HALF A LIFE, Darin Strauss

-Cassie Morgan

"Half my life ago, I killed a girl" - Darin Strauss

An average teenage boy has to face the rest of his life with another soul and spirit watching over him and becoming a part of him. Darin Strauss, 18 years old at the time, killed a girl, Celine Zilke. Throughout Darin's life, he was consumed with guilt, having to deal with the reality that HE killed somebody and her life was taken away from her. The night Darin killed Celine, he and his friends were headed to play golf. Celine was bike riding with her friends that night and swerved into Darin's car. However there was no way he could avoid hitting Celine. There wasn't a day that went by that Darin wouldn't think of "that day". His days were a daily struggle, constantly wondering if and how he could somehow have prevented that tragic life changing accident.
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Is an accident really an accident? Or is it just a coincidence?

Protagonist, Darin Strauss, battles his whole life with the intense feeling of guilt and having to deal with a mystery that will never come to conclusion. Constantly wondering if it was actually an accident, or if Celine intentionally picked that moment to fatally swerve into the car he was driving, Darin's life from that point forward was consumed with questioning that tragic moment. Since that day, Darin has felt trapped inside of this guilt because he doesn't have a clear perspective on what actually happened on "that day".

On top of his own confusion and grief over what happened, another pivotal encounter leads to more responsibility for Darin to carry with him. That happened when Celine Zilke's mother went up to Darin and said "Can you promise me, Darin. Promise. You're living for two. Okay?" Darin nodded back to her. This moment contributed to his life long commitment of living with the guilt he carried; during that brief conversation with her, it occurred to him Celine's mother was thinking, "Why are you the one who is still alive?" Now Darin has taken on the responsibility of two things: living for two people and living with the fact that he killed the girl that he is now living for.

Another example of Darin feeling trapped in guilt is when he bluntly says, "To be alive is to find a way to blame someone else." In this line Darin is expressing the feeling that he is only alive because of that one thing; Celine wasn't. Dealing with guilt that will never fade, Darin will never know the true answer to this indecisive mystery. Darin writes in his memoir, "Celine, I decided, had died on purpose. That's why she'd turned right in front of my car.....For me, the suicide note-or, rather, hypothetically suicidal journal entry-settled it." Darin still doesn't know the exact answer to the incident with Celine Zilke, but you can't hold on to something this strong forever. Sometimes in life your only choice is to draw an educated conclusion on what you want to think and believe is the truth, without ever knowing or finding out the real reasons.

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"An accident isn't necessarily ever over." -Diane Williams

" I've come to see our central nervous system as a kind of vintage switchboard, all thick foam wires and old-fashioned plugs. The circuitry isn't properly equipped; after a surplus of emotional information the system overloads, the circuit breaks, the board runs dark. That's what shock is." Darin Strauss is referring to our own normal lives blowing up and changing in the blink of an eye; such a big blow up that you're in shock and don't know how to handle the situation at the moment. Darin uses this simile so the reader understands how emotionally drained you can become from something this tragic and life changing.

"But as a family, we'd fallen into a set of dance steps; when calamity happened." An example of how this simile is used is that the "dance steps" represent the life changing events Darin and his family went through at the time. They didn't want to believe it was true but they had to face the reality of the situation and understand that it was an accident and couldn't necessarily be prevented. Although the incident revolved around Darin, his family was still a big part of it, and it also had an impact on them.

"Until I didn't try to remember at all, and the tape would burst into high-def vividness. Hair, bicycle, reflector. I'd be doing something mundane, like removing soda from an icy case at the mini mart." An example of... Darin uses this simile to infer that he can be doing the slightest thing and still think of Celine Zilke and how she won't ever be able to do that small thing again. "The moments before the crash became a kind of VHS tape, over rented, overplayed, stripped:the colors of the scratched away, the sound wobbly." As hard as Darin try's, he will never be able to forget that moment; right before the accident. What he said, where he was going, who he was with, it will always be a vivid memory for him that will be with him forever.


Half a Life is a powerful memoir. This book is truly moving and makes you realize not to take life for granted. Strauss shows a strong moral fiber through his personal torment over the accident that became a riddle of questions he asked himself over the years. His story shows people how one second everything can be fine and the next second your life changes right before your eyes and you don't even know why or how it would happen to you. Strauss goes through life with questions that will probably never be answered. In a spilt second everything changed for him and he had to live life for two people. This memoir is thought provoking and I recommend it to all people who like a good read.