AuthorTara Westover
FinishedJanuary 14, 2020
Rating4.0 / 5

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I was very impressed with this book: by Tara Westover's amount of growth, her voice, her acknowledgements of possible inconsistencies (i.e. of differing accounts), her tale of resilience, and her incredible storytelling capabilities. The book felt very genuine and raw and honest and often I felt like I was right inside of her mind, and, despite how crazy some of the events seemed, experiencing them with her. I would not like to claim that I know what it was like to go through what she went through, but now I have some insight into her life, the psychological ups and downs her family subjected her through, and the incredible self-learning (and "education") she had to go through to get to the place she is at now. I can tell that through writing this book, she was able to reach that level of self-acceptance and truth-seeking that she has struggled with her whole life.

I am glad that she was able to tell her story in this way, and I do hope that eventually she is able to reconcile with her family.

One thing I thought about was how removed I was from her world, and how that really does seem to divide the line between what is fiction and what is nonfiction. Obviously, this book is Westover's memoir. But, because if I were not TOLD that this was nonfiction, there would have been no divide between this and a realistic fiction book. What are the cues that tell that this is "true" verses "imagined" - especially when it blurs so many lines of "what really happened" and "who writes history" and "who writes memories?"

Quotes I Liked

  • "Choices, numberless as grains of sand, had layered and compressed, coalescing into sediment, then into rock, until all was set in stone." (35)
  • "I’d seen hundreds of shattered windshields in the junkyard, each one unique, with its particular spray of gossamer extruding from the point of impact, a chronicle of the collision. (37)
  • “He thinks if he can choke the flames while they’re young, he can prevent a wildfire, maybe save the house.” (74)
  • “I hated her for her weakness, for having a heart to break. That he could hurt her, that anyone could hurt her like that, was inexcusable… Then I was able to tell myself, without lying, that it didn’t affect me, that he didn’t affect me, because nothing affected me.” (110)
  • “I thought of my brother as he had been, as I remembered him, as I wanted to remember him.” (115)
    • How the reality is always changing
  • “What kind of lunatic would come back here once he’d escaped?” (117)
  • “Dad could command this science, could decipher its language, decrypt its logic, could bend and twist and squeeze from it the truth. But as it passed through him, it turned to chaos.” (126)
  • “mysterious angles and concussed computations” (126)
  • “But Dad’s mania for the machine had carried him beyond the reach of reason.” (139)
  • “I might have resented my upbringing but I didn’t. My loyalty to my father had increased in proportion to the miles between us. On the mountain, I could rebel. But here, in this loud, bright place, surrounded by gentiles disguised as saints, I clung to every truth, every doctrine he had given me.”
  • “I’d always known that my father believed in a different God.” (159)
  • “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.” (183)
  • “It had never occurred to me to talk to a professor—I didn’t realize we were allowed to talk to them—so I decided to try, if only to prove to Charles I could do it.” (185)
  • “I was laughing—a shrill, demented howl. I thought if I could just laugh loudly enough, the situation might still be saved, that Charles might yet be convinced it was all a joke. Tears streamed from my eyes—my big toe was broken—but I kept cackling. Shawn stood in the doorway looking awkward.” (189)
  • “What was important to me wasn’t love or friendship, but my ability to lie convincingly to myself: to believe I was strong. I could never forgive Charles for knowing I wasn’t.” (189)
  • “As I passed him in the drive, it occurred to me that he’d probably be driving that forklift for the rest of his life.” (191)
  • “I rise from my bed, retrieve my journal, and do something I have never done before: I write what happened. I do not use vague, shadowy language, as I have done in other entries; I do not hide behind hints and suggestion. I write what I remember.” (196)
  • “There was a boldness in not editing for consistency, in not ripping out either the one page or the other. To admit uncertainty is to admit to weakness, to powerlessness, and to believe in yourself despite both. It is a frailty, but in this frailty there is a strength: the conviction to live in your own mind, and not in someone else’s.” (197)
  • “It’s strange how you give the people you love so much power over you, I had written in my journal. But Shawn had more power over me than I could possibly have imagined. He had defined me to myself, and there’s no greater power than that.” (199)
  • “I was an 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.” (203)
  • “This knowledge might have made me sympathetic to my father, but it didn’t. I felt only anger. We were the ones who’d paid for it, I thought. Mother. Luke. Shawn. We had been bruised and gashed and concussed, had our legs set on fire and our heads cut open. We had lived in a state of alert, a kind of constant terror, our brains flooding with cortisol because we knew that any of those things might happen at any moment. Because Dad always put faith before safety. Because he believed himself right, and he kept on believing himself right—after the first car crash, after the second, after the bin, the fire, the pallet. And it was us who paid.” (211)
  • “Why are you like this? Why did you terrify us like that? Why did you fight so hard against made-up monsters, but do nothing about the monsters in your own house?” (211)