Customer Reviews


640 Reviews
5 star:
 (508)
4 star:
 (102)
3 star:
 (22)
2 star:
 (4)
1 star:
 (4)
 
 
 
 
 
Average Customer Review
Share your thoughts with other customers
Create your own review
 
 

The most helpful favorable review
The most helpful critical review


117 of 119 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Sins Of The Parents and Their Parents
In an unusual transition, this true story went from a made-for-TV in 2004 to an enthralling memoir in 2010. "Homeless to Harvard" was the descriptive title of the movie and it is incorporated into the book title. Liz Murray's grandfathers were abusive alcohols who made the streets seem safer than home. The parents of Liz Murray were baby-boomers who grew up in the '60's...
Published on September 11, 2010 by C. Hutton

versus
38 of 45 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Nice to read about the people who helped...
This book clearly illustrates how children need good role models.
During the first 2/3 of the book Liz herself makes bad choices. One after another as she finds it easier to survive by dropping out. Her life is horrible and she has no reason to believe it will ever be anything else. It is hard to blame a child who is hungry, dirty and no has support for failing...
Published on November 8, 2010 by book worm


‹ Previous | 1 264 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

117 of 119 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Sins Of The Parents and Their Parents, September 11, 2010
In an unusual transition, this true story went from a made-for-TV in 2004 to an enthralling memoir in 2010. "Homeless to Harvard" was the descriptive title of the movie and it is incorporated into the book title. Liz Murray's grandfathers were abusive alcohols who made the streets seem safer than home. The parents of Liz Murray were baby-boomers who grew up in the '60's and were drug addicts in the '70's. It was Liz Murray who has broken the generational pattern of violence, of substance abuse and of homelessness. She is all of thirty now.

This autobiography is a can't-put-down page turner describing the crazy life of having indiscriminating drug addicts for parents (all drugs were good, but cocaine was always better). Having worked for many years with children and teenagers with lives similiar to the author, her story rings true with its harrowing details of survival (which seemed normal to her, having nothing else to compare it to). Her prose is simple and straight forward as she describes her journey from darkness to light (hence the title).
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


47 of 48 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book Liz ~, September 10, 2010
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
I have been waiting for this book to come out for a while.
Really enjoyed the movie, but the book has so much more detail about what Liz had to endure on her journey.
It is an amazing story and one that I will never forget.
The book is very well written - you kind of get swept up into her daily life growing up ..
Anything I'm up against in life, it will most likely pale in comparison to what Liz had to deal with on a daily basis as a child - and reading about the hard road she travelled is an inspiration. Thanks Liz ~ !!
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


64 of 68 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Triumph over profound adversity, October 4, 2010
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Breaking Night is gripping story about the child of two chronic drug abusers and how she managed to finally break the cycle of dysfunction that turned her life into a nightmare of hunger and homelessness. Despite the bleakness of her upbringing, Liz Murray, much like Jeannette Walls in The Glass Castle, does not play the victim card. In fact, it's not until she is finally safe in her own apartment and about to enroll in college does Liz allow herself to fully grieve over the way she was raised.

Liz Murray was saved by school. The young girl who hated the institution and became a truant finally realizes at age 17 that the only way for her to improve her circumstances is through getting an education, but arriving at that conclusion was no easy task. Liz and her older sister Lisa were raised in abject poverty in the Bronx. Their parents would routinely leave them alone in their apartment while they were out all night scoring drugs. Their mother Jean was legally blind and received government assistance, but as soon as the monthly checks arrived they would be spent on drugs. The girls were so hungry that they ate mayonnaise sandwiches and cherry Chapstick. But Liz still loved both of her parents and even tried to shield them from Lisa's critcism.

Things go from bad to worse after Liz' mother leaves her father to move in with another man who has a job and lives in a better neighborhood saying that it's the only way that she can stay off drugs. Liz refuses to leave her father and is placed in a group home because of truancy and is later released into the custody of her mother's boyfriend. This marks the beginning of a downward spiral that leads to Liz living on the streets and stealing to survive. Her brief experience in the system was such that she preferred take her chances on the street rather than be treated like less than a person and housed with unstable and mean girls.

