Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Liz Murray, Despair, and Not Giving Up

I usually stick with reviewing indie novels because I know they are the ones in need of attention. However, I'm reviewing a traditional memoir which needs to be read, not because it doesn't already have readers. It does. But Breaking Night has something important to say to every possible reader.

Liz Murray is the child of baby-boomers, drug users who never seemed to have found a drug they didn't like and never had a cocaine high they didn't love. Liz Murray and her sister were also-rans.

Liz and her sister were left alone night after night while their parents scored. Hungry, ragged, taunted at school, yet Liz loved her parents and defended them. When her mother, dying of AIDS, left her father, Liz stayed with him to care for him. Eventually she was placed in a group home so horrific, she preferred the dangers of life on the street in the Bronx.

Amazingly, Liz came to see that an education was her way out of her life of abject misery. At seventeen with one high-school credit, this dropout went back to school and turned her life around to be admitted to Harvard two years later.

Now a book about a life like this could easily be maudlin, nothing more than a sob story. It isn't. It is leanly written and a great read, but that isn't quite why I say everyone should read it.

Liz Murray never gave up. Life was a struggle. Sinking into despair was an obvious route. It was a route she didn't take. I was thinking about her when someone posted on the Writers' Cafe a few days ago asking if other authors ever considered giving up. It's such a struggle. People don't always love us, they often don't. We don't always make much money. We're not valued unless we're on that best seller list.

It's so darn easy in life to give up our dreams. Achieving an education. Climbing out of poverty. Defeating prejudice. Making a living as a writer. Or giving our kids decent lives and values in spite of a society that devalues human beings. But the struggle is worth it.

I said a simple, "No. I will never give up. There is hope--but to reach it there is also struggle."


My novels are also about a struggle against tremendous odds, Scotland's fight against English conquest. Freedom's Sword is available on Amazon and Smashwords. My novel about Robert the Bruce's most trusted lieutenant, Sir James, the Black Douglas, is A Kingdom's Cost is also available on Amazon and Smashwords.

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