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'Breaking Night' by Liz Murray - Book Review

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Breaking Night by Liz Murray

Breaking Night by Liz Murray


The Bottom Line

Breaking Night by Liz Murray is a firsthand look into the world of inner-city poverty. Born to drug-addicted, mentally ill parents, Liz grew up largely neglected. More than a memoir, Breaking Night is an eye-opening account of the realities of poverty and drug use in our cities, what it does to children, and how difficult it is to break the cycle, to somehow overcome the lack of options that defines poverty. Liz's is a heartbreaking but unique tale that will stick with you.


  • Gripping true story of a segment of society you may not be familiar with
  • Liz recounts her immensely under-privileged life without a trace of bitterness


  • The length makes reading it quite a commitment and at times the story seems unnecessarily drawn out
  • It's not clear how Murray changes her mindset so dramatically; this left me disaffected near the end


  • 'Breaking Night' by Liz Murray was published in September 2010
  • Publisher: Hyperion
  • 352 pages

Guide Review - 'Breaking Night' by Liz Murray - Book Review

Liz spent her childhood cold and filthy, her stomach often burning from hunger, watching her parents spend their welfare check on drugs. At age 9, she started pumping gas and bagging groceries for tips so she could buy food. With no rules or routines, she stayed up until the sky grew light and very rarely went to school, which eventually earned her a stay at a group home for troubled girls. By 15, she was living on the streets with friends, frequently hungry, sleeping wherever she could. Shortly after her mom's death, she decided there had to be a way to change her situation. She enrolled in high school, completed it while homeless, and was eventually accepted to Harvard.

For a middle-class person not intimately familiar with the day-to-day life of families living in poverty compounded by the issues of drug abuse and mental illness, Breaking Night is truly an eye-opener. Since Murray and I were born in the same year, I felt a connection to her. As I read what her life was like at 4, 9, 12, and 16, I was both fascinated and heartbroken to realize how starkly different it was from mine.

Though a heavyhearted story, Murray writes in an engaging way void of self-pity. She's tender in depicting her parents, saying they couldn't give her what they didn't have. Her unconditional love for them is as inspiring as it is surprising. Breaking Night is an important, inspirational read that might even spur you to action.

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