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Review: Half a Life

August 23, 2011

In May of 1988, Darin Strauss had just turned eighteen and was a month away from high school graduation.  He was driving when he and some friends decided to go play putt-putt.  He noticed two bicyclist on the shoulder up ahead but didn’t think much of it until he was upon them and one of them swerved right into his car.  Half a Life is Strauss’s story and you know it’s going to be an emotional one as soon as you read the opening sentence:

Half my life ago, I killed a girl.

The girl who died was a year behind Strauss in school – they weren’t friends but he knew who she was.  Cleared of all wrong in the accident, the tragedy still looms over Strauss.  Most of us have role models for grief, but how do you deal with something like this?  If you’re like Strauss, you deal with it with awkwardness, grace, hope, guilt, and acceptance, never forgetting what happened and the grief it caused others.

Deeply personal and brutally honest, Half a Life is an emotional book that would be too painful to read if it weren’t written so beautifully.  My heart broke for Strauss, especially when he was young, dealing with such a heavy burden, but I’m proud of the man he became.  There’s a reason this book won the National Book Critics Circle Award for autobiography.  If you enjoy memoirs, this is a must read, but be sure to have tissues close by when you read it.

Review copy provided by Random House.  I am an Indiebound Affliate.
48 Comments leave one →
  1. August 23, 2011 5:06 am

    This sounds like a really tought but inspirational read.

  2. August 23, 2011 6:43 am

    That is just too horrible and sad 😦

  3. August 23, 2011 6:49 am

    It does sound quite emotional.

  4. August 23, 2011 6:49 am

    This sounds like such a sad story to have to live with something like that.

  5. August 23, 2011 6:57 am

    I loved this one, too. I think Darin has enormous personal integrity and incredible talents as a word by word writer.

  6. August 23, 2011 7:13 am

    For the longest time, I didn’t realize that this was a true story. I’m so impressed that he was able to write a book about his experiences, and possibly help others out there that have lived this same hell. I can’t imagine the guilt.

  7. August 23, 2011 7:15 am

    Wow, I don’t know how I haven’t heard of this prior to this post. It looks really interesting and intense. Thanks for the wonderful review!

  8. August 23, 2011 7:21 am

    This book sounds very intense. Something like this actually happened to my uncle when he was young, and he swore he’d never drive again — an impossibility for someone waiting to go on the NYPD. Family legend has it that my father braved a headache to be drunk enough that my uncle had to do the responsible thing, and drive him home. I haven’t thought of that story in years. I guess my uncle has, though. I will definitely pick up this book.

  9. August 23, 2011 7:24 am

    I hadn’t heard of this one, but it sounds fascinating.

  10. August 23, 2011 7:53 am

    I don’t read too many memoirs, but this one sounds powerful.

  11. August 23, 2011 8:18 am

    What a terrible burden to live with. I admire his courage for writing about it in the hopes that it might help others to navigate similar instances of terrible guilt.
    I didn’t realize that this had won a book award; I will read it as part of my personal challenge to read a certain amount of award winners this year, thanks 🙂

  12. August 23, 2011 8:23 am

    This one would have me in floods of tears. I don’t think I could cope with it.

  13. August 23, 2011 8:37 am

    So powerful, right? I loved this one despite the heavy emotions.

  14. August 23, 2011 9:11 am

    I cannot even imagine being in that situation. This sounds like a very intense read.

  15. August 23, 2011 9:16 am

    I think people who kill themselves just don’t think (or can’t) about the effect on the person they “use” to do the deed for them. It’s such a horrible thing! Nicely reviewed!

  16. August 23, 2011 9:34 am

    I enjoy a good memoir, and I agree this book sounds like it will be good, but so emotional. Thank you for such a wonderful review.

  17. August 23, 2011 11:02 am

    I want to read more Memoirs. I have this one on my Wishlist, I forgot that it was so emotional, thanks for the reminder.

  18. August 23, 2011 11:06 am

    I can’t imagine what living with that tragedy in your life would be like, but I have heard that the author deals with things in a very admirable way. I think this books sounds excellent and like something that I would love to check out at some point. It sounds rather inspiring.

  19. August 23, 2011 11:16 am

    I’ve seen this book before but for whatever reason I didn’t realize it was a memoir. How tragic. It sounds wonderful though.

  20. August 23, 2011 11:31 am

    I have this book on my list of award winning books to read for the Quirky Girls blog. I had a feeling it was going to be emotional but I like the fact that it’s also honest.

  21. August 23, 2011 11:55 am

    What a horrible scenario. I can’t imagine having to live with that kind of guilt for the rest of your life when you are blameless.

