It’s a bestseller. It’s compelling. But also EXTREMELY Dark. Awarded 3 stars on Goodreads.
I read this book quickly and found it engrossing. But so deeply disturbing. So much so that I don’t think I can sincerely say I enjoyed the book.
At its core this is a harsh tale of parental neglect and abuse. (And I admit I find stories like this particularly hard to get through.) Author Tara Westover and her siblings were raised by a Fundamentalist Mormon – and maybe bipolar – father and criminally subservient mother. Most of the children never attended public school because Dad thought schools were brainwashing agents of the government. Illnesses and even life-threatening injuries were all treated by Mom at home, using only herbal remedies, since Dad didn’t trust the medical establishment. Periodic episodes of violence perpetrated by one brother were not even acknowledged, let alone addressed. At least this is the author’s reality.
If you do your own research (as I did) on this family, you’ll find some members of Tara Westover’s family (including her parents) dispute her version of the facts. Others support it. So, as the reader, there’s no real way of knowing where absolute truth lies.
At 16, the author leaves her family home, determined to get a more formal education, and is wildly successful, against many, many odds. At the same time, as years go by, the rift with her family only widens.
Overall, this is a bleak picture of family life, love, and loyalty. It is, with a notable exceptions, an unattractive picture of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. And, at the end, I felt unsatisfied. For me, simply knowing the author successfully broke away and established her own, very different life, didn’t provide enough of a cathartic resolution. Not against the amount of violence, turmoil and darkness I had to wade through to get there.