A Memoir

Book - 2018 2018
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The author recounts her life growing up with her survivalist Mormon family in Idaho. She lacked any formal education, but began to educate herself and taught herself enough to be admitted to Brigham Young University and then Cambridge.
Publisher: Toronto, Ontario : HarperCollins Publishers Ltd., [2018] ©2018.
Edition: First Canadian edition.
ISBN: 9781443452472
Characteristics: x, 334 pages ; 24 cm


From Library Staff

Searing and extremely well-written account of growing up in a survivalist sect in rural Idaho. Set against a vivid natural backdrop, this is an extended meditation on the impacts of violence, the value of family, and the high costs of making your own way in the world.

From the critics

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Apr 13, 2021

Another story of religion being an excuse for abuse. Horrible what people do to their own family members; too common. Good for her for getting out of it.

Apr 01, 2021

This book was really interesting to me, especially since it is a true story. I liked Westover’s strength, perseverance, and value for education. I also liked the imagery used in the book, especially of the mountains. I would give this book 5 stars, it is a wonderful story and I glad it was shared.

Mar 29, 2021

Unlike LisaMoore1985, I didn’t rate this, but my feelings about the book were similar to hers. This is supposed to be a work of non-fiction, but the author’s parents and her brother Travis, all still alive, are given fictious names. Travis is called Shawn in the memoir. It is hard to understand why, given their true identities are so easily established. In an interview, Tara says there are no pictures in the book because she wants the readers to imagine for themselves what the characters look like. Isn’t this the aspiration of a fiction writer, not a memoirist? Again, written communications, like one to Tara from her mother, are footnoted: “The italicized language in the description of the referenced exchange is paraphrased, not directly quoted. The meaning has been preserved.” Is this acceptable in a memoir?
I wasn’t as skeptical as Lisa that Tara could teach herself trigonometry. After all, she did have help from her family and is obviously a brilliant woman. However, I was disturbed by her account of her father helping her solve a particularly difficult trigonometry problem:
“He [Tara’s dad] rotated the paper, gazed at it for a moment, and began to scrawl, numbers and circles and great arcing lines that doubled back on themselves. His solution didn’t look like anything in the textbook. It didn’t look like anything I had ever seen… Then he stopped scribbling, looked up and gave the correct answer.
“I asked how he’d solved it. ‘I don’t know how to solve it,’ he said, handing me the paper. ‘All I know is that’s the answer.’”
There are different ways of solving the same problem in mathematics, and the high school curriculum has changed so often the solution Tara’s dad was taught might well have differed greatly from what she could find in a current textbook. So his finding the answer was not so strange. As he was a scrap yard operator, not a math teacher, it was also not strange that he was unable to explain to his daughter in an articulate way what he had done. So her comment ““But as it [the science] passed through him, it turned to chaos” seemed like a cheap shot, and made me wonder if she was always a reliable narrator where her father was concerned.
I am very glad I read the book, which, as the many positive reviews prove, is a wonderful read, but I would have preferred a book that didn’t seem to blur fact and fiction as much as it did.

Mar 23, 2021

Most enjoyable and perceptive on the author's part. Excellent book

Mar 15, 2021

I definitely feel like the minority with this rating. Tara westover is an exceptional writer, there is no doubt that she had the ability to not only capture the readers attention, but hold it as well. I have no doubt that she had an unconventional and abusive upbringing, but how does one who has never been to school, open up a trigonometry book and self teach? Those situations just didn't add up for me. I was definitely engrossed in the story and often found my heart breaking for Tara, it just seemed how can this be real? Is this fabricated?

Mar 14, 2021

This was an incredible book; it reminded me of Glass Castle. This woman lived an extraordinary life. Her words flow throughout the book. The story is somewhat sad but insightful. She managed to rise above the damage her parents did to her; how tragic that they could not see past their religion to understand the capacity of Tara's mind. They missed out on a beautiful human being. I'm glad the world has her now. At least she was able to continue her ties with some of the family. This is an example of how religion can poison people and cause them to distort the most meaningful relationships that should count the most in their lives. I have already recommended this book to several people.

