Book Review: Educated by Tara Westover

I am always in search for a good memoir and Educated is one I will be sharing with others for years to come.

Summary from Goodreads:

35133922An 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.

Westover’s story is both captivating (I did not want to put it down.) and disheartening at the same time.  As a daughter of an educator and an educator myself, I can not imagine growing up in an environment with no schooling.  Leaving all medical emergencies into God’s hands?  I couldn’t fathom that.  Reading about her experiences – how both her father and brother physically and mentally abused her – and how her mother watched in the wings, I was disgusted.  Yet, her determination and perseverance become “educated” and to realize that this behavior is not “normal,” inspired me.  Westover’s truth is not one that many will find believable, but it is an important read nonetheless. Educated is now on my book talk list to share with friends, students, and teachers.

Thank you to NetGalley and Random House for the Advanced Copy!

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