Saturday, October 20, 2018

Tara Westover Educates All of Us About Shame

I'm just over the moon about this book. Yes, you’ve read about it or maybe heard the author, Tara Westover interviewed on TV or NPR, and yes, it’s about that girl who never went to school and then went to Cambridge and Harvard. It’s also about fundamentalism and (sort of) alternative healthcare. But it's so much more.

If you or a friend grew up in a family with addiction, abuse, or mental illness, and struggled to both heal and thrive here is a model and a roadmap of that complexity. 

And here is the best illustration of the power --and origin--of shame that I have ever read.

Tara Westover wrote about growing up in rural Idaho and about a father who was either/both mentally ill and fundamentalist. 

All of that is fascinating and curious and scary. Her story is filled with violence, perseverance, and strategizing for survival. But the big cost emerged so much later in her life.

In showing us how those very early years play out 10 and 20 years after the fact we get a sad but startling depiction of the true cost of growing up in an addicted or abusive home.

The parts of this book that made me pull the car over (I was listening to the book) and cry or take deep breaths occurred long after Tara has left her parent’s home, long after they have any official control over her life, and well into what we expect to be her new “successful” life.

If you ever felt—long into recovery—that you were still stuck in some way, or that old ghosts might be running too much of your head, Tara Westover has perfectly described how that happens and how deep those hooks can be.

If you have ever noticed that sometimes a compliment is more uncomfortable to you than a criticism, you’ll want to see what Tara learns about that.

I am recommending this book to everyone in recovery, everyone making sense of their trauma history, and every parent as well. There is so much help and healing in Westover’s beautiful book.

She might make you cry, but you will also be cheering for her—and for your recovering self.


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