So I wanted to write a review on this book. So cliché by the way, after so much has been written already, written much better than if I had done the writing. Therefore, I will settle not for a review, rather an opinion and a half-baked one. I’ll explain later, but don’t let that stop you, do read on.
What I meant by half-baked is that I haven’t read the entire book. And that is not a subtraction to this review/ opinion. Quite the contrary, in fact it is more of an exaltation. You really do not need to finish this book to realize the potency of it. The story this woman tells is not only peculiar and unjust to all of the characters, literally with no exception. It is a masterpiece of the human story. And the way she tells it, the neutrality of it, to be able to balance the good and bad so precariously since in every moment they exist, at times confusingly melded in others horribly in contradiction. But both sides exist, it is a story with joy and happiness as well as sorrow and pain. It is a remarkable feat how she laid down this delicate story so intricately.
You know in the beginning, she sets out with a disclaimer that this is not about Mormonism. Unfortunately, the few interviews I’ve except the one with Gayle have centered on the religious aspect ignoring the story underneath, the powerful literature of her life that nearly drowned her and she eventually survived and yet even after saving herself, she faced the ultimate loss. Loss of family, the one thing she had clung to as much as she possibly could even as the separation of her own ideas’ and her family’s unfolded.
I was moved by this story because it is one of triumph. What I would otherwise refer to as true human courage and I am a 23 year old woman in Kenya so yes. Yes her aim to reach far and beyond her beloved Buck’s Peak with this story, to teach another, so different from herself some monumental ideas framed by the chapters of her life has been achieved.
She has done a fine job of bringing to the forefront ideas in a palatable and I hate to say this but edible way for public consumption. I hate to say edible as if the events of the book are so thrilling and interesting which they are and which she has represented ever so artfully. But alas this isn’t some wonderful imaginings or her life shrouded in a mirror image like say Kafka who wrote the same story over and over again. The bureaucracy, the tedium and the madness of paperwork but he covered it with the gauze of literature each time. This book is not that, this is her actual life.
If there is something that is displeasing, it isn’t a way to bring out an idea, it is an actual fact of life. Something that happened.
I can only commend her for the bravery for stripping her story and herself like this and presenting it to us in a manner that we would be both appalled and enticed by, in the hopes that we may learn something.
I feel the sacrifice because I write stories too but this was on another level. And you mustn’t forget that she is human too. Some of the things that happened, not only to her but to her family will follow her to her grave, of that I am sure. Even in her interviews, there is a controlled stiffness to her, not like the fluidity of her words in this book. The events changed her, she even spoke of how her brother the one who introduced her to the entire idea of schooling also had the same scars. And I’m not talking about the physical scars, I mean the mental ones, those bruising his psyche. Even after years of being away from that brainwashed environment he still did not trust medicine so much so that his children weren’t immunized for a long time.
The same goes for Tara. The violence both physical and mental that her brother inflicted on her. The terrible confinements of thought her father had on women and their relationship to their bodies, modesty and God I am sure haunt her to date.
This book was a rude and painful awakening. Now I can thank my parents enough for just one thing, exposure. I was floored by how the level of exposure and ideas you are allowed in your developmental years can define you for life. It taught me about the carnage of mental illness going unchecked and violence most of all. Violence and the hold it can have on a person. How it can twist and contort who you are until you are unrecognizable to yourself and the world.
I would advise everyone who can to read it and to do so. And to do it soon. Whoever you are, wherever you’re from, after reading this you too will be educated. Mark my words.
NB/ Even the cover how her mountains loom before her, like her childhood did but both are encapsulated by the pencil indicative of education. That explained everything that went on there. This book is just magical.