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The Beauty in Breaking

3.85  ·  Rating details ·  16,216 ratings  ·  1,871 reviews
An emergency room physician explores how a life of service to others taught her how to heal herself.

Michele Harper is a female, African American emergency room physician in a profession that is overwhelmingly male and white. Brought up in Washington, DC, in an abusive family, she went to Harvard, where she met her husband. They stayed together through medical school until
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published July 7th 2020 by Riverhead Books
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Average rating 3.85  · 
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 ·  16,216 ratings  ·  1,871 reviews

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This was really interesting. I don't read memoirs often and I've never read a memoir from a doctor or medical professional before so this audiobook was a very interesting experience. This author has a lot of interesting stories from the emergency room and she also has a lot to say about what it's like to work as a Black woman in a field that is mostly dominated by white men. She also has a lot to say about how Black people are treated so unfairly sometimes when it comes to receiving the medical ...more
Shannon A
Feb 24, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I simply couldn't put this memoir down. It's a debut unlike any other; If you think this a medical career memoir you'd be wrong and pleasantly surprised. Michele brings to light what is often forgotten in the medical shows: First you become a doctor and then you discover how to become a healer. ...more
Apr 15, 2020 rated it liked it
I can see the value of a memoir like this—particularly if you’re currently in healthcare or are deeply interested in the way politics plagues medical decisions.

That said, a lot of the case studies offered (of which there are ten) end with a lesson-learned; the author practiced Buddhism, as a religious philosophy, and it’s clear her acceptance of that is what allowed her to not only understand and reconcile her own pain, but deal with the injustices she’s faced as a medical professional.

Each an
Jul 25, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Dr. Harper falls prey to my pet peeve in memoirs: she paints herself as a saint. This woman is apparently perfect. She went to Harvard, she cares about her patients more than any other doctor does, she bestows forgiveness upon those who hurt her the most. And there’s more: she eats healthy, she does yoga and meditates, she drinks fair-trade coffee, she recycles her old medical magazines, and she listens to NPR. All that goodness seems to give her license to ruin her interesting stories about pat ...more
Jul 15, 2020 rated it it was ok
Ooohhh, so many positive reviews about this book. I was hoping to be one them. A memoir about a physician where she shares stories from the trenches as an ER physician. That is right up my alley. That is not what I got!

I understand that the premise of the book was supposed to be how she overcame an abuse childhood to go to medical school and then overcame racism to rise through the ranks in the hospital. Her family history was glossed over and she never discussed how she actually got away from t
Tinichix (nicole)
Aug 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2020, botm
2020 has really been a great memoir year for me so far. Michele Harper is an emergency room physician who has put together this beautiful piece of work on how her life as a physician, who heals and services others, has ending up teaching her how to heal herself. I genuinely feel as if she has poured her heart and soul into this book in the same way she pours her heart and soul into her occupation. I feel as if the healing she has provided to her patients both physically and emotionally has helpe ...more
Lauren Hopkins
Jul 29, 2020 rated it liked it
I came in with REALLY high expectations here. Medical memoir? Black woman kicking ass at her profession? An inside look at how hospitals in the U.S. are racist in the treatment of BIPOC patients and providers? It was pure gold for me without even opening the cover, but unfortunately, it falls a bit flat. Where the author stands out is in her discussions of race and privilege, which she seamlessly weaves in and out of many of her stories, both ER and personal, but the storytelling itself just isn ...more
Julie Rhinehart
Jul 17, 2020 rated it did not like it
This book was not what I expected. From the description I anticipated a tough upbringing and to see how she became who she wanted to be after rising from and learning so much from these trials. Instead I found whining about how everything and everyone was against her because of her skin color on top of narcissism about how she is the smartest person in the room (and the world) a fact she blatantly throws in your face. The case studies were disjointed, but her feelings of empathy or disdain for t ...more
Jul 12, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: library, kindle
There’s been a lot of buzz about this book on social media so I was surprised to see it available at my library. At first I could barely put it down. The first half was a 5-star read. But then i started to lose interest. It got new-agey. The dialog became clunky and seemed designed to fit the author’s narrative. It became more about her life philosophy and less about the patients. I found myself skimming long paragraphs. In the end, sadly, I’m down to 3 stars from 5.
Aug 25, 2020 rated it really liked it
Harper grew up in an affluent, abusive family that left her emotionally scarred for many years. This memoir recounts her personal growth as she practiced medicine in the Emergency Rooms of the hospitals where she worked. In the beginning of her career she strived to assume administration responsibilities too, but realized that what gave her the most fulfillment was treating patients. Interestingly, the personal benefits she received through meditation and yoga helped her to treat her patients in ...more
Maggie Cavanaugh
Jul 19, 2020 rated it liked it
I hate rating people’s memoirs, this is their real life, private things they put out for the world to know. The premise had me really excited, I love some good ER stories, and this delivered some good stories, you really can’t make up what happens in the ER on a daily basis. However, this didn’t grab my attention at all. The book read like a short story collection, making it feel fragmented, with not much happening to connect all the stories. I did enjoy this overall, but it took me a week to re ...more
Amanda Harris
Jul 06, 2020 rated it liked it
Although easy to read, with compelling vignettes of the author’s life as an ER doctor, I struggled with the lecturing nature that encompasses many chapters.
Oct 05, 2020 rated it really liked it
This is a Non-Fiction Memoir. This book is my September pick for Book Of The Month. This book is fast pace and keeps you pulled in. I overall really enjoyed it. There was parts that I did not care as much about, and there was a lot of parts that I found thought-provoking which I loved. I found this book written very well. (*)
Nov 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Review in the making
Carmel Hanes
Nov 03, 2020 rated it really liked it
3.75 rounded up