  22. Veens permalink
    August 23, 2011 12:08 pm

    I have rad so many reviews, and all of them seem to suggest the same thing. I do not know how to live with something like this.

  23. August 23, 2011 12:09 pm

    I really need to move this one up. I read one of his novels a few years ago and I thought his writing was fantastic.

  24. August 23, 2011 12:19 pm

    Sounds very tragic and sad, good review.

  25. August 23, 2011 12:22 pm

    This sounds like an intense read. The opening sentence in haunting and makes me wonder how one goes on after killing someone accidentally. This sounds powerful and possibly informative.

  26. August 23, 2011 1:11 pm

    Wow — sounds intense! Maybe too intense for me, but yours is one of many favorable reviews. Maybe I need to give it a try…

  27. August 23, 2011 1:44 pm

    What a terrible burden he carries through his life. I’m not sure I can take the book. May be too much for me.

  28. August 23, 2011 3:16 pm

    Wow, this sounds very emotional. I’m not sure it’s one I could personally handle, but I’m glad it was touching and my heart goes out for the writer and others in similar situations.

  29. August 23, 2011 3:24 pm

    I did not realize it was a memoir, too…so so sad…

  30. August 23, 2011 3:42 pm

    That’s a really powerful opening line.

  31. August 23, 2011 3:43 pm

    Oh, it’s a memoir. I would like to read it. Yep, I would need tissues.

  32. August 23, 2011 3:44 pm

    Sounds like an interesting book, but not sure it is something I can read. Or maybe I can. I can read most books, so why not try something like this. It was a great review and you made me interested.

  33. August 23, 2011 5:09 pm

    Absolutely wonderful Kathy. I will be adding this one to my list.

  34. August 23, 2011 6:34 pm

    Sounds like an intense book!

  35. August 23, 2011 7:25 pm

    Wow. I think I would really enjoy reading this man’s journey of healing after such a horrific event. Thank you for brining this to our attention.

  36. August 23, 2011 8:52 pm

    For some reason I gravitate to books like this – definitely on my GOTTA READ list!

  37. August 23, 2011 10:03 pm

    I read another review of this and I can’t decide if I am in the right mood for a book of this nature… Maybe down the road…

  38. August 23, 2011 10:35 pm

    This sounds like a book I need to read. I always find myself wondering, when I read the newspaper, how you could live if somebody died in an accident you were involved in, even (maybe, especially!) if you weren’t at fault. Obviously, life would never be the same, and this sounds like a powerful account.

  39. August 23, 2011 11:39 pm

    I added this to my wosh list after I read Jenners review. It looks so powerful and a reminder to live everyday with thankfulness.

  40. August 24, 2011 1:45 am

    I’ve heard good things about this memoir, but I know I’ll have to be in the right mood to read it.

  41. August 24, 2011 12:42 pm

    Wow this book sounds intense but well worth reading.

  42. August 24, 2011 1:06 pm

    I’m really looking forward to reading this. Ever since I first heard of it in Books on the Nightstand podcast, it’s been on my wishlist.

  43. August 24, 2011 2:05 pm

    This sounds like a compelling and heartbreaking book. I think the fact that Darin Strauss did such an amazing job writing this book speaks to his talent as well as his integrity because I think it would be very easy for a book like this to seem too scmaltzy or attention-seeking or just too much. It’s hard to imagine what it feel like to carry this burden around knowing it wasn’t your fault yet feeling guilty nonetheless. Strauss sounds like an inspiration and I like forward to reading his book. Terrific review, Kathy, thank you.

  44. August 24, 2011 8:26 pm

    It was powerful and amazing, wasn’t it? It was such a horrible and heavy burden that he had to carry … and I think he did well and I’m relieved that he was able to share a bit about what he learned from carrying it for so long.

  45. August 24, 2011 11:05 pm

    That opening sentence just made me wince in pain for him. This is definitely going on my list after reading your review. My thoughts go out to Darrin who must find the courage to live with this every day.

  46. August 25, 2011 7:38 am

    This sounds so sad. I hope writing this memoir helped him heal.

  47. August 26, 2011 2:25 pm

    I hadn’t heard of this memoir before, but it sounds like a must read for me (when I ready to read an emotionally wretching story).
    Wonderful review!

  48. August 26, 2011 9:40 pm

    What a powerful opening line. This sounds like an incredibly tough book to read, not to mention review, and I think you did a fabulous job conveying the emotion behind it. I’ll definitely put this on my list and be prepared for it one rainy day.

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