Educated: A Memoir

by Tara Westover

Hardcover, 2018




Random House (2018), Edition: First Edition, 352 pages


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. 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. As a way out, Tara began to educate herself, learning enough mathematics and grammar to be admitted to Brigham Young University. Her quest for knowledge would transform 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. With the acute insight that distinguishes all great writers, Tara Westover has crafted a universal coming-of-age story that gets to the heart of what an education offers: the perspective to see one's life through new eyes, and the will to change it.… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member AlisonY
I'm developing a bit of a split personality over this book. The sprite on one shoulder (let's call her Good Read Sprite) thinks it's very good - a well written page-turner and an interesting insight into life in a rural American survivalist family, which hitherto I didn't know much about. But the other sprite (let's call her Cynical Sprite), feels a little played, and having chewed over this for a day it's Cynical Sprite's thoughts that are winning through.

I'm not questioning whether the events that Westover writes about occurred or not - I expect that they did, and that there were many traumatic instances in her childhood and adolescence - but when I compare it to other Misery Lit titles this book feels very self-pitiful, and in some areas I suspected that Tara's viewpoint only uncovered part of the story, which supported how she wanted to position the overall narrative of her life.

For instance, on education she wanted the reader to believe that she had had next to nothing in the way of education before she sat her college exam. It seemed incredible that she could reach such stellar heights against such insurmountable odds, but then we read that 6 out of the 7 children went on to some level of higher education. When I read further around the subject, I discovered that both her mum and dad attended at least a year of university classes each, which Westover failed to mention anywhere in this book. Also, one brother (who I recollect she was close to in the book) has since questioned the accuracy and one-sidedness of a number of her recollections. He admits that their parents were extremists and that things happened to hurt Tara, but he points out that he has a different interpretation of some things that happened within the family. Tara would like us to believe that this is because her family are all indoctrinated by the family's very strict faith and controlling nature of her bi-polar father - yes, that's entirely possible, but equally her can-do-no-wrong self-positioning in this book made me begin to lose my trust in her as a narrator of her story at times, and to wonder what the full story was.

Westover also positions her mother's hugely successful business as a random happenstance that happened to some poor, uneducated hillbillies on the back of treating her father's injuries. That felt very glossed over, and again by sowing that doubt in my mind I further questioned how fully accurate the rest of the memoir was.

In all, I'm very conflicted by this book. I don't feel that we ever got to meet the real Tara - we meet the version of Tara and her story that Westover wanted to portray, and it didn't feel wholly authentic to me. Clearly I'm in the minority on this as I know the world and his wife loved this; I did really enjoy reading it, but I'm not sure I overly liked Tara in the end, which is very surprising as I usually root straight away for the underdog in this type of book. Her story was fascinating, but I think I would have sympathised with her difficult family upbringing much more if she'd let a bit more of the true Tara through.

3.5 stars - a really good read, but I was left with too many niggling questions.
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LibraryThing member Citizenjoyce
I've watched some interviews of Tara Westover on Youtube, this little girl who educated herself so that she could understand the world outside her reclusive existence in an Idaho mountainside raised by religious fundamentalist - conspiracy theory devotees. We all know about toxic masculinity, of which her father is a glaring example - devising theories of life that he forces his family to share. Alas her mother seems to suffer from toxic femininity in which she supports her husband in spite of seeing his errors with her own eyes. Then there's the psychopathic brother. At the center of this is a girl with a golden brain who, in spite of oppression and physical abuse opens her life through education.… (more)
LibraryThing member KamGeb
I thought this book would be more about how an uneducated, not really home schooled girl gets into college and what that transition was like for her. Instead I found a book about child abuse and neglect by a parents who are crazy. Not at all what I was expecting and I think that's why I disliked the book.
LibraryThing member RidgewayGirl
Tara Westover has quite a story to tell. Born into a large family living on a mountainside in rural Idaho, she was raised by a colorful father who raged about socialist indoctrination in the public schools and spent his time preparing for the coming apocalypse. Instead of attending school, she worked sorting metal in her family's junkyard. Injuries, and there were many terrible ones, were not treated in a hospital, but by her mother, an herbalist. In Educated, she describes her childhood and how she managed to leave, eventually studying at Cambridge and Harvard.

