Half a Life: A Memoir
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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.
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like a pressure along every part of my body had been snipped away: cut ropes flinging out crazily, weights tumbling from arms, shoulders, head. Today I realized that I am going to die. They were just eight words. I’d already grabbed them for dear life. Celine, I decided, had died on purpose. That’s why she’d turned right in front of my car. (From what I understood, her family hadn’t been much invested in religion, and that’s why that born-again stuff not only came as a surprise, but actually
father and myself, too. It was the weighted bat you swing bravely in the on-deck circle, which can’t stop your knees from buckling when you step up to the plate. How much did your car skid on the grass of the median before it came to a stop? With a hunter’s eye, the Zilkes’ lawyer targeted small rifts in my self-assurance and certainty. Five cars around, why did she turn into yours? The lawyer flexed his eyebrows as he spoke—eyebrows that didn’t believe me, that were already garnishing wages,
about having the story in one place. “The goal is to show that grief, like the tape, can be picked up or put away,” the article said. In “Treatment of Complicated Grief: A Randomized Controlled Trial,” The Journal of the American Medical Association declared this tape-and-torment approach “twice as effective” as the conventional therapy used to treat chronic grieving. (Another plus: it also worked much faster.) In a separate Times article, George A. Bonanno, a professor of clinical psychology at
seem an express message to this future me, a dispatch meant to comfort and assure. I remember Officer Vitucci once told me if I’d swerved the car differently that May 1988 morning, I might have flipped it. Say that had happened. Say Celine had lived and I hadn’t; what of herself would she need to put to the side, in trying to think about me: the stranger who had managed somehow to swerve away from her bike, and who had died because of it? I used to think I’d like her to not remember me at all.
few—“Hey Darin, that morning did you have any, well, accidents happen, whatever—I’m sure you weren’t, I mean, who gets drunk during the day, but I’m just asking, did you …”—a few kids did say things that demanded I address the accident. I’d chew off my monologue piece by piece, fussily clearing my throat, letting out a chunk at a time. It was the version I’d settled on, official and even true, but in a way that seemed to go against the spirit of truth: facts with edges sanded, corners rounded.