"Half my life ago, I killed a girl."
So begins Darin Strauss' Half a Life, the true story of how one outing in his father's Oldsmobile resulted in the death of a classmate and the beginning of a different, darker life for the author. We follow Strauss as he explores his startling past-collision life - the funeral, the queasy drama of a high-stakes court case? and what starts as a personal tale of a tragic event opens into the story of how to live with a very hard fact: we can try our human best in the crucial moment, and it might not be good enough. Half a Life is a nakedly honest, ultimately hopeful examination of guilt, responsibility, and living with the past.
"By the time you've run your mind through it a hundred times, relentlessly worked every tic of your terror, it's lost its power over you ... [Soon it's] a story on a page, or, more precisely, everybody's story on a page." -John Gardner
Half my life ago, I killed a girl.
I had just turned eighteen, and when you drive in new post-adolescence, you drive with friends. We were headed to shoot a few rounds of putt-putt. It was May 1988. The breeze did its open-window work on the hair behind my neck and ears. We had a month before high-school graduation. I was at the wheel. Up ahead, on the right shoulder, a pair of tiny bicyclists bent over their handlebars. The horizon was just my town's modest skyline done in watercolors. We all shared a four-lane road; the bicycles traveled in the same direction as my car. Bare legs pedaling under a long sky. I think I fiddled with the radio. Hey what song is this? So turn it up. Then one of the bike riders did something. I ...
Half a Life has a larger significance than simply rehashing a sad event in the past; in fact, it's one of those rare books that I would recommend to almost any reader. We all have to find ways to cope with loss and much of this adjustment is hidden from our everyday routine and acquaintances. Though Strauss's memoir has a painful premise, I found it a surprising comfort to understand another person's response to tragedy, especially when I noticed that the author's most private thoughts, though they were almost shocking in their honesty, weren't all that different from my own inner dialogue regarding my own losses and difficulties. Readers will see past the painful circumstances to the beauty of a man who has spent half his life making decisions and living his life in light of very difficult truth.
(Reviewed by Stacey Brownlie).
Full Review (764 words).
Risks on the Road
According to the National Highway Safety Traffic Administration's (NHSTA) Fatality Analysis Reporting System, of the 34,172 fatal automobile crashes in 2008, 718, about 2%, were cyclists like Celine Zilke. A much higher number of fatalities, 4,414, were pedestrians. Trend data between 1994 and 2008 shows a slightly decreasing number of non-motorist fatalities in Celine and Darin's age range, but deaths of older non-motorists, particularly between ages 45 and 54 have significantly increased.
Though automobile accidents in general are the number one cause of death for Americans between the ages of 3 and 34, the NHSTA 2009 report recorded vehicle-related fatalities at their lowest level since 1950. The ...
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