Tara Westover’s Educated caught my eye the moment I saw the cover. I loved the idea of a memoir centered around education and what education means, especially since it’s played such a huge role in my own life. This book is not at all what I was expecting, but it was far better than I could have imagined.
(All reviews are spoiler-free unless otherwise noted.)
(From Goodreads)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 in her father’s junkyard.
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 an education, and no one to intervene when one of Tara’s older brothers became violent.
Then, lacking any formal education, Tara began to educate herself. She taught herself enough mathematics and grammar to be admitted to Brigham Young University, where she studied history, learning for the first time about important 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. Only then would she wonder if she’d traveled too 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 with severing the closest of ties. 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.
I don’t even know where to start with this book. Educated was probably one of the most difficult memoirs I’ve ever read, but it was worth every second. While the book as a whole illustrates the difference education can play in a person’s life, that isn’t exactly the whole story. This book is about a very dysfunctional family suffering under their patriarch’s mental illness. Tara’s father stopped his children from going to school because he didn’t want them to be in any way involved with the government (or the Illuminati).
Three of the seven children – including Tara – decided to educate themselves and go to college (which their father strongly disapproved of). In this book, we learn about Tara’s journey of self-discovery and the challenges she faced in balancing her education with her harsh Mormon upbringing. (Note: I have nothing against Mormonism, but her family took it to an insane extreme, and extremes in any religion can be dangerous.) I was raised Catholic, and I definitely identified with Tara’s struggle to examine things she’d been taught to believe without question. I loved her take on what she called her education – which was both formal and informal – and really think this is a valuable read for anyone who is having a hard time becoming their own person in a family resistant to change.
I don’t want to give away too much about the story, but it was really great. Brilliantly written – I loved the way Tara describes the shocking events of her life as simple facts – and utterly heartbreaking. I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it.
★★★★★ – I loved this book! The subject matter made it difficult to read at times, but I still had a hard time putting it down. Educated has been compared to The Glass Castle, and I absolutely agree. It’s a different story, but I think fans of The Glass Castle will love this book just as much. If you like The Glass Castle, if you like memoirs, or if you’re just looking for a great story, I highly recommend Educated.
Educated will be released on February 20. You can preorder it on Amazon now! (They have release day delivery. Just saying.)
To get the audiobook for free, use this link to sign up for a free trial of Audible and choose Educated as one of your two free books.
This book was provided to me by NetGalley and the publisher. All opinions are my own.
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