Mar 06, 2021

This was one of the best memoirs I have read in a while. It reads like a fiction which makes for such a great story. I loved this read.

Mar 02, 2021

It is raw and jarring that is why I gave it a four. Buck's Peak deserves to exist in the literary landscape for what it is. The knowledge that someone existed this way. Through this and somehow made life on another side. That's why I gave it four stars. It isn't a good book. Don't expect to feel good about this or empowered. It is riddled with extraordinary abuse under the thin guise of devout religious adherence. Bereft of emotion to the point of flatness I say that without judgment, the relentless trauma would hollow anyone. It belongs in literature. It should be read. It's the human condition well laid out.

Feb 12, 2021

Wow, this book is about control. The control of one man whose vice spread like a highly transmittable disease to others. I don’t know how much of this account is true and how much of the Mormon ideals expressed in this book are accurate, but if even half of it is true, I would stay no less than 100 football fields away from it. Such staunch beliefs and such authoritarian commands brings down a soul that wants to soar.

Jan 15, 2021

Seriously, one of the best books I've read...ever! A brilliant debut.

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PimaLib_ChristineR Dec 03, 2020

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. If I yielded now, I would lose more than an argument. I would lose custody of my own mind. This was the price I was being asked to pay, I understood that now. What my father wanted to cast from me wasn’t a demon: it was me.

Oct 02, 2019

"The blessing was a mercy. He was offering me the same terms of surrender he had offered my sister. I imagined what a relief it must have been for her, to realize she could trade her reality - the one she shared with me - for his. How grateful she must have felt to pay such a modest price. I could not judge her for her choice, but in that moment I knew I could not choose it for myself. 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. If I yielded now, I would lose more than an argument. I would lose custody of my own mind. This was the price I was being asked to pay, I understood that now. What my father wanted to cast from me wasn't a demon; It was me."

Sep 12, 2019

I am only seven, but I understand that it is this fact, more than any other, that makes my family different: we don’t go to school. Dad worries that the Government will force us to go but it can’t, because it doesn’t know about us. Four of my parents’ seven children don’t have birth certificates. We have no medical records because we were born at home and have never seen a doctor or nurse. * We have no school records because we’ve never set foot in a classroom. When I am nine, I will be issued a Delayed Certificate of Birth, but at this moment, according to the state of Idaho and the federal government, I do not exist. Of course I did exist. I had grown up preparing for the Days of Abomination, watching for the sun to darken, for the moon to drip as if with blood.

Sep 12, 2019

…all the decisions that go into making a life — the choices people make, together and on their own, that combine to produce any single event. Grains of sand, incalculable, pressing into sediment, then rock.

“ What’s college? ” I said. “College is extra school for people too dumb to learn the first time around,” Dad said.

“There’s two kinds of them college professors,” Dad said. “Those who know they’re lying, and those who think they’re telling the truth.” Dad grinned. “Don’t know which is worse, come to think of it, a bona fide agent of the Illuminati, who at least knows he’s on the devil’s payroll, or a high-minded professor who thinks his wisdom is greater than God’s.”

Sep 12, 2019

My strongest memory is not a memory. It’s something I imagined, then came to remember as if it had happened. The memory was formed when I was five, just before I turned six, from a story my father told in such detail that I and my brothers and sister had each conjured our own cinematic version, with gunfire and shouts. Mine had crickets. That’s the sound I hear as my family huddles in the kitchen, lights off, hiding from the Feds who’ve surrounded the house. A woman reaches for a glass of water and her silhouette is lighted by the moon. A shot echoes like the lash of a whip and she falls. In my memory it’s always Mother who falls, and she has a baby in her arms. The baby doesn’t make sense — I’m the youngest of my mother’s seven children — but like I said, none of this happened.

Sep 12, 2019

One telling in particular has stayed with me. I am seven or eight and am in my room dressing for church. I have taken a damp rag to my face, hands and feet, scrubbing only the skin that will be visible.

