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 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.
My Thoughts: An inspirational story of one young woman’s struggle to break away from the constrictions of her childhood, Educated brings the reader right into the world she inhabited from her early years. Her first person voice was not filled with self-pity, but revealed an inner strength and a persistence that would serve her well in the years ahead.
As I followed her journey, I identified with some of her experiences. I had not been kept out of school as these children had, but so many of the attitudes that surrounded me growing up were very isolationist, so I could empathize with her plight.
Despite the authoritarianism of her family life, there seemed to be a true caring spirit that surrounded them all, and the actions of the parents seemed to come from a strong belief system.
However, there were aspects to the family life that chilled me: specifically, one of her brothers tormented her regularly. Perhaps his behavior served as an impetus that led to her eventual escape.
I was also struck by instances of family events that were recalled very differently between family members. I am also familiar with this tendency to either deny or conveniently forget the more disturbing elements of family life. Each individual’s perspective would vary, perhaps as that person’s coping measure dictated.
What happens ultimately to our narrator was in equal parts sad and uplifting: turning away from the belief systems and the tyranny of her youth would allow her to finally be her true self. A brilliantly written 5 star read.