Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Book Review: Half a Life by Darin Strauss

I first heard about this book on NPR's This American Life. I suppose this happens nearly every day, but it is a situation where you never hear about the other side of the story. When Darin Strauss was 18 and about to graduate from high school, he was driving with friends on Long Island, when another classmate on a bike darted in front of his car and was killed. Darin was found to be not at fault. A few years ago Darin realized he'd lived half of his life after this accident and the renowned novelist finally decided to write about his experience.

Wow, what a harrowing experience. We've probably all thought about this situation as we've slammed on the brakes to save a child, a dog, or another car from destruction. In those situations we've been lucky and had sufficient time to react. Darin wasn't given that opportunity. I find it interesting that drivers in No Fault accidents resulting in death have a much higher rate of PTSD than drivers who are found to be at fault.

Mr. Strauss is honest with us, even at times pointing out when he was being disingenuous, showboating, or simply lying. He tells us when his memory is faulty, when it slips as they all do over time. He obviously feels incredibly guilty-ridden although he never states that outright. Why that day did he live and Celine die? What if the reverse had been true? Why couldn't he have done something - anything - differently that day to prevent this tragedy? Celine's death hangs over his life every hour, every day.

Luckily Mr. Strauss not only has a riveting story to tell that we've all worried about, if only momentarily, but he's also a top-notch writer. He's not overly writerly, telling his story in a straightforward and unadorned fashion, which suits the topic to a T. He covers all bases, leaves no stones unturned in his quest for the truth of what happened, and takes the blame for his part in the girl's death, even if there was no fault. The storytelling is crisp and precise and feels as open as a wound. I hope he's gained some measure of peace in putting his story, and Celine's, out there for others.

I bought this book at a Borders going out of business sale.


Christy said...

Accidentally hitting someone with my car is something I fear, because it's something that can happen to any driver, of any level of experience.

Stacy at The Novel Life said...

I cannot even imagine the guilt or how he overcame this tragedy. It is a testament to his own fortitude he was able to somewhat thrive afterward. My 17 year old daughter and now my 15 year old son are drivers and I am terrified whenever they are behind the wheel. So much can happen.