From Goodreads: “Tara Westover grew up preparing for the End of Days, watching for the sun to darken, for the moon to drip as if with blood. She spent her summers bottling peaches and her winters rotating emergency supplies, hoping that when the World of Men failed, her family would continue on, unaffected.
She hadn’t been registered for a birth certificate. She had no school records because she’d never set foot in a classroom, and no medical records because her father didn’t believe in doctors or hospitals. According to the state and federal government, she didn’t exist.
As she grew older, her father became more radical, and her brother, more violent. At sixteen Tara decided to educate herself. Her struggle for knowledge would take her far from her Idaho mountains, over oceans and across continents, to Harvard and to Cambridge. Only then would she wonder if she’d travelled too far. If there was still a way home.”
I have so many thoughts and feelings about this book that I don’t know where to start. I was approved for a NetGalley copy of this book a while ago but was quite reluctant to read it after mention of abuse and assault in various reviews. I then discovered that the audiobook was available through my library’s Libby app and so added it to my wishlist, but I was still too afraid to listen. I enjoy memoirs but I have to be in the right frame of mind to listen especially if it’s going to be a harrowing account.
I finally plucked up the courage to listen to this although at times I felt like stopping as I had trouble believing some of what I was hearing! I couldn’t believe that the author was brought up in such a chaotic family situation and where there was no-one, neither family or neighbours to rescue her and her siblings. That they didn’t use soap to wash their hands after using the toilet, something that the author mentions was still happening when she went to college!! The fact that she doesn’t mention any illnesses in the family is incredible to me. I also found it really hard to believe that she got into a university without having any formal education at home. Unsurprisingly though she then struggled to use a particular text book when she was there. Oh yes and the fact that her mother became an unlicensed midwife was terrifying, as was the way Tara and her siblings worked in her father’s scrapyard, mutilating themselves on numerous occasions. I could go on about other family situations but I don’t want to turn this review into a rant.
Clearly the author is incredibly intelligent and was able to study in such a way that she passed her diploma to get onto a summer school at Cambridge University, and then a degree course and finally a masters there too. Then to go on to Harvard is monumental when you think about her background. What an amazing lady!
The abuse from her brother Shawn and subsequent trauma was hard to listen to, making me shout at the audiobook when the author and her family kept making excuses for him.
I can’t say that I enjoyed this memoir as it’s not that type of book, but I’m glad I’ve finally listened to it, especially with Julia Whelan’s narration. It’s the first book I’ve listened to with her narrating and I can totally understand why she is an award winning narrator. She brought the Tara’s Westover’s memories so vividly to life in her portrayal of the family. I definitely wouldn’t hesitate to listen to more audiobooks with her narrating.