Review: Educated by Tara Westover

My Rating: 5 / 5 stars

Verdict: Buy Borrow Bypass

Synopsis (from Goodreads):

An unforgettable memoir in the tradition of The Glass Castle about a young girl who, kept out of school, leaves her survivalist family and goes on to earn a PhD from Cambridge University

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.

My Thoughts:

Westover’s life story is incredible. And I’m not using that word lightly. What struck me most about this memoir was that despite all the horrific experiences Westover endured, as well as the emotional and verbal abuse she suffered from her parents, Westover writes lovingly of her family. Throughout Educated, there is an undercurrent of ‘if only they would accept me, things would be okay.’ Even though she suffers no illusions about her past, Westover longs for her family to be reunited.

Some of the people in Educated felt larger than life. Like they couldn’t possibly really be this bad. It would be easy to refer to them as ‘characters’, but it’s important to remember that these are real people from Westover’s life. But the more you read this memoir, the clearer it is that the gaslighting, paranoia, mental illness, and distrust run deep. It would be easy to write off the Westover family. But Westover herself shows that nothing is black and white. Her parents thought they were doing right by their children. Her parents legitimately believe the things they believe. I’m sure we will never hear her parent’s points of view, even though it would be fascinating to hear directly from them.

Admittedly, I didn’t know much about Mormonism prior to reading this book. Most of my knowledge of the Mormon religion come from the musical, The Book of Mormon. I enjoyed learning more about Mormonism through Westover’s experiences. I’d be curious to see how her family’s more extremist take on the Mormon faith compares to other families’ experiences. But I also think it’s important that stories like Westover’s are told. Not only from a survivor standpoint, but I think it’s good to hear the life story of someone very different from one’s own.

Wrap Up:

Overall, I loved this book. I was consistently amazed at Westover’s life and the courage she had to overcome her upbringing. Her story will inspire readers to pursue their own education. Several times I set this book down while reading, needing to take a break from her life, which is a luxury that Westover herself never had. I would highly recommend this book to everyone, but especially for fans of The Glass Castle.

This book is…

inspiring

shocking

unforgettable

informative

well-written

This book contains content warnings for…

emotional abuse

physical abuse

Publisher: Random House

Genre: memoir

Page Count: 352

ISBN: 0399590501

Available here from IndieBound.

Have you read Educated? What books about the Mormon faith would you recommend?

I am an affiliate with IndieBound and as such, receive a tiny commission should you choose to click through any of the above links and purchase the book(s). Thank you for supporting A Word is Power!

14 thoughts on “Review: Educated by Tara Westover”

  1. It’s a tough but worthwhile read. The constant danger the children lived in due to their father’s disregard for anything involving a safety precaution is just baffling to me as a parent/teacher/rational human being.

    A good book about fundamentalist Mormons is Under the Banner of Heaven by Jon Krakauer.

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  2. I’ve been hearing more and more about this book over the past month, and it sounds super intriguing. It’s in my list to read but sounds tough to stomach.

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  3. I just finished this myself (review coming soon – it was hard to write one for this book!). This was definitely a, literally, unbelievable story. I totally agree that I had to keep reminding myself that these are real people.

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  4. I loved this book. I appreciated both the ‘I’m not going to be defined by my past’ aspect as well as the lack of judgment from Westover. I am still thinking about it, months after I read it. Great review. 😊👌

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  5. Great review, I like to sound of this book, I’m gonna add it to my TBR 🙂
    I read a really interesting book about Mormonisn called Under the Banner of Heaven – it’s a true crime novel but it’s really in-depth about the creation of the faith and all the key players through the years, well worth a read if you’re interested in knowing more!

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