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Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Heartbreaking Tragedy in Strauss' 'Half a Life'

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Author Darin Strauss' searing Half a Life is more than a moving portrait of a tragic accident. This powerful, award-winning memoir is also a tale of hope, a coming-of-age journey of a boy becoming a man, and a fresh look at what it means to be human.

In June of his senior year in high school, Strauss killed a girl while on his way to play miniature golf. Strauss was driving his father's car—he wasn't drunk, high or going over the speed limit—when a 16-year-old girl swerved her bike into his lane, changing his life forever and ending her own. This unusually honest and brave work is a beautiful, heartbreaking chronicle of a deeply personal and painful tragedy. Strauss writes with passion about his difficult decision to attend the funeral of the girl he hit, high-school junior Celine Zilke, and examines the civil suit filed by her parents, his exoneration by the local police of any wrongdoing, the secret past he told to no one when he entered college only months after the accident, and his struggle to form any close relationships with such a deep emotional scar. Half a Life, which was awarded the National Book Critics Circle Award, tells a simple yet remarkable story of a child who is forced to grow up quickly in the face of a devastating event.

Strauss is an associate professor of creative writing at New York University and the best-selling author of three previous works of fiction. He will discuss Half a Life at Next Chapter Bookshop on Monday, June 20, at 7 p.m.