Far from some maudlin sob story about a hard knock life, the author relays her story simply and effectively. She talks about the practical implications of being raised by junkies and having to rely on the kindness of friends to meet her basic needs. Liz was often hungry. Her clothing was filthy and raggedy and the kids at school made fun of her because of it it. Liz realized that there would be a point when people tired of helping her and started thinking about her future. She was 17 years old and only had one high school credit and still had no permamnent address, but Liz vowed to graduate from high school rather than just getting a GED in order to give herself more options. One of the biggest lessons she learned from her mother is that when you have no options, you just have to accept what life throws your way. In the case of her HIV positive mother, this meant living with a cruel man who showed her very little compassion in the latter stages of her disease.

The story ends with her about to receive her acceptance letter from Harvard University. She was so anxious about it and was driving herself and her teachers crazy about the decision until a trusted adviser told her that she was going to be okay either way and to give herself a break. The old Liz would have taken this the wrong way, but after two years of hard work, and mentoring she was able to see the truth in those words. Getting to that point was a huge accomplishment and even if she never went to Harvard Liz had made already great strides and was even profiled in The New York Times.

I think this book should be required reading for high school students because it shows not only how easily you can find yourself on the wrong path, but also that it's always possible to start over. This was a truly an inspirational story.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


38 of 45 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Nice to read about the people who helped..., November 8, 2010
By 
This book clearly illustrates how children need good role models.
During the first 2/3 of the book Liz herself makes bad choices. One after another as she finds it easier to survive by dropping out. Her life is horrible and she has no reason to believe it will ever be anything else. It is hard to blame a child who is hungry, dirty and no has support for failing.

It is the last third of the book when Liz somehow summons the courage/determination to finish high school that makes the book worth reading. Finally a few decent people, hard work, some good choices and a great deal of luck give Liz the chance she needs and this becomes an inspirational story.

Her devotion to her parents is perplexing but a very important part of her ability to move forward. She avoids the pity parties and blame game and is able to take advantage of opportunity when it come along. A life witout blame to cloud her thinking is key to her success.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beyond the sheer impressiveness of Liz's accomplishments is the honesty and humility she shows when writing about her experience, October 20, 2010
By 
Bookreporter (New York, New York) - See all my reviews
"For years, maybe for my whole life, it felt as thought there was a brick wall down the middle of everything... On one side of the wall there was society, and on the other side there was me, us, the people in the place I came from. Separate... The feeling in my heart was of the world being divided into an `us' versus `them,' and everyone on the other side of the wall felt like `those people.' The everyday working people on the train, the smart students who raised their hands in class and got everything right, the functional families, the people who went away to college --- they all felt like `those people' to me. And then there were people like us: the dropouts, welfare cases, truants, and discipline problems. Different."

Sure, "tortured souls" memoirs are a dime a dozen these days. The more harrowing the author's story, the more accolades the author gets from the press and the longer the book stays on bestseller lists. Are all of these sagas worth reading? Not by a long shot. It's not to say these writers with unfortunate backgrounds are milking their situations (except, of course, when they are), or that their stories don't deserve to be told (except when the book's purpose seems to be a self-pity party or a PR stunt). But there needs to be some sort of distinction between a run-of-the-mill woe-is-me story and a book that is well-thought out, well-crafted, and well-deserving of respect and praise. Liz Murray's memoir BREAKING NIGHT is an example of the latter.

The now-29-year-old author's story is certainly shocking. As a child growing up in the Bronx, Liz and her older sister, Lisa, ran the household while their drug-addicted parents mainlined cocaine in plain view, breezed through the family's paltry welfare check each month leaving nothing left over for food, and trashed the roach-infested apartment. The fact that the family wasn't evicted is a miracle.

If that doesn't pull at your heartstrings (or at least make you shift uncomfortably in your seat), there's more. Before Liz had even reached puberty, she was molested by one of her mother's "companions." Her mother, Jean, had six schizophrenic bouts in four years, was in and out of mental institutions, and contracted AIDS. Her father continued using and moved into a shelter. And Liz was sent to live in a group home for a short stint while her sister and mother shacked up with a man Jean met at a neighborhood bar.

By the time she was 15, Liz was basically homeless --- crashing at friends' houses after their parents had gone to work, or sleeping under bridges, on the subway, or in stairwells of random apartment buildings. Everything she owned, she carried with her on her back. She barely showered, and stole food wherever and whenever she could.

