"BREAKING NIGHT: A Memoir of Forgiveness, Survival and My Journey from Homeless to Harvard," by Liz Murray, Hyperion, $14.99, 341 pages (nf)

If the phrase, “There is no education like adversity” holds true, than Liz Murray’s education began early in her tumultuous childhood.

In the best-selling memoir, “Breaking Night,” Murray recounts growing up with drug-addicted parents in a matter-of-fact tone that is both heartbreaking and inspiring. "Breaking Night" has recently been released in paperback.

Murray’s family lived in a roach-infested apartment in the Bronx where the dining room table was turned into a “shooting gallery” for cocaine use. Welfare checks were spent on drugs rather than groceries, forcing Liz and her older sister, Lisa, to survive on mayonnaise sandwiches and the occasional tube of toothpaste or chapstick to quench their hunger.

Constantly neglected, dirty and lice-ridden, Liz struggled in school but taught herself to read her father’s unreturned library books and crime novels. She’d stay awake on the streets with friends, “breaking night” until the sun came up, and chose to stay home most days to take care of her parents over getting an education.

After Liz’s family fell apart, she found herself in a group home and eventually became a high school dropout and runaway. With her best friend and a drug-dealing boyfriend, she moved from one motel to the next, occasionally relying on friends for basic needs and sleeping on the streets. When her mother died due to complications from AIDS, Liz came to a crossroad and decided to take control of her own destiny. She enrolled in an alternative high school that changed the course of her life, landing her at Harvard and proving that anyone can overcome circumstance.

Throughout "Breaking Night," it's fascinating to learn of Liz's compelling need to protect her unfit parents and the self-blame brought on by her situation. Murray recalls her absolute adoration and loyalty to her schizophrenic and inadequate mother who exposed her children to the unthinkable, and Murray's father who would take his children dumpster-diving for presents. Her story paints a picture of a painful role reversal that children of addicts fall into, and the hunger and squalor many children experience in America today.

“Breaking Night” will touch anyone who is facing adversity and speaks volumes about the human spirit and our ability to beat the odds.

Murray’s message is gripping and hopeful: “My life taught me that even though there were plenty of things I couldn’t control, like my parents' drug addiction, their failing health, my family unraveling, I could always, always choose the next right thing to do in my own life. What’s great is that the power of choice is accessible to anyone. No matter where you are in your life or what’s happening around you, you can always choose the next right thing to do, and then do it.”

Nicole Pollard currently resides in Canyon Country, Calif.