The Beauty in Breaking by Michele Harper

“So many things that happen to us that are not right, are not okay. And we can survive and heal and use that to be stronger and shape our lives and the lives of others in wonderful, powerful, healing ways, should we choose to do so. Honestly, that’s the reason to forgive.”


An emergency room physician explores how a life of service to others taught her how to heal herself.

Michele Harper is a female, African American emergency room physician in a profession that is overwhelmingly male and white. Brought up in Washington, DC, in an abusive family, she went to Harvard, where she met her husband. They stayed together through medical school until two months before she was scheduled to join the staff of a hospital in central Philadelphia, when he told her he couldn't move with her. Her marriage at an end, Harper began her new life in a new city, in a new job, as a newly single woman.

In the ensuing years, as Harper learned to become an effective ER physician, bringing insight and empathy to every patient encounter, she came to understand that each of us is broken—physically, emotionally, psychically. How we recognize those breaks, how we try to mend them, and where we go from there are all crucial parts of the healing process.


Raw, vulnerable, and courageous, The Beauty in Breaking was an awe-inspiring and beautifully written memoir. Through Michele’s story, I was able to gather that how ambitious and accomplished she is, but also how much she cares for her patients, touching each one so very deeply. 

Harper tells her story like a poem, the prose lyrical and fluid. She was able to capture the essence of what being an ER physician entails with such beauty, while keeping me engaged from start to finish. I wasn’t able to put this book down, reading it entirely in one sitting. 

I also listened to the audiobook, following along with the physical copy. I found the audiobook to have a nice flow to it, and believe the narrator, Nicole Lewis, was a great fit for what I imagine Michele to sound like. 

I’ve never felt quite so moved by a book before reading The Beauty in Breaking. Once finishing, it left me with long-lasting thoughts to digest and changed my perceptions of the physicians who run our emergency departments, especially right now in the face of COVID-19. 

All in, this memoir is absolutely stunning. 
Michele Harper, Courtesy of Riverhead
Michele Harper has worked as an emergency room physician for more than a decade at various institutions, including as chief resident at Lincoln Hospital in the South Bronx and in the emergency department at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Philadelphia. She is a graduate of Harvard University and the Renaissance School of Medicine at Stony Brook University. The Beauty in Breaking is her first book.

The Beauty in Breaking is available at Indigo and on Kobo. Check GoodReads for additional retailers