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Breaking Night: A Memoir of Forgiveness, Survival, and My Journey from Homeless to Harvard

4.2  ·  Rating details ·  14,389 Ratings  ·  1,965 Reviews
In the vein of The Glass Castle, Breaking Night is the stunning memoir of a young woman who at age fifteen was living on the streets, and who eventually made it into Harvard.

Liz Murray was born to loving but drug-addicted parents in the Bronx. In school she was taunted for her dirty clothing and lice-infested hair, eventually skipping so many classes that she was put into
...more
Hardcover, Large Print, 653 pages
Published January 5th 2011 by Thorndike Press (first published January 1st 2010)
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Popular Answered Questions

Lilly I love this book too! Here are more memoirs you might like:
1. Angela's Ashes(by Frank McCourt)
2. Another Place at the Table(Kathy Harrison)
3.…more
I love this book too! Here are more memoirs you might like:
1. Angela's Ashes(by Frank McCourt)
2. Another Place at the Table(Kathy Harrison)
3. Blackbird(by Jennifer Lauren)
4. A Child Called It(by Dave Pelzer)
5. A Long Way Gone(by Ishmael Beah)
6. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings(by Maya Angelou)
7. Three Little Words(by Ashley Rhodes-Courter)
ENJOY!!!(less)
This question contains spoilers… (view spoiler)
Nancy I think the case workers mean well but are generally overwhelmed. They are trying to do their jobs but Liz is able to manipulate them for quite…moreI think the case workers mean well but are generally overwhelmed. They are trying to do their jobs but Liz is able to manipulate them for quite awhile. In the group home Liz eventually goes to, the home supervisor is a tough woman who runs a tight ship but she isn't mean. More people should have watching out for Liz, she definitely fell through the cracks, but clearly she wasn't your average homeless teen at 15. She is very smart, incredibly lucky not to have encountered worse situations and ultimately rewarded for all her hard work and comittment.(less)
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Tania
Nov 13, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is such a sad, yet hopeful, story. Imagine growing up with two addicts for parents, never knowing when you'll get food again, having your mom stealing your birthday money for a hit and always worrying that something will happen to them when they're out scoring drugs. And Liz was lucky, she at least had parents who loved her.

There were so many things in Breaking Night that got to me. When she was little she tried to do whatever would make them happy. She was the perfect daughter, even suppo
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Caroline
***ALL SPOILERS IN THIS REVIEW ARE HIDDEN***

The summary here and on its dust jacket describes Breaking Night as “in the vein of The Glass Castle.” For those considering reading Breaking Night because of this comparison, know that in a few ways it is apt. Both memoirs are shocking rags-to-riches tales about women who grew up destitute with physically neglectful but kind parents. Both women worked very hard to overcome great odds. Both stories are captivating page-turners. Although it’s common for
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Donna
I'm of two minds concerning this book. On the one hand, I found it to be a compelling and inspirational memoir of a woman who succeeded in life, against all odds. But on the other hand, the over abundance of minute details in the beginning, which worked to engage me at first, also left me numb from the bombardment. And the glossing over of details later on, when she was a teenager and homeless, brought me some much needed relief, but also left me feeling distanced from Liz, her story losing grou ...more
Brenda
Nov 30, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
There are so many thoughts running through my head after finishing this book. Liz Murray was raised by parents who were addicted to drugs. They loved Liz and her sister, but their need for drugs trumped everything in their lives, including providing for the basic needs of their daughters. Through hard work, determination, hope and the help of others, both girls are able to break the cycle and move on with their lives. At the age of 14, Liz decides it is better to be homeless than stay in her cur ...more
Tonya
Nov 05, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Having been told that this was the next Glass Castle, I was really excited to read it and from the opening it was a relentless, shocking, brilliant book.

The pace was fast, the writing beautiful and the story line became a page-turner. I couldn't get enough. Then about two thirds into the book, Murray starts gushing thanks and apologies like she's using the memoir as a therapeutic tool rather than a book. She bangs on, nauseatingly, about sleeping rough, (we got it the 448th time Liz). Then she
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Cori
Nov 22, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I wrote about Liz Murray when I first heard her interviewed on NPR, and I really wanted to read her memoir. It did not disappoint! I spent a lovely rainy weekend up at a cabin, and sat around reading Liz’s survival story all day, taking in all that she went through and how she overcame such incredible odds to “make it” in the world. Her writing was accessible and beautiful and gritty. Some of it was hard to read — I felt very protective of her and I found I just wanted to make everything OK. So ...more
Wendy Hall
Feb 06, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wow. What a powerful book. I so appreciate Liz Murray writing this deeply personal, intimate book of a childhood full of struggles, neglect, and abuse. Yet she found love there and in the midst of her raw hurt, she was able to rise above her circumstances and be a productive, successful member of society. An incredible story.

