Tara Westover

Buy on Amazon

Highly Recommend

Excellent and complex memoir of a girl growing up in a survivalist family in rural Idaho. I really enjoyed the weight of the book and the uniqueness of story.


His voice was booming. Every word reverberated with a powerful energy. "You don't think the first place they'd go is that school, where they can raise up a whole generation of socialist Mormons? I raised you better than that!" I will always remember my father in this moment. The potency of him. And the desperation. He leans forward, jaw set, eyes narrow searching his son's face for some sign of agreement. Some crease of shared conviction.

"The admissions board won't know anything except what we tell them," Tyler said. "If we say you were homeschooled, they'll believe it." "I won't get in." "You will," he said. Just pass the ACT, one lousy test. Tyler stood to go. "There's a world out there, Tara," he said. "And it will look a lot different once Dad is no longer whispering his view of it in your ear."

I was a freak and I knew it but I didn't understand how they knew it. When the bell rang Vanessa shoved her notebook into her pack. Then she paused and said, "you shouldn't make fun of that. It's not a joke." She walked away before I could reply. I stayed in my seat until everyone had gone, pretending the zipper on my coat was stuck so I could avoid looking anyone in the eye. Then I went straight to the computer lab to look up the word "holocaust."

Dad said I was becoming "uppity." He didn't like that I rushed home from the junkyard the moment the work was finished. Or that I removed every trace of grease before going out with Charles. He knew I'd rather be bagging groceries at Stokes than driving the loader in Blackfoot, the dusty town an hour north where dad was building a milking barn. It bothered him knowing I wanted to be in another place, dressed like someone else.

I swallowed it. Then the other. For as long as I could remember, whenever I was in pain whether from a cut or a toothache mother would make a tincture of lobelia and skullcap. It had never lessened the pain, not one degree. Because of this I had come to respect pain, even revere it, as necessary and untouchable. Twenty minutes after I swallowed the red pills the earache was gone.

I don't know. I just don't know. 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.

Sean sent me a check for a few hundred dollars. When I called Sean and asked who he'd sold Bud to, he mumbled something vague about a guy passing through from Towla. I was in incurious student that semester. Curiosity is a luxury reserved for the financially secure. My mind was absorbed with more immediate concerns, such as the exact balance of my bank account, who I owed how much, and whether there was anything in my room I could sell for ten or twenty dollars.

I bolted. I could tolerate any form of cruelty better than kindness. Praise was a poison to me. I choked on it. I wanted the professor to shout at me. Wanted it so deeply I felt dizzy from the deprivation. The ugliness of me had to be given expression. If it was not expressed in his voice, I would need to express it in mine.

Blood rushed to my brain. I felt an animating surge of adrenaline. Of possibility. Of a frontier being pushed outward. "Of the nature of women, nothing final can be known." Never had I found such comfort in a void, in the black absence of knowledge. It seemed to say whatever you are, you are woman.

Everything I had worked for, all my years of study had been to purchase for myself this one privilege: to see and experience more truths than those given to me by my father. And to use those truths to construct my own mind. I had come to believe that the ability to evaluate many ideas, many histories, many points of view was at the heart of what it means to self-create.

Enjoy reading this?

Join my newsletter! Each week I breakdown interesting finance and investing topics. I put in hours of research so that you can spend minutes learning. Unsubscribe at any time.

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.