Sunday, January 02, 2011

What's New On the Bookshelf?

Around the holiday NPR suggests books to read. One memoir mentioned this year was Half a Life by Darin Strauss. I bought this book based on the excerpts read aloud that day and was not disappointed: the writing is excellent. It’s an unusual topic for a memoir: The first chapter begins, “Half my life ago, I killed a girl.” That statement alone makes us think, murder? No, the writer was behind the wheel, at age 18. He was not drunk. His car hit a girl on a bike, a member of his high school class, and she died before he could reach her side. Was the death an accident, or suicide? What is it like to live with the idea of having been responsible for the death of another person? Does one feel guilt? Was Darin responsible? How does one behave in front of the bereaved parents? Should one attend the funeral? Half a Life provides answers to all these questions. Celine’s mom tells Darin, “Whatever you do in your life, you have to do it twice as well now. Because you are living it for two people.” Such a memoir might be expected to be maudlin but this one isn’t. I look forward to reading earlier books by Darin Strauss who has been called “a brave new voice in literature” by the Wall Street Journal.