Half a Life

Half a Life

3.55 (3,961 ratings by Goodreads)
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In this powerful, unforgettable memoir, acclaimed novelist Darin Strauss examines the far-reaching consequences of the tragic moment that has shadowed his whole life. In his last month of high school, he was behind the wheel of his dad's Oldsmobile, driving with friends, heading off to play mini-golf. Then: a classmate swerved in front of his car. The collision resulted in her death. With piercing insight and stark prose, Darin Strauss leads us on a deeply personal, immediate, and emotional journey--graduating high school, going away to college, starting his writing career, falling in love with his future wife, becoming a father. Along the way, he takes a hard look at loss and guilt, maturity and accountability, hope and, at last, acceptance. The result is a staggering, uplifting tour de force. Look for special features inside, including an interview with Colum McCann.
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Product details

  • Paperback | 211 pages
  • 132 x 202 x 18mm | 222.26g
  • Random House USA Inc
  • Random House Inc
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • Reprint
  • 0812982533
  • 9780812982534
  • 172,530

About Darin Strauss

Darin Strauss is the bestselling author of three previous books. The recipient of a Guggenheim in fiction writing and numerous other awards, Strauss has seen his work translated into fourteen languages and published in more than twenty countries. He is a Clinical Associate Professor of Writing at New York University, and he lives with his wife and children in Brooklyn.
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Review quote

"Elegant, painful, stunningly honest . . . huge [and] heartbreaking."--The New York Times Book Review

"Darin Strauss has spent a good part of his adult life reliving, regretting and reflecting on a single, split-second incident. Half a Life is a starkly honest account of that fateful moment and his life thereafter . . . penetrating, thought-provoking."--The Washington Post

"A book that inspires admiration, sentence by sentence . . . This is a memoir in its finest form, a fully imagined and bittersweet book that transcends a single misstep."--Chicago Tribune "Painfully raw and beautifully written."--Los Angeles Times

"A remarkable, beyond-brave memoir."--O: The Oprah Magazine

"Lyrical and haunting."--San Francisco Chronicle

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Rating details

3,961 ratings
3.55 out of 5 stars
5 18% (723)
4 35% (1,392)
3 33% (1,302)
2 11% (430)
1 3% (114)

Our customer reviews

In 1988, the author was 18 years old, riding in his car with friends, when a bicyclist turned in front of him. That bicyclist turned out to be Celine Zilke, a 16-year-old schoolmate, who died from her injuries. In this astonishingly frank memoir, Mr. Straus captures, at first in flash bursts of memory (the accident and its immediate aftermath) that bring the reader straight into the shock he experienced, and then in more fleshed-out form, how an accident at such a young age shapes his life and his thoughts about himself - why does it feel wrong to take pleasure in anything? SHOULD he take pleasure in anything? What does it say about him when he actually FORGETS about what happened for a day or two? As he goes on with his life, sometimes he gets hit with tears at random moments - commercials, etc., but mainly, as the years go by and the accident becomes a faded memory, he finds himself scarcely affected by it at all. Then he remembers, and he feels as though he SHOULD feel more .. more guilt, more sadness for a girl he barely knew. I was caught up in this one; it smacks of hard truths. Not a guilt-ridden account, it felt REAL ... the way many of us would feel after an accident that wasn't our own fault. Someone else died, but YOU still lived, and how do you cope with that and have a meaningful life? How do you life a life that makes up for the life you took? Or do you only deserve to live half a life? QUOTES (from an ARC; may be different in final copy): I've come to see our central nervous system as a kind of vintage switchboard, all thick foam wires and old-fashioned plugs. The circuitry isn't properly equipped; after a surplus of emotional information the system overloads, the circuit breaks, the board runs dark. That's what shock is. I didn't understand that everyone's tepid emotions were reasonable. The panicky little drum that kept me going required that this event, this death, be epochal. Of course, it was that: this was an incomprehensibly sad occurrence for our school, our town. But I didn't yet know that there are some truths - that even young people die occasionally; that there's only so much gnashing of teeth and weeping over another person's tragedy - there are some truths that only come to us softened by beautiful stratagems of self-deception. I thought what it might mean not to have a life. (I didn't get very far on that one. What could it mean? It was absence: what was Celine not experiencing, not thinking about, not planning?) I thought I would powerfully if gradually rise above despair. I thought maybe I still didn't feel the right amount of despair. I thought how do you calculate a sum like that? BOOK RATING: 4 out of 5 starsshow more
by Julie Smith
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