This was a very difficult book to read more often than not. As a warning before going into this book you should know there is mental and physical abuse in abundance. There are also many graphic scenes describing accidents.
I was avoiding this book for no good reason, only to pick it up and devour it in a few days. It was captivating and beautifully written. It told a story of resilience and surviving in a life full of abuse and manipulation. It told the story of toxic masculinity and victim blaming. It told the story of what women must face in a world and religions dominated by men and their ideas about how women should act, feel, etc. It told a story of remaking ones self and going against the grain of what it means to be a woman. But the truth is no matter how far we come, we will always hold the scars of our past and we will constantly be healing and changing.
Tara Westover comes from a religious Mormon family who does not believe in modern medicine, education, or the government. Tara’s father is paranoid and mistrusting of authority figures; he is also possibly dealing with an undiagnosed mental illness. Tara’s mother is manipulative in subtle ways and constantly chooses her husbands word over anyone else’s. Tara’s older brother is abusive. All the while Tara, as the youngest child, is battling her own beliefs and the beliefs of her family. Ultimately, Tara decides to gain an education against the will of her parents, all the while trying survive day to day among the constant abuse and manipulation within her home and religion.
At times, I wanted to scream and throw this book, at other times I wanted to curl up and cry with Tara. I had many visceral reactions to the people and situations described in this book. I have seen the criticisms on the legitimacy of this memoir and I’d like to believe that this book is as accurate as Tara’s memory. As she describes in the footnotes, these scenes and situations being described are how she recalls them, but admits that other family members opinions on these memories differ from hers. As it stands in my mind, Tara told her story the best she could and was as honest as her memory would allow.
Overall, this book captivated me immediately and I recommend if you are able to stomach the abuse and graphic scenes, because Tara’s story is an incredible testament to what it means to rise above the odds and cultivate a life outside of the only life you’ve ever known.
–Stephanie, Teen LTA