Talk about overcoming obstacles. Liz Murray has done it. Born to drug-addicted parents living in the Bronx, Liz was homeless at 15. By that time she had already experienced life’s hard knocks in ways most of us could never imagine: waiting up all night for her parents to come home from bars, watching them shoot up in the kitchen, having her belongings sold to buy drugs. The family’s apartment was in poor condition to begin with, and her parents were unable to keep up with basic maintenance. The bathtub drain was so backed up, the smell permeated the rest of the apartment. By the time she turned 10, Liz was skipping school regularly, trying to earn her own money pumping gas or bagging groceries.
Liz’s mother left for another man, and Liz remained with her father. When conditions forced him to move to a shelter, Liz entered the foster care system, living in a group home for a while. She was then returned to her mother’s custody, but soon began skipping school again and eventually left home to live on her own. She stayed the night with friends or slept on the subway. She became involved in an unhealthy relationship, and stayed in it too long simply for the perceived security. Shortly after her mother died from AIDS, Liz “hit bottom” and began working to get her own life together, attending an alternative high school and obtaining her degree in just two years. She also obtained a prestigious New York Times scholarship that enabled her to pursue a university degree.
However, despite a compelling story, the writing was just average, and repetitive in parts. Sometimes the emotions were raw and hit hard; at other times I failed to connect even when I felt I should. Because it’s a true story, it was a difficult read. I know there are thousands like Liz facing similarly extreme hardship, who will never be able to turn their lives around. While Liz’s perseverance was amazing, what most impressed me was her ability to love, accept, and forgive those who wronged her. There’s a lesson in that for all of us.