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Tara Westover was born to survivalists in the mountains of Idaho, she prepared for the end of the world by stockpiling home-canned peaches and sleeping with her "head-for-the-hills bag". She helped her mother, a midwife and healer, and in the winter she salvaged in her father's junkyard.

She was raised with very non-mainstream views about the government and the world. She believed doomsday was coming, and that the family shouldn't interact with the health and education system. As a result, she didn’t start her education until she was 17, and major medical crises went untreated.

Because Tara and her six siblings worked at their father’s junkyard from a young age, none of them received any kind of proper homeschooling. She had to teach herself algebra and trigonometry and self-studied for the ACT, which she did well enough on to gain admission to Brigham Young University. Eventually, she earned her doctorate in intellectual history from Cambridge University. 

Her father forbade hospitals, so Tara never saw a doctor or nurse. Gashes and concussions, even burns from explosions, were all treated at home with herbalism. The family was so isolated from mainstream society that there was no one to ensure the children received a solid e