Monday, January 17, 2011

Half a Life, by Darin Strauss

I can't imagine anyone makes it through life trauma free. It seems to me it's an inevitable part of being human. But although it may be common to undergo trauma, it's not at all common to read an account that fully captures the details and texture of both the experience and its aftermath. Until now.

In "Half a Life," Darin Strauss tells his story with details so intimate and true I felt as if I was right there with him, living the moment when, while behind the wheel, one of his high school classmates veered her bicycle in front of his car. I saw the girl hit Darin's windshield. I felt his detached stun as he learned that, shortly after, she died. I felt the confusion, the numbing, as Darin pulled away from the self he was before the accident and moved to a new self, one who watched this scenario with a second-guessing remove.

"Half a Life" is a remarkable and beautiful book, down to its trappings: a dustcover that extends only halfway up the length of the book, illustrated with a crack in a windshield, a single diagonal fissure that divides the surface into two jagged halves. Within those pages Darin Strauss tells his story with a captivating precision that shines the light on the commonality of the experience of trauma. By holding a magnifying glass to his experience, Strauss broadens his story, moving it from the realm of the personal into the universal, thereby providing a vehicle of self-discovery for us all.

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