When I was more twenty minutes ago...I used to think that someone who had gone through college and medical school would have sufficiently proven their competence and worth to any final holdouts (you know, those who need a sledgehammer to the head). Turns out that even then a person of color can still find prejudice and barriers in every direction he or she looks. Michele Harper clearly had goals and skills and a compassionate heart. Finding a place where that was valu
Hannah Frey
Jul 23, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This book was absolutely breathtaking. It is easily the best book I have read all year.
Traci at The Stacks
I really liked the first half of this book. The stories were good and Harper is clearly super smart and thoughtful, and does a great job of drawing connections between cases and bigger picture. I appreciated that the politics of medicine, gender, race, etc end up being a big part of the book.

By the end it the book started to feel contrived and a little too focused on whatever lesson the author wanted us to glean from her work. Her opinions and judgements were a little too heavy handed and ultim
Oct 06, 2020 rated it liked it
3.5. There were parts of this I loved so, so much, and I can only wish I'd had doctors as compassionate as her. So many of them could take a lesson from her in listening and really hearing and considering what it all means in a greater context. I'm in awe of how she does that. What an incredible person and practitioner she is. And there were parts of this that were absolutely 5-star material, but sometimes it felt that the lessons she learns or applies after each ER incident were shoehorned in a ...more
Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance
“Brokenness can be a remarkable gift. If we allow it, it can expand our space to transform - this potential space that is slight, humble, and unassuming. It may seem counterintuitive to claim the benefits of having been broken, but it is precisely when cracks appear in the bedrock of what we thought we knew that the gravity of what has fallen away becomes evident. When that bedrock is blown up by illness, a death, a breakup, a breakdown of any kind, we get the chance to look beyond the rubble to ...more
Jul 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This is one of the few books recently that I’ve been compelled to read in one sitting (and one of very, very few that I feel compelled to review instead of just rating). Harper has a stunning way of using story to expose brokenness - be it systemic racism, sexism in the workplace, or illness and pain in our fellow humans. But, true to her calling, she invites healing into those spaces and beckons readers forward into change and growth. “The Beauty in Breaking” will stick with me for a long time.
Julie Ann Mingi
Aug 08, 2020 rated it really liked it
During the time where we learn to appreciate healthcare workers more, I figured I have to read this memoir by an emergency room physician, aside from it being the July Book of the Month.

Michelle Harper is a great writer and doctor, no need to mention that. I was eager to know glimpses of her everyday life in the ER. And after what she has been through, the trauma of witnessing your father abusing your family without remorse is just devastating, and to go through divorce and accept the fact that
Jan 29, 2020 rated it really liked it
Michele believes in life having purpose; and through her career as a doctor, she is able to find life lessons in many of her patients' outcomes and outlooks on life. This book is a glimpse into the way Michele has used consistent reflection about her work and personal life choices to help positively guide and drive her through life's road map, and inspires others to do so as well. Even when dealt a bad hand, Michele tries to demonstrate how to learn from those experiences, and not have them defi ...more
Aug 04, 2020 rated it it was ok
If The Beauty in Breaking had ended after the introduction it would have been 5 stars..

