Next to a good novel, my favorite literary form is the autobiography. The lives of other people are so fascinating to me; I’ll read just about anything, regardless of subject matter. So when I came across the book Half a Life, I thought “Wow, what a peculiar title”. What I discovered was a slim volume of quiet eloquence, both a stark testimony and a courageous journey of a young man in the right place at the wrong time.
Darin Strauss was on the brink of his high school graduation when the car he was driving struck a classmate riding her bicycle. The girl, Celine, was killed; the police considered the accident “no fault,” so Darin was not prosecuted by the law. However, that is not to say he wasn’t persecuted—by his classmates and the girl’s parents. Even in his own way, Darin proceeded to carry on with his own self-persecution throughout his daily life.
The book follows a loose chronology of Darin’s life after the accident. The incident threatens to consume him and manages to do a fairly good job of it, even as Darin tries hard to keep it at bay. Just when the author feels he is starting to put the accident behind him, something or someone will trigger the pain all over again. We read about how Celine’s parents decide to file a civil suit against him. We are privy to Darin’s innermost private thoughts, such as the deep and painful yearning of him wanting to claim a fresh start when he goes to college; the constant struggle to decide whether or not to tell new acquaintances and girlfriends about the accident. We also read the touching story of Darin telling his then future wife about it. All of these confessions are told in a matter-of-fact way, as Darin tries to distance himself further and further from the tragedy.
When Darin realizes half of his life has been spent dwelling on the incident and its aftermath, he makes a brave decision to go to the original site and face his worst fears. This is the turning point in which he realizes the accident can no longer claim any power over him. He knows he has spent enough time punishing himself for something he could or could not have prevented.
Even though the theme of the book focuses on a sad event, the reader can’t help but feel inspired and awed by the author’s revelations and sense of accountability and remorse. I would highly recommend this book to anyone, and would find it especially helpful for someone who is going through a similar crisis. It would also be an excellent read to introduce in a high school setting to encourage a good strong dialogue between teens and their teachers.