Tara Westover was 17 the first time she set foot in a classroom. Born to survivalists in the mountains of Idaho, she prepared for the end of the world by stockpiling home-canned peaches and sleeping with her “head-for-the-hills bag”. In the summer she stewed herbs for her mother, a midwife and healer, and in the winter she salvaged in her father’s junkyard.
Her father forbade hospitals, so Tara never saw a doctor or nurse. Gashes and concussions, even burns from explosions, were all treated at home with herbalism. The family was so isolated from mainstream society that there was no one to ensure the children received an education and no one to intervene when one of Tara’s older brothers became violent.
Then, lacking any formal education, Tara began to educate herself. She taught herself enough mathematics and grammar to be admitted to Brigham Young University, where she studied history, learning for the first time about important world events like the Holocaust and the civil rights movement. Her quest for knowledge transformed her, taking her over oceans and across continents, to Harvard and to Cambridge. Only then would she wonder if she’d traveled too far, if there was still a way home.
Tara Westover has opened up her heart and her journals and has given us a very raw, honest, eye-opening story!
In this story Tara takes us on quite a journey – starting with her childhood through her college years. This book is made up of her personal memories, journals, and occasionally the memories of some of her siblings to help fill in the blanks where needed. Tara is the youngest of six brothers and sisters. They had a very unconventional upbringing on Buck’s Peak where her parents held tight to their personal convictions and would not waver. Her father was especially domineering, and it left very little room for Tara to be allowed to form her own beliefs and opinions.
Not knowing for certain, but refusing to give way to those who claim certainty, was a privilege I had never allowed myself. My life was narrated for me by others. Their voices were forceful, emphatic, absolute. It had never occurred to me that my voice might be as strong as theirs.
I loved going on this journey with Tara! I was especially drawn to her college years. She was incredibly sheltered, had no formal public school education, and knew only what her parents taught her of the world. Once she ventured away from Buck’s Peak to attend college, she was faced with a very steep learning curve. For the first time she saw herself in relation to the rest of the world and it was quite shocking to her. I was utterly fascinated to see her growth, although she did understandably have many setbacks along the way.
This story was tough to read at times, but I am glad she didn’t sugar-coat it. This is her story and she has nothing to hide nor to be ashamed of. Not only was there mental abuse at home, there was also physical abuse at the hands of one of her brothers. This was a real struggle for her – she cares deeply for her family and wants their love, support, and acceptance.
It’s strange how you give the people you love so much power over you, I had written in my journal. But Shawn had more power over me than I could possibly have imagined. He had defined me to myself, and there’s no greater power than that.
This is a very inspirational book! There are many messages here but the one that spoke the loudest to me is – if you want something bad enough, shut out the negative and go for it. There are times when you feel like you are swimming against the current and are getting nowhere. There may be times when those you admire and love the most may try to hold you back, but though determination and perseverance you can succeed. If you want more out of life you can. It may not always be easy, but you won’t know until you try.
This would make a fantastic book club read and an even better book for high school/college students to read and discuss. I could go on and on about this book and my love for it. In case it is not obvious I highly recommend it!
My Rating: 5/5
Genre: Memoir, Nonfiction
Publisher: Random House
Publication Date: 2/20/2018
Pages: 352 (eBook)
*Book 16/20 in the #20booksofsummerreading challenge.
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