I’m a little torn on this one and not sure what to think.
On one hand, I was thoroughly immersed in the story. It’s dark, sad, and hard to read, but offers a compelling insight into religious extremism. (In a podcast that I listened to, Tara Westover explained that this book isn’t pointing the finger at religion at all. She believes her childhood experiences were due to her father’s illness and not the Mormon religion.)
Westover’s family had a survivalist mentality, a strong distrust for the government, and a disregard for school and medicine. The children were raised in an unsafe home, with a father that suffered from bipolar disorder and a brother that terrorized them at will. Somehow, Westover escaped this lifestyle and had a very successful college educational experience. Her courage and bravery are to be commended.
However, I wouldn’t be giving a fair review if I didn’t mention the people – claiming to be family members and/or friends of the family – that completely deny Westover’s recollection of her life. They flat out refuse her claims and insist that her parents are good people.
Obviously, I don’t know the truth. But the opposing sides forces me to question the overall validity of the story. Having said that, regardless of the “truth”, I admire Westover’s courage for sharing her story. It was clearly traumatic and something she had to reconcile in order to find her place in this world. The writing was excellent and I couldn’t put the book down!