Thank you to the lovely people at Random House for my copy of Educated by Tara Westover. All thoughts and images are my own.
Author: Tara Westover
Pub date: February 20, 2018
Read if you like: The Glass Castle and picking your jaw up off the floor after it has dropped multiple times.
This was a completely mind-blowing read. I’m not sure what I expected, but this was not it. I was shocked by the level of access Westover gives the reader into her past. Her honesty is so compelling. Once I got into the second half of this memoir, I found it nearly impossible to put down.
While this memoir is always fascinating in its subject matter, it was not always easy to stomach. Westover’s descriptions of the physical danger in which her father placed her and her siblings time and time again brought shivers to my spine. There is one scene in particular involving a third degree burn that I had to skim because the goosebumps on my arms would not go away and I was pretty sure I was going to be sick. These scenes, while shocking and causing a visceral reaction in my body, illustrated the extent to which her father was willing to risk his children’s safety to stick to his beliefs.
Westover’s intelligence pervades every part of this memoir – in the way that she succeeds academically despite every obstacle thrown in her path, in the way that she writes, etc. But she also allows herself to be highly emotional – she is vulnerable when she reveals her doubts about her own sanity after she had escaped the tyranny of her father. She truly welcomes the reader into the rollercoaster of her mind as she attempted to rationalize her past and her future.
If you’re a fan of memoirs and loved The Glass Castle, this is definitely the book for you. If you’re interested in religion, hero worship, or academia, this memoir will suck you in.
Synopsis: (as told by the back of the book)
Tara Westover was seventeen the first time she set foot in a classroom. 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. In the summer she stewed herbs for her mother, a midwife and healer, and in the winter she salvaged metal in her father’s junkyard.
Her father distrusted the medical establishment, 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 an education, and no one to intervene when an older brother became violent.
When another brother got himself into college and came back with news of the world beyond the mountain, tara decided to try a new kind of life. She taught herself enough mathematics, grammar, and science to take the ACT and was admitted to Brigham Young University. There, she studied psychology, politics, philosophy, and history, learning for the first time about pivotal world events like the Holocaust and the Civil Rights Movement. Her quest for knowledge transformed her, taking her over oceans and across continents, to Harvard, and to Cambridge University. Only then would she wonder if she’d traveled to far, if there was still a way home.
Educated is an account of the struggle for self-invention. It is a tale of fierce family loyalty, and of the grief that comes from severing ties with those closest to you. With the acute insight that distinguishes all great writers, Westover has crafted a universal coming-of-age story that gets to the heart of what an education is and what it offers: the perspective to see one’s life through new eyes, and the will to change it.