By Tara Westover
An international best seller published by Windmill Books, part of Penguin Random House (2018).
Reviewed by: Sue Flint

This memoir I am recommending makes for gripping and sometimes disturbing reading. It contains many references to topics clients bring into the counselling room (highlighted below in bold). The words are a tangled mass of issues that you may have learned about in training and/or through clients past and present.

The author, Dr Tara Westwood, was raised in Idaho – an idyllic, isolated spot surrounded by picturesque mountains. She lived with her parents who are Mormons and raised their family without interference from the outside world. For Tara and her 6 siblings there was no schools, no visits to doctors or hospitals, plenty of hard work and total belief in their parents’ way of life.

It is a book that will stir your soul with shock and compassion as Tara relates early descriptions of bullying by her brother to serious accidents that happen where help is not an option. Natural remedies and being a midwife are her mother’s speciality and dealing in scrap metal is her father’s business. Gender dominance and family dynamics play a great part in Tara’s story. It reveals coercive behaviour, religious conformity, personality disorder and narcissistic behaviours which are written about with a voice that needs to be heard, respected and honoured.

As Tara grows into a teenager her need for independence and freedom takes her on an incredible journey from having no education to gaining a Doctorate at Cambridge University. During these years the pull of ‘home’ keeps its grip and returning to the mountainous place time and time again only gives Tara more grief, fear and abuse. She fears for her mental wellbeing as she experiences panic attacks, nightmares and identity crisis before she seeks counselling through the University Counselling Service.

Her life-story is open, honest and, despite everything, written from a heart of love. Decision-making is painful but the rewards are her magnificent achievements in becoming EDUCATED and being free to be herself and not be influenced by negative labels by her parents or anyone else.

This Sigmund Freud quote becomes relevant and clear after reading the book:

“All family life is organised around the most damaged person in it.”

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