In this raw and powerful memoir the author recounts her surviving and overcoming her Mormon fundamentalist family education. Tara Westover, the youngest of seven, was born in 1986 in Idaho, USA. She had no birth certificate until the age of nine. She had no medical records as her father did not believe in doctors. His extreme beliefs and paranoia led him to distrust formal schooling and Western medicine. He strongly believed in self-reliance, and took this to the highest level in 1999 when he obsessively stockpiled food, weapons (illegally) and other supplies for the coming of the end of the world.
Growing up for Tara was grim and money was scarce, though a stable source of income came from her mother who was a midwife and made homeopathic remedies. (The herbal remedies have since developed into a million-dollar business.) Tara helped her mother in midwifery and in concocting herbal medicines. Her father valued practical skills very highly, and Tara had to work in his metal scrap yard starting at the age of ten. She worked alongside her brother Shawn, who had left home and returned when Tara was seven. At first they bonded and did so much together. However, as Tara grew older and matured she became subject to her brother’s brutal taunting and unhinged violence. His sadistic behaviour was ignored, denied and never acknowledged by her parents. Finally, she left and began her education at 17. She kept returning home, propelled by her fierce loyalty to her family and hope that things would change. However, her father’s beliefs only intensified, and her brother became even more violent. The result was a schism between her and her family that can never be repaired.
This book is not easy to read and not easy to put down. I am truly inspired by the author’s success in choosing the path that was right for her. She had to find the way, not blaming anybody, acting without guilt or shame, keeping distance and with love. I think she found her freedom when, in her own words, ‘I shed my guilt when I accepted my decision on its own terms without endlessly prosecuting old grievances, without weighing his sins against mine.’
Reviewed by a library member