Published Date: February 20, 2018
Publishing Co.: Random House
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Raised in a small Mormon town, child to a mentally ill father, forced to work in a junkyard pulling scrap or making essential oils and homeopathy in the kitchen with her mother, Tara Westover never had an actual education. In fact, she didn’t even have a birth certificate for nine years or an actual birth date. Everyone had a different account of the day she was born and even when that date was.
Her life was preset before her. Help her parents make money and prepare for the End of Days, then one day become a wife and mother. Those were the foundations of a good Mormon believer according to her father.
As she grew, she began to realize that this was not the life she wanted. However, she felt guilty, almost blasphemous for feeling this way. First, she had to survive her family. An older brother who was extremely physically and mentally abusive. A father, who wanted to live off the grid, believed the government would come for them one day, and did not believe in the Medical Establishment. Meaning, serious injuries caused in the junkyard were treated by their mother with oils and homeopathy.
Tara grew bolder when a different older brother encouraged her to teach herself and pass the ACT so that she could escape the life laid out before her. A large portion of the story is about her education, learning about historical events she never knew had taken place, like the Holocaust. Her struggle to maintain her grades and earn grants to continue school and even placing into study abroad programs, learning about a world she never knew existed. All this while struggling with the drama and control of her family.
You could not have had a more polar opposite upbringing than my own. I was raised in an agnostic/atheist household with a strong stance on the importance of education. Therefore, it absolutely amazes me that this woman was not only able to survive a brutal childhood, but to go on and graduate from a school like Cambridge. She is only a year older than me and has accomplished so much more than I can imagine but I wouldn’t trade my childhood or my family for it.
It’s such a weird life and way of believing that at times I thought this story was something set before I was born but no, these people are out there today, doing these same things they’ve been doing since before I was born. It’s so bizarre to think about.
I liked the author’s honesty about how hard and how long it took to detach herself from the toxic portion of her family, even if it wasn’t fully her choice.
If you’re looking for an inspirational read, you’ve found it right here.