Educated by Tara Westover is a fascinating, interesting and, honestly, disturbing memoir. It’s one that will stick with you.
I don’t typically read many memoirs as I feel they usually spend way too much time on childhood experiences. So I put off Educated for a long time. And I’m glad I waited until the right moment to read it. This is an intense one and while the cover is quite scholastic and makes you think the story will go one way—it’s actually dark with glimmers of hope.
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.
We all know that a quality education gives one the world. But what was striking to me was how the lack of education can be used for a force for manipulation and even violence. Coupled this with a completely demented take on religion and it’s a recipe for absolute emotional and physical destruction. I was so angry at Tara’s family—especially her father and one brother in particular. And her mother and sister fell victim to their manipulation and emotional abuse. Reading Tara’s story was quite heart wrenching in so many ways. Paranoia and undiagnosed mental illness is prevalent in the story. But the refusal to get any help, makes it difficult to try and find reason in so many decisions from her family. I failed to see any redemption from them. You might feel differently.
Sharing one’s truth
Tara is quite the vivid writer and really sets a scene very well. I think it’s interesting she decided to tell her story in such a raw and brutally honest way. It’s important for many reasons but to show how a lack of education is detrimental to one’s growth. I commend her for finding the strength to get away from abuse and find her own path and also not pretending her story features a happy ending with her family.
Final review thoughts: a complicated memoir that will make you think.
Here are my book club questions for Educated.