Title: Breaking Night: A Memoir of Forgiveness, Survival, and My Journey from Homeless to Harvard
Author: Liz Murray
Release Date: September 7, 2010
Genre: Non-Fiction, Memoir
Rating: 4 out of 5
Breaking Night is the story of Liz Murray, a woman who grew up with drug-addicted parents. She rarely went to school and her main goal in life as a child was trying to find something to eat that wasn’t toothpaste or chapstick, because her parents tended to spent their welfare money on drugs. As a teenager, Liz learned to take care of herself when she became homeless. This is a story of loss and despair, but also one of inspiration and hope.
I’ve heard about Liz Murray in the news – the story of the girl who went from “homeless to Harvard.” She even had a Lifetime TV movie made about her inspirational life. She didn’t really catch my attention, though, until she published a memoir, telling her story in her own words for people to hear.
Breaking Night starts off a bit slow, telling the story of Liz’s parents in order to help the reader understand what kind of home she was born into. She is very generous with her parents; clearly, she doesn’t resent them for the childhood (or lack thereof) they provided for her. It’s impressive, considering how bad her circumstances were – that’s the reason the word “forgiveness” is in the subtitle of the book.
This is a difficult book to read at times. For the first three quarters of the book, it is so hopeless. Liz’s circumstances just get worse and worse, and it seems like she can’t catch a break. You know that things have to turn around eventually, because it’s no secret she ends up at Harvard, but you just can’t understand how that could possibly happen when things are so dark and hopeless. The most difficult part for me was when she allowed herself to be molested as a child because the man who was doing it made their lives a little better, made her mother smile. It was heartbreaking and difficult and incredibly sad.
However, Liz really turns things around towards the end of the book. She stops expecting people to make her life better and starts trying to do it on her own. I really appreciated her message – you can rely on people to do a lot of things, but you can’t rely on them to make you better. Only you can do that. It’s incredibly inspirational, especially considering what she had been through. It’s also heartwarming to know that there are people out there who genuinely want to help others.
Breaking Night is not an easy book to read, but it’s so worth it. It’s such an unhappy story with such an incredibly inspiring ending. Many people choose not to read books about difficult subjects because they don’t want to be depressed by their reading (which is completely understandable), but this is a book that you should really consider. It’s hard to read, but the ending is such a fairy tale, but one that Murray brings about herself through hard work and determination. I highly recommend this book if you want to feel inspired or like there is some good in a difficult world.