But despite all of this hardship, Liz rarely shows resentment toward her parents, and this is partly the reason why the book is so powerful. Or maybe it's just the way Liz coped. The descriptions of her mother's illness or the times Jean would come home drunk from the bar ("I'd take my mother and clean her up; help her, naked and vulnerable, into a warm bath; shampoo her hair as clumps of it came out in my hands. Sometimes she'd vomit in the tub and we had to start all over again") are straightforward and factual. But there's a hint of compassion there as well --- and self-awareness. In a letter to Jean after her death, she writes: "People had done that to you all your life, hadn't they? Treated you like something they needed to back away from. Me too." It's clear Liz is working out her demons, but her words are heartfelt and true.

After Jean's death, Liz's life --- and her memoir --- takes a turn for the better. Well, sort of. Her circumstances haven't changed --- she's still homeless, broke and basically parentless --- but she makes a crucial decision: to apply to high school following years of truancy. After aiming to graduate in two years with a straight-A average --- and doing so --- she sets her mind to accomplishing other previously unimaginable goals. She applies for a New York Times college scholarship and gets it. She submits an application to Harvard and is accepted. She rents an apartment with her sister and has a home for the first time in years.

Beyond the sheer impressiveness of Liz's accomplishments is the honesty and humility she shows when writing about her experiences. Nowhere does she gloat or preach. In fact, you get the sense that she's still in shock that any of her successes happened at all: "Had I known how difficult it was supposed to be to interview with Harvard or the New York Times, had anyone told me that these were hard, nearly impossible things to do, then I may have never done them. I didn't know enough about the world to analyze the likelihood of my success." She never fails to give credit where credit is due: to her friends who supported her, to the teachers who gave her a chance, to her parents who loved her despite their faults, and most of all, to herself, for believing that she could beat the odds.

BREAKING NIGHT is, of course, the ultimate story of an underdog --- a have-not --- who triumphs over adversity, thanks to the people who love her and her own will to do what it takes to survive. But it's also full of lessons to be learned, spoken not from the perspective of a Harvard professor, a social worker, or a sociologist, but from a person who has been there. Real questions ("How was it that anyone ended up possessing oddities such as a savings account, a car, or a house they actually owned? Getting and maintaining a job?"), frank observations ("On our side of the wall, priority was given to whatever thing might solve the most immediate problem."), and funny but candid class distinctions ("After all, in the ghetto, by no means do we talk about things like different types of cheese...in the ghetto, we buy one kind of cheese, and that is American.") offer up countless opportunities to think beyond the scope of one person's story, to a broader, more accurate picture of society, its pervasive problems, and hopefully a way forward.

--- Reviewed by Alexis Burling
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hair-raising, tense and ultimately inspiring, September 29, 2010
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Liz Murray takes the reader through a complex and painful journey. Her parents were drug addicts so in a way she brought herself up. Somehow she managed to stay on track, even when she was avoiding school. She didn't get into drugs herself and she didn't get crushed by her situation. Even early on, she made things happen, finding "jobs" in a grocery store and gas station.

The best part of the book comes when Liz realizes she needs to do something with her life. A friend tells her about alternative high schools. Liz somehow finds the energy, courage and persistence to apply to all the alternative high schools in New York. She describes one day when she's ready to give up. She's got enough money left for a pizza or train fare to her next interview. Somehow she gets on the train and that's when her life really turns around. Her high school has dedicated teachers and friendly students. She sets a goal: graduate in two years with straight A's. On a school field trip she adds another goal: go to Harvard.

Somehow she does all those things. Her life is a struggle; she doesn't have a home so she has to study in stairwells and other people's homes. I was exhausted just reading about it. Of course, before we open the book we know the outcome.

Murray's book says more than a dozen self-help inspiration books put together. She walks the talk. She somehow knew that much of success is just showing up. She knew her family wouldn't be there for her so she finds a new family from her high school friends and teachers.

And Murray can write. She evokes scenes and conversations. The last few pages of the book are especially strong.

I'm wondering what's next and what happened to some of the people Murray met along the way, and very glad I got this review copy.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


20 of 24 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Should be shorter, March 29, 2012
By 
Verrine (Baltimore MD) - See all my reviews
Liz Murray is a strong person who had to decide what she wanted for her life without any guidance from adults. It would have been far easier for her to follow her parents into addiction. Instead, without even a consistent place to sleep and no steady source of food, she chose to return to school and excel.

