Half a Life book review

Sydney Czyzon, contributing writer

Random House Trade Paperbacks 2011. 187 pgs.

“Half a Life,” by Darin Strauss illustrates the shameful guilt and struggle of a man overcoming grief. His shock, he commemorates, was like an overloaded circuit board, shutting down and blacking out. Strauss incorporates his identity and perspective by his life experiences, teaching others that life goes on no matter what the circumstance. This novel is a timeline, successfully sharing the life that was his, and the life that was taken. The unforgettable moments the author shares will make any reader ponder life itself and the fact that it can be taken or given at any second. In this award-winning book, Strauss must examine the impact, the hardships, the depression, and the recovery that led him to become who he is today.

Laughing, talking, smiling; it was all part of a normal day for Darin and his friends as they were on their way to play mini-golf. However, that May 1988 day would be anything but average for Strauss; suddenly, on the side of the road, a bicyclist, school acquaintance Celine Zilke, swerved directly into his oncoming car. He recalls the radio playing, her vivid hair crossing the windshield, and the distant look across her face when he saw her lying in the grass. During the whole situation, Strauss is in complete shock, feeling no emotion but feeling infinite emotion all at once. Unsure what to do, he begins sobbing uncontrollably at the sight of his father, who comes to the incident immediately. Elaborate dreams and reminding thoughts fill the nights after. Following a period of ‘what-ifs’ Strauss notes, “Any of ten different actions on my part might have led to an alternate ending,” allowing himself some space to calm down and let the stress recede. Celine’s parents become greatly involved with Strauss through out the unchangeable process. Finding it difficult, the author makes an effort to enjoy his young years. Eventually, he meets his wife Susannah, who aids him in the process of finding his soul once again. Once the couple is married with children of their own, Darin is able to cope with what has happened and re-visit the sight. There he decides that he does, in fact, have the urge to publish a memoir in honor of Celine in order to give answers to himself and others. Astonishingly, following more than twenty years of guilt, Strauss is able to move on and focus, once again, on himself.

The lessons taught can be translated to people all over the world. Even though this novel is not for everybody, it is for the teens and young adults who have dealt with overcoming guilt and battling depression. Enrolling in therapy was one of the multiple battles Strauss faces; he doesn’t want to, and, once he does, ends up hating it. After his very first session, he says, “It would be ten years before I’d try therapy again.” Many find therapy as a sign of vulnerability and don’t believe talking about the situation will help at all. Similar feelings relate the author to the audience, reassuring the reader by writing his exact opinions. Embarrassment is another aggressive emotion that overbears Strauss. He writes, “Students in hallways passed looks back and forth…or they just shunned me.” In high school, all of the individuals around him were aware of what happened and it made the author feel pressured and intimidated, similar to many teens’ thoughts. Upon reading the memoir, “Half a Life,” holds a main idea that can touch base with anyone, anywhere; accept your past and look forward your future.

The perspective changing mindset is what makes this novel perfect for readers interested in the view of a teen faced with tragedy. A reader can examine Darin’s situation and connect with the same consciousness. The style of writing is first person, and told as a non-fiction story. It is enjoyable, memorable, and definitely worth unraveling. The unexpected surprises and events will leave the reader stunned and satisfied. Share a recollection of amazing obstacle and achievement with Strauss’ recommended book, “Half a Life.”