Breaking Night – A Book Sampling

BreakBreaking Nighting Night by Liz Murray. Fiction.

This is a memoir of survival and forgiveness and journeying from homeless to Harvard.

It is remarkable what some children live through. Lizzy grew up in the Bronx and somehow survived her parents’ drug addiction and what that meant for her – being a caretaker at a young age, constantly being dirty and hungry, and being teased at school about her lice-infested hair. Her family fell apart when she was 13 and she dropped out of school and lived on the streets. It is a miracle she was not raped or mugged or anything worse as she slept at various friends’ houses, in cheap motels and stair landings, and on the subway and rooftops.

The story is quite detailed, almost day-to-day, from preschool to age 20 or so. It provides a good picture of the life of a “clean” homeless teen. Most of the writing is straightforward and not lyrical and flowery. A few passages, toward the end of the story, especially, stuck with me.

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I was inspired by a question that kept repeating itself in my mind:  Could I really change my life? I’d spent so many days, weeks, months, and years thinking about doing things with my life, and now I wanted to know, if I committed to a goal and woke up every single day working at it, could I change my life?

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I had to study while also learning how to study. I wrote an essay… while learning about essay writing, and while learning how to type, all at once. I did so by tapping a single button at a time, frustrating myself with countless mistakes, messing up and starting again and again and again.

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This was the environment in which I finally came to my education, the environment in which I knew I could no longer lie in bed and give up. How could I pull the blanket back over my head when I knew my teachers were waiting for me? When they were willing to work so hard, how could I not do the same?

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It’s not that I never stole again, because truthfully, I did. But that day was the beginning of my never stealing again, and it was the start of a long process of me understanding that I was not, in fact, an island unto myself.

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This author, the person who really lived this life, seems to have no regrets. She’s forgiven her parents, holds no ill will for her neighborhood and how she grew up, and realizes in hindsight that most of her teachers were there for her, in some way or another or often in many ways. She shows us a plane of America with which most readers won’t be familiar, not just the horrible aspects of it, but the good as well.

 

The Road – A Book Sampling

The Road

The Road by Cormac  McCarthy. Fiction.

This is a postapocalyptic love story between a father and his son. The two walk alone through a burned-up America, always on the lookout and hiding from the bad people, the people who eat other humans because everyone is starving.

The story is written quite simply, with minimal conversation, so minimal that no quotations marks are needed. But each spoken word holds great import.

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Will you tell him goodbye?

No. I will not.

Just wait till morning. Please.

I have to go. She had already stood up.

For the love of God, woman. What am I to tell him?

I can’t help you.

Where are you going to go? You can’t even see.

I don’t have to.

He stood up. I’m begging you, he said.

No. I will not. I cannot.

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The boy stood up and got his broom and put it over his shoulder. He looked at his father. What are our long term goals? he said.

What?

Our long term goals.

Where did you hear that?

I don’t know.

No. Where did you?

You said it.

When?

A long time ago.

What was the answer?

I don’t know.

Well. I don’t either. Come on. It’s getting dark.

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When he woke the fire had burned down and it was very cold. The boy was sitting up wrapped in his blanket.

What is it?

Nothing. I had a bad dream.

What did you dream about?

Nothing.

Are you okay?

No.

He put his arms around him and held him. It’s okay, he said.

I was crying. But you didn’t wake up.

I’m sorry. I was just so tired.

I meant in the dream.

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Scene after scene in this book is the same. Walking down the road, looking for something–anything save other human beings–to eat. Trying to stay warm. Dry. Hidden. Always on the move. The relationship between father and son the only hope in the novel, the only thing keeping either of them from lying down to just die. The story is despairing, tragic, hopeless, haunting, yet impossible to stop reading. What will become of these two good souls left to survive in a now horrible world?

Labor Day

A quick summary of a book I highly recommend:Labor Day

Labor Day by Joyce Maynard. Fiction. Everything changes for Henry, a lonely, friendless 13-year-old who lives with just his emotionally fragile, divorced mother, when a mysterious bleeding man named Frank–an escaped convict–asks for a hand and ends up coming home with them. Over the next five days, Henry will learn some of life’s most valuable lessons, about the pain of jealousy, the power of betrayal, and the importance of putting those we care about above ourselves—and that real love is worth waiting for. This is a quick read (young adult, I believe) and one of my all-time favorite books.

A House in the Sky

A quick summary of a book I highly recommend:house in the sky

A House in the Sky by Amanda Lindhout. Nonfiction. The author’s curiosity and desire to understand the world resulted in travels to the world’s most beautiful, remote, and, eventually, dangerous places. She was kidnapped and held captive in Somalia for 460 days. This is the tale of her harrowing experience and what she learned – about Islam, suffering, forgiveness, and grace.