This is a memoir of an extraordinary childhood and about living through the aftermath. Westover is nonjudgmental when discussing her family and it's clear that she still holds them in great affection. Nonetheless, the story is harrowing. It's like a first hand account of a pioneer family, with the same extreme dangers exacerbated by her father's possible mental illness and the risky nature of the family business.

Once Westover manages to escape to university, the story doesn't lose momentum. She's intelligent and resourceful, but ill-prepared and made uncertain by the foreignness of her new environment. All in all, this was a memoir that read like a novel.
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LibraryThing member lycomayflower
Westover's memoir recounts her childhood growing up in a Mormon, survivalist, isolationist, homeschooling family and then her eventual estrangement from much of that family after she left to attend college and no longer allowed herself to be controlled by her father. This was a very difficult read. Westover unflinchingly recalls instances of violence within her family, emotional abuse, physical abuse, and neglect. I went into the book thinking it would be a hard book to get through but suspecting it would also be an important read for what it would tell me about a way of living that is relevant to our national dialogue and give some insight into how someone who has lived both within that lifestyle and without it feels about it. But now I'm not so sure.

As a memoir, I think Educated is pretty excellent (if a little battened down--I don't really feel like I have any sense of who Tara really is), but it's also the story of one family whose situation is so particular that I don't think the book really tells us anything about anyone but them. And that's fine--it is a memoir, after all, not a sociological study--and I imagine that many readers will find the exploration of this particular family dynamic helpful in understanding certain kinds of abuse. Ultimately I wanted more about the process of going to school (college) for the first time and what it was like to participate in organized learning and what she found out about the world once she left her isolationist upbringing. She mentions learning of the Holocaust for the first time; she outlines some of the things about schooling she didn't know when she first got to college. I was hoping for more of that kind of thing. The book was a memoir of a family; I wanted a memoir of all the nitty-gritty details of an education. Perhaps that desire on my part is also why I found the exclusion of certain details so annoying (for instance, some of her confusion about college surely would have been addressed at orientation, but she never mentions college orientation at all, not as a thing that didn't help, not as a thing that might have helped but that she somehow didn't know to attend, nothing). The little missing pieces of the story started to annoy me more and more as the memoir went on.

I don't particularly recommend this one on audio but I'm not steering you away from it either. I didn't love Whelan's voices for the men's dialogue, but other than that, the audiobook was entirely serviceable.

Trigger warnings for Educated: emotional abuse, physical abuse, verbal abuse, gaslighting, neglect of minors, medical trauma, untreated mental illness, the "n-word," violent misogyny, violent death of a dog (brief but brutal)
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LibraryThing member Cariola
This memoir has garnered many accolades, often being hailed as the best book/best non-fiction book of the year. Westover has certainly led an intriguing life, most of it due to her parents' radical Mormon beliefs and distrust of anyone and anything connected in any way to the government. The family lived "off the grid" in Utah, not far from Randy Weaver's farm, where a shootout with the FBI occurred. Tara heard the story so many times that she came to believe that she actually had heard the gunfire. The children were not allowed to go to public school or to play with "outsiders"; the mother was forced to become a midwife, despite her concerns and lack of interest, and later she became an herbalist and "energy healer." Of course, medical attention was out of the question, even for several life-threatening injuries. I found myself extremely frustrated by this attitude that sleep and God will heal a brain injury or salves and prayers will heal a third-degree burn. Tara's father was brutish and ignorant--and probably also bipolar. When he wasn't forcing Tara to throw scrap metal in his junkyard, he was mocking her desire to go to college and using God's punishment as a means to maintain control. Yet he had such power over his children that even after graduating from college and earning a PhD from Cambridge, Tara almost had a nervous breakdown when her father demanded an apology for finally speaking the truth about an violent, abusive brother; if she didn't apologize, she would be banished from the family forever. It's heartbreaking to see moments when Tara's classroom experiences open her eyes to the truth about her parents, only to fall back in line with them over and over again. As the title suggests, it was education that finally changed her life forever--but still not without a sense of loss.