I enjoyed the first few chapters where Michele was growing up and finding her calling. The next several chapters were a strange mix of self-pity and self-lauding that had me rolling my eyes and grumbling. The final few chapters degraded into episodes of Grey's Anatomy (without the sexy coworkers) complete with a problem, two patients who demonstrated varying ways to handle the problem, and a compact little lif
Barbara Powell
Aug 29, 2020 rated it liked it
This was an interesting read. An ER physician tells stories of her patients and how she connects them to her own life and situations. It was very factual and clinical but at the same time she discussed yoga, meditation and other non-medicinal ways to work on ourselves through the course of life. I wanted to like it more than I did, but it was still worth the read.
Kylie Martinez
Aug 11, 2020 rated it liked it
After reading some truly remarkable memoirs in the last year (Becoming, Educated, Know My Name, and Untamed), I was less than enamored with this book.

While it was easy to read, halfway through I started to grow bored. And then, because I was bored, I started to nitpick. Like, does anyone really ever refer to their doctors as “Doc?” Or was that her way of reminding me every other sentence that she was a doctor? Do that many people pronounce ‘nothing’ as nuthin’? Where did this Colin guy come in?
Tiffani Long
Jul 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2020
Holy moly.... I devoured this book in a day. This was my July Book of the Month pick and I'm SO GLAD I stepped outside my normal genres (see! This is why I love Book of the Month...I pick titles I normally wouldn't even consider. I can send anyone a link to join for a discount...just comment below!) Anyway. This is the memoir of a female ER doctor who tells through each chapter a unique story of patients she's treated, and really how she herself has been healed from her traumatic, abusive childh ...more
Jul 07, 2020 rated it it was ok
I was on the fence about this book simply because medical drama doesn’t necessarily interest me, but I also read that the author herself had a rough upbringing and was on the mend in this memoir. I wanted more of the latter, but this book was much more about the former. While the author did weave aspects of her life into this memoir it was more about different cases she experienced. Then she would wrap it up nicely with a little lesson at the end of each chapter. Often times the medical cases wo ...more
Jul 23, 2020 rated it did not like it
I could not finish this book. She is too arrogant and political for me.
Monica Kim: Reader in Emerald City
This devastation is a crossroads with a choice; to remain in the ashes or to forge ahead unburdened. Here is the chance to mold into a new nakedness, strengthened by the legacy of resilience to climb over the debris toward a different life. — Michele Harper, The Beauty in Breaking: A Memoir
I thought of this book for DAYS after I was finished and wrote several reviews that all got deleted before I started a brand-new review. Dr. Michele Harper’s “The Beauty in Breaking,” one of my July Book of
Jul 26, 2020 rated it liked it
This book read more like a series of short stories. Like many memoirs, it is hard for me to rate someone's personal experiences. Michele Harper explores her personal experiences as an ER doctor--revealing the many systemic issues in medicine. She touches on her own personal backstory, the stories of her patients, and the systemic issues within medicine. There were some chapters that were stronger than others. The structure and flow of it was off for me. Because the memoir touched on several diff ...more
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Anne Lamott, the beloved writer of memoirs including Bird by Bird and Traveling Mercies, once said, “You own everything that happened to you....
60 likes · 22 comments
“Brokenness can be a remarkable gift. If we allow it, it can expand our space to transform - this potential space that is slight, humble, and unassuming. It may seem counterintuitive to claim the benefits of having been broken, but it is precisely when cracks appear in the bedrock of what we thought we knew that the gravity of what has fallen away becomes evident. When that bedrock is blown up by illness, a death, a breakup, a breakdown of any kind, we get the chance to look beyond the rubble to see a whole new way of life. The landscape that had been previously obscured by the towers of what we thought we knew for sure is suddenly revealed, showing us the limitations of the way things used to be.” 11 likes
“God breaks the heart again and again and again until it stays open.” 6 likes
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