By Tara Westover, 2018
Ph.D. Cambridge University, England
I had spied this piece of non-fiction on the New York Times best sellers list and was intrigued. It is a mémoire of a young Mormon girl who comes of age in the hinterland of Idaho in our current era of the millennials. We are immersed with a downcast family run by a deeply charismatic patriarch who expects the “end of times” as Y2K is about to destroy humanity. We are led to believe that the FBI is likely to pounce on the group at any moment and take them all into custody. All of this comes from an intense paranoia driven by the man of the house. Thus, the family tries to stay off the grid forsaking government involvement by not sending their children to schools or visiting doctors. This large family spends its time storing food, stockpiling fuel, and burying guns and ammo on the property. The mother is also devoted to her faith and folklore medicine as she becomes the local mid-wife avoiding the need for hospitals. The author relates that as a youngster her intense desire was to attend school and become an educated adult. However, her parents were adamant about home schooling and the only practical learning came from the running of the farm and the family scrap metal business. As the story continues we discover one horrid mishap after another where family members are assaulted and farm accidents take their toll on this clan.
This literary remembrance has the same level of deep exasperation as “The Glass Castle” which examined the life of a rural West Virginia family that was plagued with parents who found the world dark and foreboding. They filled their children with such trepidation that the siblings could not wait to escape the homestead. Both of these books are hypnotic in scope and difficult to digest in that woeful accidents and despair permeate the plot. There is a form of resolution, but only after the family disintegrates leaving the survivors to ponder that against all odds they survived to tell the tale.