For Love of Books and Story

Educated: A riveting, courageous memoir.

Educated: A riveting, courageous memoir.

I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions expressed here are my own.

I was going to schedule this post to come out a little closer to the publication date since I’ll be traveling at that time, but I don’t know if I can deal with getting the review up on Goodreads and NetGalley while I’m overseas. So here it is, a bit early! Mark your calendars and keep your eyes open for this fantastic book!

Publication Date: February 20th, 2018

Synopsis 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.

Thoughts and Feelings

Part of why I love memoirs so much is the ability to be able to walk in the shoes, even just for a bit, of someone from a completely different world. Tara Westover brings you into her world. I was in that valley in Idaho, in her family’s junk yard, in her kitchen mixing homeopathic tinctures so they wouldn’t have to rely on the “medical establishment”. It left me utterly bewildered as to how Tara managed to shake-off that all-encompassing reality that her family constructed. The seven children in this family, including Tara, had no access to the outside world – no school, no doctor’s appointments. They were in contact with a few family members and members of their seemingly run-of-the-mill Mormon church in a nearby small town (Tara’s family were considered extreme, and her father considered the other church-goers to be “gentiles”), but that’s it. In spite of growing up in this world of mistrust, paranoia, and preparations for the coming apocalypse, three of the seven children, Tara among them, managed to break away and discover the world beyond their valley in Idaho. This book is about Tara’s brave journey towards that discovery – her education.

There’s a world out there, Tara,” he said. “And it will look a lot different once Dad is no longer whispering his view of it in your ear.

Everything I had worked for, all my years of study, had been to purchase for myself this one privilege: to see and experience more truths than those given to me by my father, and to use those truths to construct my own mind.

Part of this education was learning basic things like how to write an essay and what the Holocaust was. Part of it was learning to parse through the history and world-view that her family gave her and figure out the truths she knew deep down from the lies. This took guts and ultimately a lot of sacrifice, and I don’t know if I could have done it. Sometimes I found myself wanting to hurry Tara up. “Just let them go already!” I wanted to yell into the book. But she portrays her family with compassion, sharing the love that was tangled up with all the bad. You start to understand why it was so hard for her to break away – you can’t just cut out the bad without losing the good. 

The writing was so good! This is completely unrelated, but I have to say, as a homeschooling mom this book made me feel so much better about my own kids’ education. Other homeschoolers will know what I mean when I say that I am constantly questioning if I’m doing enough to educate my kids. Well heck, if Tara Westover can end up going to Cambridge for a PhD, we must be doing okay! This is so not the point of the book, sorry. 

Other  Beautiful (spoiler-free) Quotes from the Book

There’s a sense of sovereignty that comes from life on a mountain, a perception of privacy and isolation, even of dominion.

Having returned to my father, I felt the power of his person. A familiar lens slid over my eyes and Grandma lost whatever strange power she’d had over me an hour before.

In retrospect, I see that this was my education, the one that would matter: the hours I spent sitting at a borrowed desk, struggling to parse narrow strands of Mormon doctrine in mimicry of a brother who’d deserted me. The skill I was learning was a crucial one, the patience to read things I could not yet understand.

I’d never learned how to talk to people who weren’t like us—people who went to school and visited the doctor. Who weren’t preparing, every day, for the End of the World. Worm Creek was full of these people, people whose words seemed ripped from another reality. That was how it felt the first time the director spoke to me, like he was speaking from another dimension.

Sitting across from me is my father, and as I look into his worn face it hits me, a truth so powerful I don’t know why I’ve never understood it before. The truth is this: that I am not a good daughter. I am a traitor, a wolf among sheep; there is something different about me and that difference is not good.

Of the nature of women, nothing final can be known. Never had I found such comfort in a void, in the black absence of knowledge. It seemed to say: whatever you are, you are woman.

All I had to do was swap my memories for theirs, and I could have my family.

Stuff This Book Made Me Google

  • Ruby Ridge
  • muscle testing


Rating: 4.5/5 stars

American expat in Taiwan, book lover, wannabe writer and Mandarin language learner, homeschooling mom to two boys.

4 thoughts on “Educated: A riveting, courageous memoir.”

  • I just found out about this book on another blog and marked it to be read when I can get it. Wow, just wow, about the strength and intelligence of this young woman to break the cycle of a dysfunctional family. I’m eager to read it now!

    Very good and information review, so thanks for posting it for us.
    btw: I homeschooled, and unschooled, 2 of my kids for a few years of their public education and they turned out just fine 🙂

  • Hi Cahleen – thanks for stopping by my blog the other day for Show Us Your Books! I just did a post on Educated as well (which you may be interested in checking out). Anyway, I totally echo your thoughts on this one – it was a super well done, riveting and almost heart-wrenching at the same time. A really excellent memoir all around.

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