by Tara Westover

Overview: 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 a nd 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 metal in her father’s junkyard.

Her father distrusted the medical establishment, 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 an older brother became violent.

When another brother got himself into college and came back with news of the world beyond the mountain, Tara decided to try a new kind of life. She taught herself enough mathematics, grammar, and science to take the ACT and was admitted to Brigham Young University. There, she studied psychology, politics, philosophy, and history, learning for the first time about pivotal 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 University. 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 from severing one’s closest 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.

Faith Bowers (08/22/18): This memoir is brutal. There is a lot of described abuse and lack of safety concern for the children of a Mormon family who inherited a mountain in Idaho. I did like listening to this novel, though the end was a bit redundant with Tara’s acceptance of herself and understanding that in accepting herself she could lose her parents.

Tara’s formal education starts in college at Brigham Young University at 17 years of age. Many times throughout her school years she has to first learn separate her two worlds home, the mountain and school which evolves to learning that she will not be the traditional Mormon woman in giving up her own self. It is beautifully written, she is very bright and had started journaling before she was 15 which makes each of the chapters vivid in detail from the earliest memories of her life. I think this would make an excellent book club book selection.
Rating: ****

Judy Stanton (06/23/18): The story of a young girl brought up in the mountains of Idaho by a fundamentalist Mormon family, who never attended high school (or went to an MD) but went on to graduate from Brigham Young University, and earn scholarships towards an MPhil and PhD from Cambridge (and become a visiting fellow at Harvard) is an amazing, compelling memoir. Were it fiction, one might think it unbelievable! Tara Westover draws from her journals and her siblings and family’s memories to reveal a dysfunctional family led by a bipolar, God-fearing father who is constantly preparing his family for the end of days. Her mother is at times supportive, but inconsistent and unreliable, mostly demurring to her husband’s rantings. The book exposes the author’s physical and mental abuse in bizarre family interactions, while heartfully documenting the profound struggle she faced in choosing to move out and move on. Excellent read.
Rating: *****

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