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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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Although the accident was what insurers call a “no fault fatality,” the moment Strauss’ car struck and killed his classmate Celine, a girl he hardly knew, his life was understandably changed forever. Prompted to tell his story (he first told portions on This American Life) by new fatherhood and the realization that the earth-crumbling event had occurred half his lifetime ago, Strauss takes advantage of the perhaps unfortunate ability the accident gave him to introspect and proceeds to do so for 200 pages of conversational free-form essay. Remaining well on this side of overly sentimental, Strauss deconstructs the past 18 years and views them from every vantage point; he sees his embarrassingly self-centered thoughts immediately afterward and the premature graying of his hair and stress-related stomach problems of his late twenties. “Name an experience. It’s a good bet I’ve thought of Celine while experiencing it.” Strauss already has a few well-received novels under his belt (Chang and Eng, 2000; The Real McCoy, 2002), and his turn to nonfiction of a highly personal nature, a slow-release mediation on grief, is no less symphonic. --Annie BostromSee all Editorial Reviews
Some reads are far beyond what one expects. This was one for me. I found it eye-opening and wrenching. Read morePublished 10 days ago by RE Krause
I can't remember reading a book that moved me so profoundly. I've so often feared runing into the bike riders as I'm driving my car, especially as around D.C. Read more
I wasn't thrilled with Half A Life but I don't regret reading it though. It just wasn't a good read.Published 1 month ago by Ms. Ayesha Karim
A very well written, thought provoking book. You are always aware of his probing nature, aware of how much he weighed the implications of each sentence as he explores his... Read morePublished 3 months ago by Melissa M. Shook
Very interesting and thought provoking book. Enjoyed it a lot, lots to think about.Published 4 months ago by Patricia L. Zebley
I found Strauss' writing style to be unique and refreshing. It made me think of stream of consciousness, that is, if stream of consciousness as a style were easy to follow. Read morePublished 11 months ago by Lisa J. Davis
A poignant exploration of how lives can be turned upside down in a flashPublished 11 months ago by Kristin Louise Duncombe
I am a huge fan of Darin Straus's work ... however ... while this book may have served as catharsis for him, but was not at all satisfying to this reader.Published 11 months ago by Winky