Westover, Tara

  29 Reviews

Having never been to school until the age of 17 nor registered for a birth certificate or medical care, Tara Westover seems an unlikely candidate for educational success. But succeed she has - blazing a trail through Harvard and Cambridge, this daughter of Doomsday survivalists from a remote area in Idaho, exemplifies the transformative power of education.

Riveting and often shocking, this inspiring memoir discloses a brutal childhood, the power of family to shape us and the cost of self-determination.



AUCK 014
Our rating was one of our highest because all group members felt compelled to read it and finish it, and that doesn't happen very often. Even though it was grim reading, it provided us with insights about the absolute power that can be exerted on individuals who live in isolation from the mainstream, the distortion of loyalty and love in such circumstances and the cost of independence when an alternative becomes apparent. We mostly agreed that the quality of the writing was strong - which was necessary given the subject matter this narrative traversed. There was a lot of thoughtful discussion.
WELL 206
A bit of a grim read for our group, but most enjoyed how Tara overcame such an upbringing with all the physical and mental hurdles. Inspiring to see how she compensated for her lack of formal education.
CHCH 317
This story was almost unbelievable. It was a well-written portrayal of a young woman's upbringing in a very oppressive environment. Its confronting chapter of events made the book hard to put down.
Majority of group rated this book highly, very readable but horrible! It generated great discussion.
TAIH 002
This is a book everyone in our group thoroughly enjoyed! It was an amazing story of courage, insight, perseverance and achievement. She also remained humble about all she had achieved.
All members enjoyed reading this book, although one felt quite strongly that parts of it were implausible.
Well-written. Insightful but disturbing.
Mixed responses, not everyone finished it. I gave up over half way through, that's a lot of reading, when I realised that I wasn't enjoying this book at all. I found it very unsatisfying. I know it's highly rated and all that but it really doesn't do it for me. I've read one too many biographies of suffering and deprivation to the point where I think they are kinda unfair because how can you not admire people who not only survive but manage to get themselves to a better place But that's the only thing happening here. I don't think the writing is particularly that good.
ASHB 027
This is an excellent book for discussion about overcoming adversity, parenting, alternative lifestyles, role of women, and a multitude of other topics! Great discussion amongst our group. What a powerful read and powerful woman!
This book sparked discussion, and all members commented on the disturbing picture that the book drew of a particular part of American society. The Westover family seem to live in a parallel universe in which the government, the medical profession and education are manifestations of a Satanic plot to lure men away from God. The consequences of this belief are dire... Overall the book is well-written and most found it a compelling and worthwhile read though one or two didn't really engage.
CHCH 194
An incredible story of a girl achieving so much despite a childhood of cruelty and bigotry. The influence of family seemed so strong even when harsh cruelty and deprivation was in evidence. To create a satisfying life after this start, must be difficult, if not impossible. I wonder about her future.
CHCH 095
A very honest account of growing up in a dysfunctional family where brutality is accepted as the norm. Tara is a good example of how a person can overcome their past when they open themselves to new ideas and possibilities.
AUCK 100
The group thought the book was well-written and a compelling read. However they found the accidents and instances of cruelty shocking. There was lots of discussion around family power and control, religion, education and the price paid by some family members for forging their own path.
We all enjoyed the book very much and it made us thankful for the wonderful childhood we all had. Brought up the bullying some of us experienced at school. Great discussion!
CHCH 323
CHCH 297
We all loved the book. A fresh, in depth, really honest story of Tara's journey. We felt as if we were journeying with her - and at times we all felt frustrated by her choices, but we also recognised the universal themes and how entangling families can be - as well as how difficult change can be.
CHCH 247
We all found this book very compelling. Highly recommended. Great discussion.
CHCH 240
Our group loved the book and thought it a compelling read, very well written. Parts of it were disturbingly confronting, with family violence, lack of appropriate treatment for serious injury, etc. Amazing how one family member could have such a forceful effect on his wife and children with his fundamentalist views. Distinctly showed the perceived value of girls versus men, based on religious belief. If it hadn't been an actual memoir it would be hard to believe someone without education at the age of seventeen could go on to achieve a doctorate. Well recommended.
Our group highly recommends this book. Ultimately inspiring but also shocking and very thought provoking. Great discussion. Would be unbelievable (almost) if fiction.
We enjoyed the book in spite of the topics of religious fervour, patriarchal power, physical and psychological abuse. Westover highlighted the challenges of family loyalty, her determination to become educated and free to lead her own life, knowing the family would turn their backs on her. We found the book gripping, well written, and an incredible insight into her strong spirit. One comment "I found it 'breathtaking' reading how this family lived". Our discussion centred on religion, patriarchal power, the effect these have on early childhood and eventually the 'choices' made in adult life.
Great discussion with a variety of views on the events, and motivation of the author. Brought up many opinions on the role of family and self-determination.
FERN 001
Only scored 4 due to distressing content. An inspirational story beautifully worded of one person's rise above a life of abuse, physical and psychological. Generated the best discussion we've had in years. Highly recommended.
TAKA 001
It is a fascinating and horrifying book. It was hard to put down. The acceptance of violence within the family was disturbing to read. Tara's determination was awe inspiring.
A number of members were "blown away' by this book, amazed that someone is those circumstances could go on to achieve the things she did. if it wasn't true it would be unbelievable. Well written.
Great book! All enjoyed.
This book almost(!) lived up to the near-rapturous critics' comments on the cover, though we didn't find it either "joyous" or heart breaking". But otherwise, yes - it was "an unflinching account of love and brutality, of the strength of blood ties, and the power of imagination...remarkable". And we all found it amazing, fascinating and compulsively readable.
HAVE 012
A number of our group had already read this book but gained from a second read. A powerful if brutal memoir, but ultimately uplifting. A great book.
CHCH 481
Compelling, raw, powerful and beautifully written. Resonates with the idea of hope and the power of education.
AUCK 063
Interestingly, our one low score came from someone who grew up in an area surrounded by 'religious fanatics'. The rest of us found it compelling and shocking reading. Would have been completely unbelievable if fiction.