One of my friends followed a similar path. Both her parents were on drugs and didn't care what she did, so she spent most of 10th grade running the streets. Her brother was murdered due to drugs and both her parents also died from drugs. She chose to return to school, then after supporting herself, she went on to community college, then university, and now has a master's degree and is helping young people.

So, the author has a great story. But, she spends 2/3 of the book pounding in the details about her life before deciding to return to school. I think that a good editor would have limited that portion to 1/2 the book (if not 1/3) and also continued into college. I was curious as to how she adjusted to college. How were the students there different from her? Was her academic preparation adequate? How did she decide on a major and a life path? She wouldn't have to go into minute detail, but it would have been more interesting to go beyond high school graduation.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An amazing storyteller!, September 21, 2010
This book is absolutely one of the most enthralling and interesting books I have read in a very long time. The amazing story aside, the language is just so beautiful and moving.
Reading this book was a journey and I didn't want it to end. I'm on my second read now. In a world of inauthentic, pretentious novels and memoirs, this one stands out as being a through and through genuine heartfelt story that just carries you.
Highly recommended
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Family Security Guard, September 27, 2010
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Liz Murray has a new memoir out. In this memoir, the feeling I had throughout was one of dread. Here is this child, on guard, trying to keep her parents safe, herself out of foster care and her home together. She was not even in school yet.

I enjoyed "Breaking Night". Though I was appalled at the parenting, I found myself pulling for this spunky,never-say-die child, while simultaneously scared out of my wits that Liz was going to end up dead.

The book's beginning reminded me of Walls' "Glass Castle" with dysfunctional, free-spirited, druggie parents over whom the children feel they must watch. The check that comes on the first of the month is gone by the second week. . .3% on food and 97% on drugs.

Liz loves her parents. But she would also love to eat, have a clean house, and not live at the whims of social services. She does not love feeling hungry, eating moldy food, feeling physically smelly and dirty, and carrying responsibility for the mess her life has become because her parents do not choose to do so (Her mom is mentally ill, so her mom has more issues than drug abuse).

Things get worse (and more interesting in the book) when Jean (mom) is diagnosed with AIDS. Older now, in her teens, Liz makes some bad decisions about boys and also about her family duties. She finally reaches that very low point that helps her turn her life around. Though she has HATED school all of her life because she doesn't fit in, her teachers feel sorry for her, and her peers hold , suddenly, school seems her only option.

The rest is history. A good book, easy read, well told if repetitive. B+
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Inspiring and Empowering, November 19, 2012
By 
Colleen Messina (New York, NY USA) - See all my reviews
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Breaking Night: A Memoir of Forgiveness, Survival, and My Journey from Homeless to Harvard (Paperback)
Breaking Night is an inspiring & empowering book. Liz Murray's writing is so descriptive and eloquent. I felt I was there with her throughout all of her experiences. Liz's success story stems from the power of forgiveness, compassion and community. Her journey of growing up with drug addicted parents, being homeless in her teenage years, and finally graduating from Harvard, is a true testament that forgiveness and community can shift a person's reality. Liz forgave her parents for not being present in her childhood, and had friends/teachers who supported her during her homeless period. She didn't listen to her thoughts that encouraged her to give up - she kept going for her life, learning respect, diligence and compassion along the way. I feel so enlivened by reading this book. It is beautifully written - a love story about life.

I also recommend Ariel & Shya Kanes' How to Have A Match Made in Heaven. This book is full of true stories of people who find forgiveness, compassion and kindness for themselves. After reading this book, I have found all my relationships (especially my relationship with myself) to be truly magical and full of love. There are also video links included in the book so you can actually see the people you read about!

If you want to experience the success you have dreamed is possible (in all areas of your life), I highly recommend both Liz Murray's and the Kanes' books for your library.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


‹ Previous | 1 264 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

Details

Breaking Night: A Memoir of Forgiveness, Survival, and My Journey from Homeless to Harvard
$16.00
Usually ships in 1 to 3 weeks
Add to cart Add to wishlist
Search these reviews only
Rate and Discover Movies
Send us feedback How can we make Amazon Customer Reviews better for you? Let us know here.