“Half Life”–needing to connect

Krach, Aaron. “Half Life”, Alyson 2004

Needing to Connect

Amos Lassen

Aaron Krach’s “Half Life” is an emotional and moving novel as it tells the story of the last weeks of a gay teenager in high school in a Los Angles suburb. Adam Westman is young, gay and knows it—he has no real problem with his sexuality. His parents are divorced and he and his eleven year old sister live with his father. His father is a teacher who suffers from severe depression. His mother, now remarried, is head of a film production company and she does have much to do with her children until the death of her ex-husband when the children move in with her. Adam is quite cynical and self-reliant.

“Half Life” looks at Adam’s relationships—with family, with friends, with his boyfriend and one thing becomes very clear. What Adam needs is some form of human connection. When a strange and shocking tragedy forces both his family and several of his friends and a good-looking police officer into an uneasy relationship, the novel takes off.

Dysfunctional families have become quite popular in literature lately. This time we see how the family, which is anything but “regular”, pulls together and redefines itself.  Adam and Jeff, the police officer begin, to build a relationship under very odd circumstances but it is a wonderful study of the human condition and how the need for friends is so important.

Jeff is a good deal older than Adam. He is 38 and Adam is 17. We do not learn why Jeff pursues Adam—Jeff is closeted. When he becomes involved in the investigation of Adam’s father’s death, he discovers that he has “affection” for Adam. Jeff begins to “shower” Adam with affection ad Adam must come to terms with what love is at the same time that he is forced in dealing with the death of his father.

While the novel leaves a lot to desire grammatically, it makes up for that in the way that Krach deals with his characters. The book is a wonderful exercise in character study. Krach shows us what s going on in the minds and lives of urban kids who happen to be gay. As we follow Adam as he deals with his emotions about Jeff, we meet the supporting characters as they all pass a summer together and search for and find the answers to the challenges of life. While Adam and Jeff progress slowly, they and Adam’s friends learn of the value of friendship.

What I thought was going to be a coming of age story turned out to be just that as well as a story of young love. Adam seems to have been born melancholy and we watch him overcome his sadness. Through the dialog of the novel, we see the fears that our characters face and how they learn to become comfortable with themselves.

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