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“When Darin Strauss was 18 years old, he was in a car accident that resulted in the death of a bicyclist. Darin was the driver, and the victim was one of his high school classmates. This is a book about survivor's guilt that has haunted him for, literally, half of his life. Though he was cleared of wrong-doing, Strauss has always felt guilty, always carried the responsibility for someone else's death with him. This is a brutally honest and unflinching book that Strauss originally wrote for himself and then a friend talked him into submitting a version to NPR's This American Life. The response to that piece was overwhelming. I like a line from Kelly Corrigan's review of the book the best: 'This might be the bravest book you will ever read.'”
— Jackie Blem, Tattered Cover Bookstore, Denver, CO
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 pastcollision, funeral, the queasy drama of a high-stakes court caseand 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.
"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, New York Times Book Review
"A remarkable, beyond-brave memoir that offers an intensely personal look at the most agonizing events in the author's post-accident life With astounding frequency, Strauss pinpoints truths that most of us would find indescribable."
Stephan Lee, O, The Oprah Magazine
"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 daysand beautifully written enough that we spent the rest of the trip discussing it. A critically acclaimed novelist (Chang and Eng), Strauss waited over 20 years to tell this story. And his distance from it is one of the things I liked best. Too many memoirs suffer from lack of perspective. But Strauss explores memory, guilt, and coming-of-age from a mature vantage point that leads to enormous insight. 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"
Pam Abrams, 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."
Christina Eng, San Francisco Chronicle
"Half a Life is an 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. Darin Strauss does not permit himself even one sentence, even one moment, of lazy thinking, or mitigating excuses. He examines with rigorous honesty every moment of the most awful and tragic event of his life. After all that admirable work and all that attentive detail, when he does finally reach a place of cautious hope, the impact is staggering and unforgettable."
Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love
"Darin Strauss' Half a Life is the best anything I've readnovel, memoir, storyin a very long time. Incredibly, it's also the most moving. (And inspiring, and challenging; it's a book that asks you to live up to it.) This book has the greatest weight-to-power ratio I've ever seen. Read it, be swallowed, come out changed. If you've faced a death, of course you should read it. But everyone faces a life, and so the rest of us should read it too."
David Lipsky, author of Absolutely American and Although Of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself
"A story of hope and what it means to be human."
Carrie Fisher, author of Wishful Drinking
"This book will break your heart. It's about the big and important things that happen before you are ready for them, and how they shape your life. It's a tragedy and a coming of age story. Mostly, it's a great and moving book about a boy becoming a man, and it belongs on the shelf with just a precious few othersThe Catcher in the Rye, The Moviegoer, Joe Gould's Secret. It should be read and re-read. It's a treasure."
Rich Cohen, author of Tough Jews, Sweet & Low, and When I Stop Talking, You'll Know I'm Dead
"I've read so many memoirs. Darin Strauss' is more honest and useful than all of them rolled together, including my own. This might be the bravest book you will ever read."
Kelly Corrigan, author of The Middle Place and Lift