment's distraction-trying to avoid aestheticizing reality, questioning his own self-involvement, admitting to playing a role of contrition, even remarking that '...tragedy turns a life into an endless publicity tour, a string of appearances where you actually think in words like "tragedy"'-yet a discomfiting tone pervades, and some of the author's concerns, such as those related to public perception, may alienate readers. As Strauss breezes through key events that span over a decade, he reminds us that life seldom involves the drama of deep atonement, epiphanies, unadulterated grief, or nightmarish flashbacks. A much more complicated mixture of selfish relief, sadness, and survivor's guilt informs the aftermath of unthinkable events, and what proves most frightening is the gradual awareness that one has begun to forget; forgetting contains not just the drive to move ahead, but also the fear of erasure. Strauss delivers an unexpected take on remorse with the maturity that only comes from earnest reflection.
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved." Publishers Weekly (Copyright PWyxz LLC)
"Review" by , "At the center of this elegant, painful, stunningly honest memoir thrums a question fundamental to what it means to be human: What do we do with what we’ve been given?...What is truly exceptional here is watching a writer of fine fiction probe, directly, carefully and with great humility, the source from which his fiction springs."
"Review" by , "I recently went on a trip with a couple of friends, one of whom brought along Half a Life. The book's slender enough that the three of us devoured it in three days — and beautifully written enough that we spent the rest of the trip discussing it....You may have heard Strauss tell this tale on NPR's This American Life. Here's the written version, by a terrific storyteller who doesn't waste a word. (Grade: A)"
"Review" by , "With honesty and sensitivity, Strauss looks not only at how that fateful incident decades ago ended Celine's young life, but also at how it greatly affected his. Out of undoubtedly complicated circumstances, he crafts a simple yet remarkable story about pain and guilt, maturity and responsibility, hope and understanding."
"Review" by , "Strauss already has a few well-received novels under his belt, and his turn to nonfiction of a highly personal nature, a slow-release mediation on grief, is no less symphonic."
"Review" by , "[A] remarkable, beyond-brave memoir....With astounding frequency, Strauss pinpoints truths that most of us would find indescribable, and ultimately arrives at an insight as profound as it is impossible to accept..."
"Review" by , "[A]n unusually honest, thoughtful and unsettling memoir, which readers and critics are destined to call 'brave' — for it is brave. But the book is more than simply brave, it is a searingly self-disciplined work of literature, and of self-examination....[T]he impact is staggering and unforgettable."
"Synopsis" by , Strauss shares the true story of how one high school outing in his father's Oldsmobile resulted in the tragic death of a young girl, and the beginning of a different, darker life for the author. He delves deep into the meaning and consequences of that fateful, or possibly fateless, day.
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