The author, a young woman brought up in a violent, fundamentalist, survivalist family in mountain Idaho, writes of her escape from that life and joining the modern world where she ended up earning a Ph.D. from Cambridge. As unlikely as that may seem, it pales besides the absolutely incredible (yet believable despite this) story of the abuse, fanaticism, and rationalization that her family experienced. It is difficult to read at times. It is much like the cliche of watching a train wreck in slow motion. At least in this case you know from the book’s very existence that she has survived the ordeal. She was “home schooled,” which in her case seems to have consisted primarily of learning domestic skills, obedience, and religious doctrine of a most bizarre nature. She never attended a real school, yet was able to enter BYU at age 17. Her ignorance of the outside world was so extreme as to be amusing at times, embarrassing at others, and not understood by her peers and professors.
The story is also difficult to read without drawing parallels to today’s national politics, but I’ll leave it at that. The writing is beautiful, but about very unbeautiful things. I’ve noticed that most of the negative or lukewarm reviews are by people who simply don’t believe some of the greatest excesses the author describes or the fact that she couldn’t see how abusive and destructive her family was and why she didn’t just stay out and not look back once she left. I’ve heard reports from enough cult members and kidnap victims to find it very believable, if not totally understandable. It is a very hard thing to reject everything your parents have taught you at least when you’re a teenager even when you are rebellious. Think about all the things your own parents did wrong or believed that you only came to realize when you were an adult, maybe not even until middle age, and how you probably still clung to family loyalty even if it wasn’t 100%. The book was so compelling I raced through it. You may not necessarily like it, but it is an education.