Excerpt from Half a Life by Darin Strauss, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reading Guide |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

Half a Life

by Darin Strauss

Half a Life by Darin Strauss X
Half a Life by Darin Strauss
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Sep 2010, 204 pages
    Paperback:
    May 2011, 224 pages

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Stacey Brownlie

Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt


And here's a cruel truth: the more accurate thing is that I kept sort of remembering without end. My brain persisted - as any bodily organ would - in trying to heal what was in effect a bruise. The bruise was the memory. And to remain what I thought of as human, I had to keep fighting against my basic, animal, healing response. That's what the first day was like. The sensation I was fighting is maybe close to denial. But it's not exactly denial.

My fear now is that all of this sounds over-aestheticized, and vague. There were times when the size of what had happened felt like a kind of nauseated grin: I'd done something this incalculably big, and here I was, still alive. I was okay. I'd hit a girl with my car, but the way the world worked I wasn't in jail, I wasn't hurt; I was free to indulge in a movie. It was this thought that made me leave the movie before it ended. The part of the brain that isn't automatic is an imagining machine, feeling all possibilities of feeling: it keeps pushing its way into this marshy, pleasant terrain. You struggle against that push, and start to feel your stomach protest. It's not so much even a type of consciousness as it is a circumstance, into which you pass by slow degrees. I've never seen this sufficiently examined. It mutates into a less-unreal reality that still seems different, somehow, than being fully present. Self-hate is rarely unconditional. I don't pretend it's all right that I felt even half-okay.

At home in bed that first night I had patchy, mundane dreams about normal things.

It would be nobler and less uncomfortable to write that I tossed sleeplessly. Or that I woke with a scooped-out pain in my gut. Or that I sat down in my underwear at my desk that had moonlight on it and I had the terrible sense one gets, after something irrevocable, of being in the wrong place - of having awakened into a new and cramped world. (This is the sense I would have, on many nights, later.) I ended up scouring through details of the day: those EMS guys talking about cardiac arrest, about loss of blood, about not liking her chances. I homed in on that word - "chances," with its promise of upside - and not on how the paramedic's voice had tightened, the odds seizing his throat.

So few of our days contain actions that are irrevocable. Our lives are designed not to allow for anything irrevocable. The school part of our lives continues to be the school part for eighteen years, the work parts stay the work parts, and if we're lucky nothing disarranges them; the small inconsistencies get buried under talk, explanations, rescheduling. If everything couldn't continue as planned, no real plans could be made. But the breakfasts and TV afternoons and band practices of teenaged life had been disrupted by something irrevocable, and I was new to it. And how did I handle this? What I want to write is that I lay there until morning, with tear-stained eyes, a tear-stained pillow, a tear-stained life. What can one do with levels of gloom and guilt, fear and disbelief, of bewilderment above one's capacity to register?

I slept soundly.

Excerpted from Half a Life by Darin Strauss. Copyright © 2010 by Darin Strauss. Excerpted by permission of McSweeney’s Books. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Support BookBrowse

Become a Member and discover books that entertain, engage & enlighten!

Join Today!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Only Child
    Only Child
    by Rhiannon Navin
    Rhiannon Navin's debut novel, Only Child received an overall score of 4.8 out of 5 from BookBrowse ...
  • Book Jacket: Brass
    Brass
    by Xhenet Aliu
    In 1996, Waterbury, Connecticut is a town of abandoned brass mills. Eighteen-year-old Elsie ...
  • Book Jacket: Timekeepers
    Timekeepers
    by Simon Garfield
    If you can spare three minutes and 57 seconds, you can hear the driving, horse-gallop beat of Sade&#...
  • Book Jacket: How to Stop Time
    How to Stop Time
    by Matt Haig
    Tom Hazard, the protagonist of How to Stop Time, is afflicted with a condition of semi-immortality ...

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
The Women in the Castle by Jessica Shattuck

A nuanced portrait of war, and of three women haunted by the past and the secrets they hold.

About the book
Join the discussion!

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    The French Girl
    by Lexie Elliott

    An exhilarating debut psychological suspense novel for fans of Fiona Barton and Ruth Ware.
    Reader Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    Only Child
    by Rhiannon Navin

    A dazzling, tenderhearted debut about healing, family, and the exquisite wisdom of children.
    Reader Reviews

Win this book!
Win Beartown

Now in Paperback!

From the author of a A Man Called Ove, a dazzling, profound novel about a small town with a big dream.

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

T I M A Slip B C A L

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.