Posted on 08/23/2022 in misc

Tara Westover grew up the 7th child of an rabidly Christian Nationalist Mormon family in rural Idaho. Not allowed to go to school or read any books that weren't the Bible or the Book of Mormon, she grows up with little knowledge of the real world. Her dad is a Y2K prepper who falls into a depression when he doesn't wake up on 1/1/2001 as the only person in town prepared for the apocalypse. Her mom defers to dad in all things, just as a good Mormon wife should. Books, doctors, public schools, clothes that show a little ankle, vaccinations, and just about anything else not directly supplied by him are works of the devil. Several family members suffer debilitating injuries from his carelessness in his construction and scrapyard business, but it's all God's will so 3rd degree burns, severe concussions, and dangerous pregnancies are treated at home. One brother is violently abusive but the parents refuse to acknowledge it or do anything to protect the kids or his eventual wife.

Somehow, Tara (and 2 of her brothers) manage to teach themselves enough while hiding in the basement to get into college, and all three end up with PhDs. Tara starts at BYU, where she first learns about the Holocaust. Yet she manages to graduate and ultimately ends up with her doctorate from Cambridge. Through it all, she continues to crave acceptance from her father, who is not going to give it to an ungodly woman showing a little shoulder and getting herself educated. The book ends with her acceptance of her estrangement from her family, with the exception of the two educated brothers.

This book hit a little close to home with the homeschooling angle. We, of course, were more of liberal hippie unschoolers, but we certainly knew people that trended this way. It is a bit of a testament to the power of self-directed learning that a kid that could only do basic math and who had never seen a science book at age 15 could get a 28 on the ACT two years later to get into BYU, and the out from under dad's eye. Or maybe it's more of a testament to desperation. It is also a testament to the power of family in that she was about 28 before she finally stopped trying to fix her relationship with mom and dad and just let go to live her life. Finally, it's a testament to the power of story (hi JJ!) as the entire book is really the story of Tara struggling to gain power over her story.

It's a powerful, emotional book.

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