Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Half a Life

Half a Life is a study in halves. My copy has only half a book cover, the top half showing its original red binding, its title stamped in gold above the bottom half, featuring the protective shell which carries a few endorsements and the author's name, Darin Strauss, in white type. Most of the chapters (chapter segments?) are mere half pages--paragraphs centered on stark white--and contain half thoughts, either unfinished or unexplained. Reading the memoir only took me about half a day.

It's the starkness of the format, and of the writing itself, that creates the environment for the story: 18 years ago (or half the author's life), Strauss hit a bicyclist with his car. She later died. As an 18-year old, he didn't know how to deal with his grief/guilt, or even how to begin naming what he felt as grief, guilt, or any other number of emotions. The book carries on from the time of the accident until present time, where the author has married and become a father.

We don't get a lot of details about Strauss' life during the second, darker, half of his life--what we get are a lot of questions, a lot of pondering, and a lot of realization that sometimes there are no epiphanies, no clean healings, no logical place to put things in our minds. I tried not to put myself in Strauss' place as I read--I don't think he wants his reader to ask "What would I do if that was me?", but rather to look at our own personal baggage and understand that what we have is what we have--now what are you going to do with it? I don't think there's a wrong answer any more than there's a right one.

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