Born to survivalists in the mountains of Idaho, Tara Westover was seventeen the first time she set foot in a classroom. Her 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. When another brother got himself into college, Tara decided to try a new kind of life. 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 too far, if there was still a way home.
Book Club Questions for Educated
- What were your expectations prior to reading the novel? And how did you feel once you finished?
- Why do you think it was so important for Tara to write her story and tell the truth about her family?
- Let’s discuss Tara’s parents. Why was her father so determined that they live off the grid? Do you believe he is undiagnosed bipolar? What are some of the signs that he showed this?
- Tara’s mother is an interesting figure. There are signs that she believes her husband and son goes too far—yet, she never seems to try to stop it, as far as we can tell. Let’s discuss her mother more.
- How did Tyler leaving to attend college completely change Tara’s perspective on what was expected out of her?
- There’s so much about religion in this book that we must discuss it. In what ways did both Lisa’s father and brother Shawn use religion as a way to manipulate the women of the family, especially Tara?
- In the Perfect in His Generations chapter, Tara’s father shows a bit more layers. He seems completely against her singing and acting in part, yet he continues to drive her to rehearsal and gives her feedback on her performances. What do you think was going on with his back and forth attitude about her performing?
- Shawn is violent, cruel and ignorant. Why was his violent behavior allowed? What do you think was truly going on with how he treated Tara? How did his jealousy of her impact his horrible actions? Let’s talk about the significance of her brother calling her a “whore” without any kind of pushback from her parents. Why did he call women “fish eyes” as an insult?
- Let’s talk about Tara’s first year at BYU and the culture shock she experienced. What were some of the key elements that helped her stay in school?
- Tara tried to date Charles, a boy from her hometown, but when he witnesses Shawn’s abuse, she pushes Charles away and doesn’t want to admit the truth about her brother. On Page 190, Tara writes about Charles, “He couldn’t save me. Only I could. I had no idea what he was talking about.” Let’s talk about this section.
- When did Tara truly start to understand that she came from a troubled background and that her family’s behavior up until this point was wrong? How did getting an education help Tara see the truth about her family?
- Let’s talk about how education opened her eyes to the world but also means that she can’t come home anymore. If she goes home, she’s not being true to herself.
- Where do you think this leaves Tara now? Is there any hope of reuniting with her family? And even better question, should she?
- Did this story make you feel hopeful? Why or why not?
What to Read Next
Educated is a book that generates plenty of discussion. Here are some more recommendations.
As I read Educated, I kept thinking about how much it reminded me of Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens. Honestly, if Tara hadn’t gotten into BYU, her life might have turned out like Kya’s. If you haven’t read it yet, you must add it to your list.
For years, rumors of the “Marsh Girl” have haunted Barkley Cove, a quiet town on the North Carolina coast. So in late 1969, when handsome Chase Andrews is found dead, the locals immediately suspect Kya Clark, the so-called Marsh Girl. But Kya is not what they say. Sensitive and intelligent, she has survived for years alone in the marsh that she calls home, finding friends in the gulls and lessons in the sand. Then the time comes when she yearns to be touched and loved. When two young men from town become intrigued by her wild beauty, Kya opens herself to a new life–until the unthinkable happens.
Perfect for fans of Barbara Kingsolver and Karen Russell, Where the Crawdads Sing is at once an exquisite ode to the natural world, a heartbreaking coming-of-age story, and a surprising tale of possible murder. Owens reminds us that we are forever shaped by the children we once were, and that we are all subject to the beautiful and violent secrets that nature keeps.
Another memoir that is a must read is Becoming by Michelle Obama. This one honestly feels like you’re getting coffee with Michelle and chatting about her lifestyle, while she encourages you to become your best self.
In a life filled with meaning and accomplishment, Michelle Obama has emerged as one of the most iconic and compelling women of our era. As First Lady of the United States of America—the first African American to serve in that role—she helped create the most welcoming and inclusive White House in history, while also establishing herself as a powerful advocate for women and girls in the U.S. and around the world, dramatically changing the ways that families pursue healthier and more active lives, and standing with her husband as he led America through some of its most harrowing moments. Along the way, she showed us a few dance moves, crushed Carpool Karaoke, and raised two down-to-earth daughters under an unforgiving media glare.
In her memoir, a work of deep reflection and mesmerizing storytelling, Michelle Obama invites readers into her world, chronicling the experiences that have shaped her—from her childhood on the South Side of Chicago to her years as an executive balancing the demands of motherhood and work, to her time spent at the world’s most famous address. With unerring honesty and lively wit, she describes her triumphs and her disappointments, both public and private, telling her full story as she has lived it—in her own words and on her own terms. Warm, wise, and revelatory, Becoming is the deeply personal reckoning of a woman of soul and substance who has steadily defied expectations—and whose story inspires us to do the same.