Synopses & Reviews
"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.
"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.
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"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
"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
"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
"[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
"[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
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.