Barbara Bryant's Reviews > Breaking Night: A Memoir of Forgiveness, Survival, and My Journey from Homeless to Harvard

Breaking Night by Liz Murray
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's review
Mar 05, 2011

liked it

I never read books that advertise on the jacket that they are "inspiring". I loathe these books. Still, I liked the colors on the cover and the pages I flipped through had an interesting snippet of story, so I brought the book home. It had neither stunning writing nor a story that could keep me captivated all the time; still, the book read most of the time like a rather thrilling novel, and the long looks into aspects of Liz Murray's life were enlightening. You know the end before you start the book--she goes "from homeless to Harvard--there is little other reason to pick it up unless you, like a patron of mine at my library, love books about "dysfunctional families". There is plenty of dysfunction here. Where I let myself sink into it a bit there was sadness and awe at the depths to which this family could sink--I was fascinated and disgusted.

I was interested in the tools and tricks learned to stay alive, stay somewhat fed and rested occasionally, and the details, if true, are amazing when you see the picture of the lovely, well-dressed and beautifully white-toothed woman on the dust jacket. I know from the story that she rarely saw a toothbrush, hairbrush, food, clean clothing or even a bath. Her choices are dismaying though probably not surprising throughout the book, and it is easy to be discouraged by the course she is taking. The truly rewarding realization is her discovery of another world she has known nothing about, a world where there is a NY Times, where there are nice houses and people sleep on real beds and have bountiful food and money in their pockets. This I could relate to in some way. I was delighted along with her.

This is a fairy tale with a fairy tale ending--you will wonder how she got so far, you may be a bit envious of a strength you suspect you might lack and you will wish her well. You will respond with surprise to the number of her friends and the powerful uplift offered by them. You will also wonder about a few details that seem to be missing and think that perhaps the book should have been about her sister, who managed to stay in school, stay in the home, and also go to college. I don't regret at all reading this book and would recommend it if I thought the reader could tolerate distress and mixed feelings well. A good tale.

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