God, I was so tempted to tag this as horror. I think since most of us are voracious readers or at least striving to be, education is something that this group would value. In Tara Westover’s memoir of her childhood and subsequent awakening to its deficits, education is a four-letter-word. Her Mormon parents don’t home-school their children so much as teach them the bare minimum to get by in life, rejecting not just education, but also doctors and government intervention of most kinds.
This was borderline painful to read. From Tara’s accounts of multiple car accidents survived through what had to be sheer luck given the lack of seatbelts, to her brother and mother’s untreated traumatic brain injuries, to the reliance on homeopathic medicine and tinctures for things like third degree burns, it’s impossible not to wince at the physical effects of the family’s rejection of modern science.
But what really hurts is the psychological toll it takes on our author. Her college degree and subsequent fellowship are seen as betrayals of the family instead of achievements to be celebrated; the fact that her brother’s TBI was left untreated must be defended by defending the man himself, even when he breaks the author’s wrist and chases his wife outside in the snow barefoot. The author admits the ambiguity in some of her recollections in part because her family has gaslighted her so many times that it’s hard to know what happened and what didn’t.
This book was as easy to read stylistically as it was difficult to read for its content. I hope Westover continues to write, but what a debut to live up to.