It’s impossible to love a book as filled with trauma, abuse, and violence as this one is, but nonetheless it was absolutely riveting. My jaw hit the floor over and over again as Westover kept revealing the next crazy scheme her father roped the family into, and I’m still coming to terms with the knowledge that there are still people out there who believe so strongly in fundamentalist survivalism that they refuse to go to hospitals and visit doctors, bury thousands of gallons of gasoline and other “supplies” underground for when the rapture comes, and think the government is out to get them at all costs, among other things. I mean, if you just faced a large, fiery explosion head-on and are suffering third-degree burns across your body and your face is literally melting off, go to the hospital! Don’t just wait for God and essential oils to work their magic on you!
I want to hate this book for introducing me to the horrors a family can induce on itself, but the shock value is just too great to ignore, and I read this with pure morbid fascination. I noted this in my Top 5 of 2019 post, but I think Westover does a great job of recounting all of these incidents from her childhood as well as she could. There’s no doubt in my mind that she has severe PTSD from everything that happened, whether she realizes it or not (she does seem awfully normal in interviews), but I really admire her for making it as far in life as she has, especially given her significant academic disadvantages (she once asked in a college class, “What’s the Holocaust?”). Also, I very seriously hope her brother Shawn doesn’t end up killing her, as he’s threatened so many times.
P.S. Ending this post on a less gruesome note, how beautiful is this cover? It took me forever to notice, but I just love the landscape inside the pencil, with fading trees and the birds and the silhouette gazing off into the horizon…