Regular Contributor Denise Neary is back today with a review of a memoir by acclaimed fiction writer Darin Strauss (CHANG AND ENG).

I am a sucker for the beautifully written tragedy. I love to read about horrific events and wonder:  what would I do; how would I react?  Usually, my preferred choice for beautiful tragedy is fiction:

The Lovely BonesThe Scarlett Letter.   Most of Shakespeare.

I eat up sad stories with a spoon and now I have a new favorite. A beautiful book about the saddest event.

Half A Life, A Memoir, by Darin Strauss, is the true account of the unending consequence of one moment in Strauss’ young life.

As a senior in high school, Strauss was driving when a cyclist veered across two lanes.   The car hit the cyclist; she died.  Witnesses on the scene and a trial all concluded that he was not at fault.

He was not at fault, but he had killed someone.

Strauss’ life has been unalterably marked by this event — he carries that moment with him, trying to live a life honoring him and the young woman who died.  He is not given to the same level of petulance that I can summon when “my” subway is twenty minutes late and is tough on himself for any moments of self-pity; he is constantly aware that he is the person who lived.

He uses words with such power; his sad book is a joy to read.

If your looking for a memoir for your book club, the paperback version will be released later this month (and of course you can pre-order it now).  There’s also a fascinating NY Times review and associated video that shed more light on the story.  I promise, this beautiful book is guaranteed to have you thinking and talking.

— Denise Neary, Regular Contributor