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Tara Westover is a young woman who was raised in rural Idaho on her parents' property (it's too much to call it a farm).  The father and mother both embraced an extreme version of apocalyptic religion (allegedly Mormon in origin, but the beliefs don't have much in common with any Mormon beliefs I know about).  They were constantly afraid of government getting its claws into them and everyone constituted an arm of government (doctors, hospitals, etc.), so that the were "home schooled" (not much schooling took place) and preparing for the end of the world, where they would be the only people with enough food and water.  Y2K gave her father lots of opportunities for paranoia run amuck, but his paranoia was a constant theme in their world.  The mother was a midwife who prepared herbal remedies.  


Tara and her siblings didn't go to school.  Tara helped her mother with her endeavors and all of the children helped their father in his scrapyard.  The children and their father often suffered terrible injuries in the scrapyard work that really could have been avoided.  One brother is unusually aggressive with her (and others) and never seems to improve.   Much of what happens is shocking. 


The children all appear to have been very bright, so that half of them escaped, but the other half did not.  Tara barely made it into college and when she did, she had no idea what was going on (in one class, she didn't recognize the word "Holocaust" and asked what it meant, which everyone assumed was some sort of bad joke on her part).  She is repeatedly embarrassed by her lack of knowledge, but perseveres with some help from everyone in her family other than her father and the aggressive older brother, both of whom oppose her efforts.  But all those educators see a very bright spark and encourage her in her education (they are all, naturally, horrified by what they can glean about her upbringing).  Her successes are interesting, but what is fascinating is watching her process her childhood and continued relations with her family.  


This book has been getting a lot of press in the United States.  My daughter is the one who recommended it to me.  The family has disputed some of the story, but that's consistent with their constant gaslighting of her and the other children.  If you wonder why she wrote the book, I think it is so that she could insist that what she experienced was true, notwithstanding what the family says.

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I listened to this on audio and was completely riveted by it.


I have to admit to sharing some fellow feeling with her - I had a (relatively ) normal upbringing, but my father didn't believe it was necessary for girls to go to school. My 4 elder brother went to boarding school from age 9 and were at day schools before but I was educated at home until I was 11. Then, never having been among groups of children, having no sisters so no idea of what girls talked about, and no experience of school I was sent to boarding school. My experices were nothing like so extreme as Tara Westover's but I know absolutely that feeling of being apart and not understanding what's going on around you. 


That apart i would have been completely absorbed by this book anyway, highly recommended.

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I am always surprised when I hear stories from someone who is about my age about parents not valuing education for their girls.  I was the 6th generation of women in my mother's family to go to college and so I never got any of that.   My mother's family always seemed very much like the March family in Little Women, including not wanting the girls to be "silly" about boys.  


But, I, too, was fascinated.  Her childhood was almost like being brought up in a very small, closely-related cult.  I think most families have their oddities and the children don't really understand that until they leave home.  But this family goes WAY beyond oddities.

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