Monday, September 20, 2010

Breaking Night by Liz Murray

Breaking Night: 
Urban slang for staying up 
through the night until the sun rises.

Breaking Night by Liz Murray is rightly being compared to Jeannette Walls gripping account of her rise out of poverty in The Glass Castle.  Both memoirs feature a harrowing tale of a childhood in hell, and how each woman manages to pull herself up out of despair and create a life for themselves.

Even though these tales are similar, Breaking Night does feel new and fresh and original as Liz Murray does a great job of telling her own very authentic tale.

Recently, I read a memoir writing book that cautioned the writer never to  paint oneself as a victim. It is more important to tell your story with regard to your own truth, but never let it devolve into self-pity. Liz Murray has painted herself as an authentic believable human who has overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles  in rising from living on the streets and rejecting all formal schooling, to finishing school and being accepted at Harvard.  One of the most touching scenes I have ever read comes after a newspaper story of her is printed, men and women from all over the country come to her and offer to help.  A wall she had built for herself between us and them came toppling down.  She could not believe the generosity of people who she had never even met.

Equally as touching are the scenes she paints with her mother.  Even though her mother was an addict and refused to care for her children in any of the ways that we have come to regard as normal parenting, Liz loves her mother.  Liz's mom, in her own screwed up way, loves her right back. I loved that I always understood that.  As a reader, I never hated her parents, even though plenty of people probably should.  

Just as The Glass Castle kept me turning pages so did Breaking Night.  Don't be fooled into thinking this is the same story though. It is very different and very much worth the read.  Liz Murray has gone on to become a motivational speaker and owns a company which encourages people to be all they can be.  An important message for any of us.

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