This book did for me what I longed for "The Glass Castle" to do - show the link between the awful childhood and the successful adult. She took the reader step by step throug
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Eslam Mohammed
Liz Murray's memoir so simply and profoundly impressed me,and no question while reading it or watching the TV movie based upon i was burst into tears...

it teaches without the preacher's voice tone,uncovers the essence of human nature and conflict within this life,and i think it inspired and still many of those who are believing in themselves & in their dreams whatever may be their circumferences of living,EVEN IF THEY ARE HOMELESS...
Lisa Vegan
Jun 11, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: all adults and teens
This memoir is truly amazing, especially as it pertains to showing the obstacles its author overcame; she has amazing resilience and she’s incredibly inspiring. This paperback edition includes discussion questions and an interview with the author, and they make this a good edition to read, especially if the book will be discussed with other readers. I’d love to see this assigned at alternative high schools similar to the one Liz graduated from, and to all high school students.

This book is beauti
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Mary Sue
Aug 27, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is truly an amazing and inspirational story. One that I will never forget. Liz's story proves that we are in control of our own lives and our destiny. Her story is definitely heartwrenching as she tells us of her life growing up in a rat infested, filthy NY apartment with her older sister and her drug addicted mentally ill parents. Her parents, who blew through their welfare check each month on drugs and liquor leaving her and her older sister with nothing. I was amazed how she always loved ...more
Christa
Nov 20, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites, memoir
Wow, this was one incredible read--and it's really hard to believe that it's not fiction.

I had heard of Liz Murray before--who can forget the catchy tagline "from homeless to Harvard?"--but I hadn't really read anything about her or seen the Lifetime movie about her story. So when I saw my library had this book, I was excited to give it a shot.

The book really reads like a novel. It's very fast-paced, and it doesn't get bogged down with too much "explanation" like a lot of memoirs do (the telling
...more
Reese
Jun 03, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Liz Murray's journey from hell to Harvard & beyond is extraordinary (understatement), but her memoir is not. Granted, my assessment of Murray's book was affected by memories of gripping works by other authors who have managed to emerge intact from childhood experiences that "should" have destroyed their minds, bodies, and spirits. Remembering The Glass Castle, The Liars' Club, The End of the World as We Know It, Angela's Ashes, I expect "rags-to-[metaphorical or actual] riches" stories to cl ...more
K
A goodreads friend recently asked me about my antipathy toward The Glass Castle, and I couldn't for the life of me remember why I gave it only one star. I think there were some contextual factors at play in my own life at the time. I remember thinking it was hard to believe, and that I wished Jeannette Walls had shared more about how she transitioned from a horrific situation into her current apparently normal one, issues I had with this book as well. I can't really figure out why some rags-to-r ...more
Heidi
Apr 14, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is one of those books that made me count my blessings. Liz was born to parents who loved her but were unreliable drug addicts. They tried to be good parents, but their own needs came first. And second. And third. Liz grew up not knowing when she would eat her next meal, never having clean clothes, and living in a filthy apartment where even basic maintenance wasn't carried out. Eventually her family fell apart and, as the title suggests, Liz became homeless.

What could have been a very depre
...more
Andrea Tom�
Mar 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What I'm going to say I can say of very few books indeed, but here it goes: Breaking night has changed my life; it has made me a kinder, braver, fiercer person, and I will forever be grateful to Liz Murray for writing it.
Jason Pellegrini
Apr 08, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's hard to believe that people actually go through this stuff. Sometimes I have to remind myself that I'm reading a memoir and not a piece of fiction; pulling up from the depths of somebody's imagination. Then the reminder that it is all real makes the story that much better!

Breaking Night is truly an unbelievable story, but yet it is the truth. The author's battle to escape the circumstances in which she was born in to and raised in is truly an amazing tale. Then once she decides what she wa
...more
Sonja Arlow
Jan 28, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Sonja by: Tania
This book broke my heart!

Not only did it shatter me to read about a 4 year old who sees her parents shooting up drugs in the kitchen on a daily basis, having a mother that would steal her birthday money and squander all the welfare money just to score.

