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Monday, August 20, 2012

Book Review: Breaking Night

I stayed up late reading Liz Murray's Breaking Night. I was as addicted to reading the book as Liz's parents were to drugs.

Breaking Night is Liz Murray's memoir and a story of survival.  Liz is born in the 1980's of drug addicted parents in the Bronx. She goes from being a true child of poverty and neglect, to a homeless high school drop out, to a Harvard graduate and a best selling author within the span of 20 some years. Pretty amazing.

In many ways, Breaking Night is the modern, urban ,version of The Glass Castle Both are stories of breaking a cycle of poverty, addictions and mental illness.  Both are stories of amazing successes and "breaking out" in incredible ways.  Both authors end up with lives so very different than what their roots would have suggested.

Both these authors break out of the family cycle without anger it seems.  It doesn't seem to be bitterness that drives them. Neither Jeannette Walls, nor Liz Murray seem driven by the need to prove anything or get back at someone. They just have the vision of a life different than where they come from.  And that's exactly where they both end up.

Liz Murray at no time seems bitter towards her parents. They don't provide for her. They don't make sure she has even the basics, like food, clothing and shelter.  They buy drugs instead of food, they shoot up in front of her.  She is shielded from nothing and protected from nothing. And yet, Liz Murray feels loved by both her parents.  It seems as though Liz knows they "would if they could but they can't".  She grows up somehow knowing her parents totally and completely love her without it being expressed in the outwardly material ways most of us take for granted. Love does not come to Liz in the form of a hot meal, or a warm bath, or books, toys and clean clothes. Her parents don't even particularly try to provide these things for her. But love is something much deeper and profound and ever present. And, it seems to me that Liz, like Jeannette, survives and thrives because somehow she understands she is loved and she therefore loves herself. Both Murray and Walls grow up understanding they don't need anyone else to fill in the material gaps- they figure out ways to do that themselves because deep down they understand they are worthy. In my opinion, that confidence is possible when you know you are loved. Perhaps when you choose to understand you are loved. Hmm...

I found some pretty profound and enlightening ideas in this book, especially towards the end.  I imagine most people would find something in the book that resonates with them, maybe inspires them, and I doubt they are the same for everyone.  At one point Liz realizes that:
"what I did from this moment on didn't have to depend on what I had done before"
Wow.  That sentence jumped right out at me and I think in many ways it's the essence of the whole book. What I do from this moment on doesn't depend on what I did before... I like that!

Liz Murray also has some interesting visualizations that help her get from homeless to Harvard. Some of these are also in the book.  At one point she talks about imagining her life like a race on a track.  She isn't racing against anyone else and not worried about what others are doing beside her. She's in her own lane. And along the way ,hurdles are strategically placed that she has to jump over.  They aren't there to trip her up, or block her, in fact, they keep her confident in the knowledge that she is in her lane. Jumping the hurdles just means she's on track, focused and in her lane, moving toward her goal with confidence. I like that too!

Liz Murray is by no means "done".  She is now moving to help others succeed and realize their goals, change their patterns.  She has found her life purpose, her passion,  and her inspiration.  She has a website at that is worth a look.  She's helping other urban kids find their way as well and supporting them in the way they really need to be supported because it comes from the heart.

In a time when everyone is talking about changes and shifts, and fast paced movement, Liz Murray's book seems very timely.  It's a story about embracing change and shifting out of obvious patterns to find your true joy.  I like that!

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