How the paranoia and fundamentalism were carving up my life, how they were taking from me the people I cared about and leaving only degrees and certificates — an air of respectability — in their place. What was happening now had happened before. This was the second severing of mother and daughter. The tape was playing in a loop.
God couldn’t abide faithlessness, Dad said. That’s why the most hateful sinners were those who wouldn’t make up their minds, who used herbs and medication both, who came to Mother on Wednesday and saw their doctor on Friday — or, as Dad put it,” Who worship at the altar of God one day and offer a sacrifice to Satan the next. “These people were like the ancient Israelites because they’d been given a true religion but hankered after false idols.

Sep 12, 2019

I had misunderstood the vital truth: that its not affecting me, that was its effect.
I was fifteen and I felt it, felt the race I was running with time. My body was changing, bloating, swelling, stretching, bulging. I wished it would stop, but it seemed my body was no longer mine. It belonged to itself now, and cared not at all how I felt about these strange alterations, about whether I wanted to stop being a child, and become something else.

Dad said that the Government had programmed the computers with a six-digit calendar, which meant the year had only two digits. “When nine-nine becomes oh-oh,” he said,” the computers won’t know what year it is. They’ll shut down.” “Can’t they fix it?” “Nope, can’t be done,” Dad said. “Man trusted his own strength, and his strength was weak. ”

I’d never learned how to talk to people who weren’t like us — people who went to school and visited the doctor. Who weren’t preparing, every day, for the End of the World.

Sep 12, 2019

I was sixteen, had never taken an exam, and had only recently undertaken anything like a systematic education;
I began to study trigonometry. There was solace in its strange formulas and equations. I was drawn to the Pythagorean theorem and its promise of a universal — the ability to predict the nature of any three points containing a right angle, anywhere, always.

“ Tara can’t drive the crane,” Dad said. “It’ll take half the morning to teach her the controls, and she still won’t know what the hell she’s doing.” “But she’ll be careful,” Shawn said,” and I’m done falling off shit. ”
I am not sorry, merely ashamed.
I applied to BYU a week later. I had no idea how to write the application, so Tyler wrote it for me. He said I’d been educated according to a rigorous program designed by my mother, who’d made sure I met all the requirements to graduate.
Doctors were Sons of Perdition. Homeschooling was a commandment from the Lord.

Sep 12, 2019

“Holocaust. “ I don’t know how long I sat there reading about it, but at some point I’d read enough. I leaned back and stared at the ceiling. I suppose I was in shock, but whether it was the shock of learning about something horrific, or the shock of learning about my own ignorance, I’m not sure.

As a child, I’d been aware that although my family attended the same church as everyone in our town, our religion was not the same. They believed in modesty; we practiced it. They believed in God’s power to heal; we left our injuries in God’s hands. They believed in preparing for the Second Coming; we were actually prepared.

I don’t understand why I wasn’t allowed to get a decent education as a child.
I’d earned A’s in every subject except Western Civ. I would get a scholarship for half of my tuition. I could go back.

Sep 12, 2019

Rosa Parks. An image appeared of a policeman pressing a woman’s finger into an ink sponge. Dr. Kimball said she’d taken a seat on a bus. I understood him as saying she had stolen the seat, although it seemed an odd thing to steal.

The word and the way Shawn said it hadn’t changed; only my ears were different. They no longer heard the jingle of a joke in it. What they heard was a signal, a call through time, which was answered with a mounting conviction: that never again would I allow myself to be made a foot soldier in a conflict I did not understand.

Algebra threatened to put an end to my scholarship. The professor spent every lecture muttering inaudibly as he paced in front of the chalkboard. I wasn’t the only one who was lost, but I was more lost than anyone else. Charles tried to help, but he was starting his senior year of high school and had his own schoolwork. In October I took the midterm and failed it.

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Jan 04, 2020

A Memoir by Tara Westover is a powerful book.  Westover’s courage to tell her story is important because it provides others with a true journey.  A complex, emotional, brutal, and brave journey a young women took ‘from’, ‘towards; and ‘to’ a healthy new beginning.  Reading Tara’s story was not easy.  She experienced a family life, with her siblings and parents, that left scars. Westover’s candor fills this book. I appreciate how straightforward and humble her writing is. I am so glad I read it.  

This book was selected as one of The New York Times Book Review’s 10 Best Books of 2018.


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