The quality of mercy is not strain’d
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven . . . Merchant of Venice
I never seem to get book recommendations right. Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead and Lila, almost anything by Chaim Potok or Leif Enger’s Peace Like a River – there are, weirdly, good, thoughtful, smart people who don’t love these books, Idaho gal among them. (The Lord of the Ring trilogy too; it’s a topic we’ve learned to avoid.) It baffles me. Of course, this bafflement goes both ways. I recently mentioned to friends that the Harry Potter series never really grabbed me. Apparently, the words sounded just like: “You know, I rather enjoy drowning kittens for grins,” because the reaction was incredulity and profound dismay. But, well, onward into the breach and all that: Educated by Tara Westover is one of those books that all good human beings will like; please give it a whirl.
Here’s the story and a bit of a spoiler, that isn’t really a spoiler because, of course, she wrote a best-selling memoir: Tara is raised by fundamentalist, survivalist parents and Educated traces her journey from barely home-schooled to a PhD from Oxford. The prose is spare and the story told gently, even as she remembers horrific events. She remembers a cruelly abusive brother, a father who kept the family spinning wildly inward, always smaller and defensive, against imagined conspiracies. She tells of a mother who showed moments of strength and courage, but who finally succumbs to the world of her father’s creation – a dark, fearful existence, carved out of the hills and scrapyards of Idaho’s high desert hills.Continue reading “Tara Westover and the Quality of Mercy”