In general I am not a reader of non-fiction. Oh sure, I use cookbooks for recipes and look at the pictures in art books, and my yard might be a wasteland if not for our expansive collection of gardening books. The parameters of reading non-fiction, for me, have always been defined by pure function.
Half a life is a memoir that probes one incident in the author’s life that put him on an entirely new path. My interest came from a review in which Strauss said, “I’d written three novels without laying a hand on the subject,” he writes: “historical and contemporary, first-person and third-, different fictional stories chiseled from the same real story.” Since I’d read his first novel Chang and Eng and LOVED it, I decided to find out what exactly had shaped this young author. I am not giving anything away by telling the future reader that at eighteen years old Darin Strauss hit a girl on a bicycle with his car and she died. He opens the book with “Half my life ago, I killed a girl” and what follows is twenty years of grief, guilt, and remorse. If this sounds like way too much of a downer to read, I assure you it’s not. The language is beautiful, the story is compelling, and the small epiphanies along the way are like sunlight. It’s crazy how a book about guilt and grief can be so life affirming. I loved this book.