Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Review: Educated by Tara Westover

Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover
Release date: February 20, 2018
Publisher: Random House
Pages: 352
Reading level: Adult
Genre: Autobiography
Source: Goodreads giveaway
Links: Author Goodreads • Amazon 

Overall: 4 out of 5 stars 

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.


Wow, this was an incredible story- if I didn't know better I would think it had to be fictitious. Tara's life was one crazy event after the next. I loved THE GLASS CASTLE and was wondering if this would be similar. It had a similar darkness to it and it was inspiring to see how both Tara and Jeanette Walls escaped. Tara's escape seemed to be a bit more lucky because she was very intelligent and able to get high test scores without ever going to school. Her parents were survivalists and lived in the middle of nowhere. They did not trust the government and, thus, kept their kids out of school and never worked real jobs. The danger came from not only the kids' lack of education, but also their lack of access to hospitals or any other help. Tara and her family members had some terrifying injuries and I can't believe they were never brought to the hospital. Tara's mother also practiced as a midwife and the women who came for her help would not go to hospitals either. It's incredible that people like this are still out there and it was incredible to see all Tara has done with herself since leaving her childhood home, and family, behind.

I flew through EDUCATED. Not only was it incredibly engaging, but I was eager to see how things would turn out for Tara and her family. I wonder if some people might be turned away from the cover thinking this book is just a memoir preaching about education and Ivy league experiences. That's far from it. The early parts of the book are truly brutal to get through, particularly the scenes of abuse and lack of intervention when truly dangerous and life threatening things are happening. I can't believe that Tara was able to be accepted into college by teaching herself math and other subjects just when she decides to go to college. She was lucky to have a natural affinity for learning. I can't imagine many others would be able to get out of that kind of situation on their own without the help of a teacher or parent to assist with their education.

Tara's siblings all faired differently as they grew older still under their parent's control. Not many of them were able to get out and recover like Tara did. She was lucky to have support at BYU that resulted in her getting a PhD from Harvard and starting a completely new life. College was an adjustment for me and I had attended a traditional school, I can only imagine how difficult it was for Tara. She probably could not even put into words all of the struggles and personal anxieties she faced in such a new environment. Her family was not only against any kind of government involvement, but they also were strict about dressing, entertainment, friends, and considered the "men" more valuable than the women in the family. Excessive drinking and abuse were commonplace in the Westover home.

Beyond the similarities in "untraditional" upbringings I wouldn't necessarily compare this to THE GLASS CASTLE. EDUCATED stands on its own and is an engaging story about a woman who changed her life.

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