Eric Klee's Reviews > Half a Life

Half a Life by Darin Strauss
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Feb 27, 2012

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Read in February, 2012

The title of Darin Strauss' memoir has two meanings. One: That half his life ago (i.e., meaning that when he was 18, being in his late 30s when he wrote the book), he accidentally killed a girl his age while driving. This is the meaning the author intended. However, there is also my second interpretation of the title: the girl Celine that died only lived "half a life;" she only had a childhood, never an adulthood.

Although Strauss states that he sat down to write this memoir in his late 30s, it reads like a series of what could have been (and, for all we know, may have been) his own journal entries over the years. Because, really, what writer doesn't maintain a journal of his/her life experiences?

I didn't really connect with the book; it felt like it was just more of a catharsis for the author. It was something that he had to do to move on, but as a reader, I didn't feel "drawn in" to his grief or the situation.

Strauss continuously mentions that he had difficulty moving on from the accidental killing of one of his schoolmates, but he also purposely leaves out huge chunks of his life that he was, most likely, enjoying. He lived in places like Boston, London, L.A., and New York City. How could you not put aside your past and enjoy those fantastic cities? I don't mean to discount the tragedy, but I wanted to connect more with the author and the situation. He's a great writer when writing about other people, but his own feelings weren't properly conveyed on the pages to let us join in on his sorrow and regret. I felt like he was just repeating himself from chapter to chapter rather than giving the reader something new.

Many times, I felt that Strauss was writing just to convince everyone that he wasn't guilty. Perhaps even to convince the parents of the girl of his innocence because they did bring him to court in a legal battle that went on for years (before his fame as an author). This does speak volumes about our litigious society, though. People are always wanting to point blame and collect from their misfortune rather than accepting that sometimes things "just happen" or that it's their own fault. Strauss defends his every thought or action on the pages, most times needlessly, because it's pretty obvious that he wasn't guilty of a crime. He was just in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Like I said, I enjoyed the author's writing style, but I didn't really connect with the words on the page. I didn't walk away with the emotions I was expecting.
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