Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Beauty in Breaking” as Want to Read:
The Beauty in Breaking
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Beauty in Breaking

3.83  ·  Rating details ·  23,827 ratings  ·  2,613 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
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Beauty in Breaking, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
This question contains spoilers... (view spoiler)
Jenn Kenn
This answer contains spoilers… (view spoiler)

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.83  · 
Rating details
 ·  23,827 ratings  ·  2,613 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of The Beauty in Breaking
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
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
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
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
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
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: non-fiction, 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
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: kindle, library
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.
Hilly ♡
Jul 01, 2021 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Reading this book almost felt like watching a Grey’s Anatomy episode! I really enjoyed reading about Michelle Harper’s experience as a physician, now I kind of want to work in the ER myself.

Being a healer is the powerful gift of bearing witness in an authentic way that allows us to mindfully choose who we are.

(an advice I will hold close to my heart)

It’s super interesting how Michelle intertwined her personal life with her professional life. This book offers a mixture of both and it never g
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
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.
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.
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
Nov 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Review in the making
Traci Thomas
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
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.
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
Jul 23, 2020 rated it did not like it
I could not finish this book. She is too arrogant and political for me.
Kara Ayers
Jul 29, 2020 rated it it was ok
Shelves: medical-ethics
I rarely dislike a book that I finished but the tone of this author throughout this book felt preachy and arrogant. To be fair, I'm triggered by uncaring doctors who apply their biases to making clinical decisions. It's something I've encountered in my personal life as a disabled woman and something I research professionally as a reason that health inequities persist. Throughout the book Dr. Harper advises us of her wisdom in the intuition she believes to have about people. Through the addition ...more
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
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.
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
Sep 14, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Dr Michelle Harper is a Harvard educated ER doctor who has written this memoir about how serving others has helped heal herself. Among obstacles she faced are being an African American woman in a mostly white patriarchal system, coming up in a house where her father abused her mother, and having her husband of 12 years ask for a divorce just as she was finally ready to start her career.
Finding herself badly broken she pours her heart and soul into her career and learns to both rebuild her life
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
I found this book really interesting. Michelle Harper grew up with an abusive father, yet in her family no one was allowed to talk about it. Outwardly, she is doing very well, she meets her husband at Harvard, but right when she is about to graduate medical school, her marriage falls apart. Yet, she is so busy, she doesn’t even cry or reflect on it.

Then she starts working as an Emergency Room doctor. She starts to really listen to her patients stories. They too are vulnerable and broken in some
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
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?
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »

Readers also enjoyed

  • Pet
  • 82년생 김지영
  • Rick Steves Scotland
  • Rick Steves England
  • Real Life
  • neckbone: visual verses
  • The Care and Feeding of Ravenously Hungry Girls
  • Sergeant Billy: The True Story of the Goat Who Went to War
  • Lies Across America: What Our Historic Sites Get Wrong
  • Tokyo Ueno Station
  • Knitting Rules!: The Yarn Harlot Unravels the Mysteries of Swatching, Stashing, Ribbing & Rolling to Free Your Inner Knitter
  • Hitting a Straight Lick with a Crooked Stick: Stories from the Harlem Renaissance
  • You (You, #1)
  • In My Own Moccasins: A Memoir of Resilience
  • Song of Solomon
  • Clean: The New Science of Skin
  • Written in My Own Heart's Blood (Outlander, #8)
  • An Echo in the Bone (Outlander, #7)
See similar books…
See top shelves…

Articles featuring this book

Anne Lamott, the beloved writer of memoirs including Bird by Bird and Traveling Mercies, once said, “You own everything that happened to you....
65 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.” 15 likes
“A human being can never treat another person better than he treats himself.” 10 likes
More quotes…