What was even more upsetting is that these seemingly uncaring parents really loved their children. Its clear in all their interactions with their kids but their drug habits and the grip that their addiction had on them were just too much to fight.
...more
Reindert Van Zwaal
Less than I expected. although the story is heartbreaking, it didn't touch me...
Camille
Sep 12, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: book-group, memoir
(March book club selection) I was really inspired by Liz Murray and what she's been able to make of her life after being raised in such difficult circumstances. The bulk of the book is spent describing her childhood and teenage years, and they are admittedly not easy to read about. Her parents were both drug addicts and not able to provide any kind of a normal childhood for Liz and her older sister. It gave me a profound sympathy for children raised in dysfunctional homes and a better understand ...more
Caitlin Tyo
May 05, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Sigh. It's been devoured. My brain is spinning as I think of what to write for this review. Honestly, this was one of the best biographies I have ever read. This is the most incredible story of a person who has so much stacked against her, yet accomplishes so much. It's the story of Liz. Her childhood is FUCKED and her parents are heavy drug addicts, who mean well but are constantly in and out of her life only waiting to get the next high. She has a sister who knows what is happening to her is w ...more
Judith
Jan 10, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I am probably the last person in America to hear this inspiring true story, since it was featured on 20/20 and some kind of movie was made of it as well. I was thinking that the subtitle "From homeless to Harvard" basically said it all, so I wasn't expecting any suspense. Even though I knew from the title how it would turn out, the book was gripping and full of adventure(?). I was also erroneously thinking that the story would be of a middle class person whose parents were affected by the recess ...more
Alisha Marie
I remember seeing the movie Homeless to Harvard on the day it premiered in Lifetime when I was about 15. I found the film incredibly inspiring. The book...not so much. Well, that's not necessarily true. I found it inspiring once Liz started getting her act together, but before then I was just baffled at the choices Liz made. The movie made Liz seem more sympathetic than she actually was.

In Homeless to Harvard, the reason that Liz didn't go to school was because she didn't feel right in leaving h
...more
Lyn
Jun 01, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The triumph of Liz' life made it worth reading all the other difficulties she experienced. Her journey was about being raised in a home where her parents' main focus was on where their next high was coming from and advanced to being homeless then arrived to her hope for acceptance to Harvard. She was candidly honest in the accounting of her life and articulate in the retelling of the experiences as well as her feelings towards what was happening to her. Particularly well developed insights into ...more
Jaksen
Apr 10, 2016 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Can't finish it. The same thing over and over. It's not the content; it's the unremitting, unendingness of it. Dirt and filth. Hunger and squalor. Drugs, drugs, drugs. Dirt and filth. Hunger and squalor. Drugs, drugs, drugs. Really, just beat me over the head with this, why dontcha.

Initially I gave it no rating, but realizing how far I did get I can certainly offer one star. NOT for content. Good God, no, this kind of memoir needs to be written and read. But this one is so unremittingly the sam
...more
Tatyana Naumova
Очень позитивное чтение о том, как перестать бомжевать и поступить в Гарвард.
Inaniel
Apr 01, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Impressive and haunting.
Ruth Turner

This is really quite a remarkable story, and well worth reading.

Aisulu
Apr 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fav
“Instead, what I was beginning to understand was that however things unfolded from here on, whatever the next chapter was, my life could never be the sum of one circumstance. It would be determined, as it had always been, by my willingness to put one foot in front of the other, moving forward, come what may.”
This is so touching and inspiring story, full of descriptions of cruel reality. In some moments it reminded me "Glass Castle", well, at least while descriptiong hard childhood times. I shou
...more
Nancy
Aug 23, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
About the book: Liz Murray was born to loving but drug-addicted parents in the Bronx. In school she was taunted for her dirty clothing and lice-infested hair, eventually skipping so many classes that she was put into a girls' home. At age fifteen, Liz found herself on the streets when her family finally unraveled. She learned to scrape by, foraging for food and riding subways all night to have a warm place to sleep.

When Liz's mother died of AIDS, she decided to take control of her own destiny an
...more
Heather
Feb 24, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Liz Murray does an exceptional job making the beginnings of her life's story into something the reader can see, feel, and understand while not feeling hate towards the people who contributed to it. I would have expected to finish the book railing against the family that for all intents and purposes abandoned her before she ever became homeless, but she has made her peace with them, and it comes through. Yet she's not completely detached when recounting it, just manages to make you see how it was ...more
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Liz Murray completed high school and won a New York Times scholarship while homeless, and graduated from Harvard University in 2009. She has been awarded The White House Project Role Model Award, a Christopher Award, as well as the Chutzpah Award, which was given to Liz by Oprah Winfrey. Lifetime Television produced a film about Liz’s life, Homeless to Harvard: The Liz Murray Story. Today, she tra ...more
More about Liz Murray...
“Instead, what I was beginning to understand was that however things unfolded from here on, whatever the next chapter was, my life could never be the sum of one circumstance. It would be determined, as it had always been, by my willingness to put one foot in front of the other, moving forward, come what may.” 82 likes
“In the years ahead of me, I learned that the world is actually filled with people ready to tell you how likely something is, and what it means to be realistic. But what I have also learned is that no one, no one truly knows what is possible until they go and do it.” 71 likes
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