I couldn't help but project many of the ideas of Tara's father onto the most radical Trump supporters, people who believe things not because they have the facts to back them up but because they want to believe them. The Jews are responsible for World War II and created the Holocaust to excuse themselves and make the Nazis look bad. Education is controlled by the government and full of propaganda, and educators are agents of the government (if not the devil). Well, I don't have to say more, you hear the crap that comes out of Trump's mouth every day. I spent a lot of my time reading this book with my gut twisting, just as it does when I have to listen to Trump or his ignorant followers. Which means that it was both frustrating and horrifying. I'm glad Tara got out, but I wish that she had confided in someone who could help much sooner. As Philip Larkin said:

“They fuck you up, your mum and dad.
They may not mean to, but they do.
They fill you with the faults they had
And add some extra, just for you.

But they were fucked up in their turn
By fools in old-style hats and coats,
Who half the time were soppy-stern
And half at one another's throats.

Man hands on misery to man.
It deepens like a coastal shelf.
Get out as early as you can,
And don't have any kids yourself.”
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LibraryThing member rivkat
Westover was born into a fundamentalist Mormon family that declined to give her formal schooling (or carry insurance; her father ripped the seatbelts out of their van rather than use them). Her father had her and her siblings do dangerous work in his scrapyard, work made more dangerous because of his contempt for safety equipment. Devastating accidents leave her older brother with head injuries that may well have worsened his abuse of her, even as her parents become more wrapped up in their own way of life (clearly aided by the lack of interest in Idaho in interfering with religiously motivated child harm). Westover eventually figures out that she wants an education and escapes to BYU, but her struggles are far from over. It’s beautifully written but heartwrenching.… (more)
LibraryThing member Zoes_Human
Educated was much too personal of a read for me to give a normal, proper review (whatever that might be). Tara's life wasn't shocking for me. Parts of it were quite familiar.

Though members of her family have disputed her account of some events, I believe her. I believe her because I resonate with her. I understand what it is to convince yourself it's all normal. I understand what it's like to participate not just willingly but desperately in your own gaslighting. I know what it's like to lose your whole family because it's easier for them to believe the abuser. So yeah, I absolutely believe her. She's much too familiar with those feelings in a way that a person just doesn't learn from a textbook.

It was a relief to read some of her experiences and emotional struggles, to hear someone else's experience in dealing with that. It was validating, because even now I sometimes wonder about reality and truth. Gaslighting, especially that which is done to a person in their childhood, has a permanent effect.

I would recommend this book for everyone really. Obviously, it contains some harsh materials that many readers will find upsetting, but it contains some truths that just aren't out in the world in a tangible way. If you haven't been there, you will strengthen your ability to empathize with others. If you have, I think you may share some of my feelings of relief and validation.

I'm proud of her for writing this. I'm grateful.
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LibraryThing member skye.knight
Educated was placed on my desk by a member that had borrowed it from another member. She asked if I had ever read it, when I replied I had not she began explaining how amazing the book was. A short time later another member passed by and raved about the book, followed by another and another. I decided I needed to see what all the "fuss" was about.

Wow... picked up and finished in a day and a half. I took in Tara's story as one of survival and personal strength. Secluded away from much of every day world due to her having a fundamentalist Mormon father who believed the government was out to get them, she lived a life full of brainwashing and lacking any education, although she was home schooled for a short time, she did not obtain high school level education. Stories of abuse and uncertainty fill the pages, making you long for her to find her wings.

Those wings are finally found when her older brother encourages becoming "Educated" and leaving the world she knows behind. Not without hurdles Tara struggles between the worlds, even later longing for a part of the world again.

An insanely addictive read.
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LibraryThing member fiverivers
There isn't a lot I could write to recommend this book to anyone, simply because it isn't so much an autobiography as a fantasy fiction. Allegedly--and I do use the term advisedly, because many of Westover's assertions lack any corroborating evidence, beyond her assertion--she was raised by fringe, likely mentally unstable parents who pursued a survivalist, conspiracy-theory lifestyle in Idaho.

Where do I begin? Perhaps with the caricature of the father. While tyrants and fathers and sheer crazy stupidity aren't mutually exclusive, I'm afraid the combination in Westover's presentation is a bit over the top. There are more than a few moments when her father suffers serious injury in his wrecking yard, and yet somehow miraculously survives without debilitating impediment, all through through the grace of hack home remedies not seen in employment since the Dark Ages, or perhaps anti-vaxxers and followers of Gwyneth Paltrow's Goop snake oil. Which makes me wonder if in fact Westover's mother wasn't a supplier of witch-doctor remedies to Paltrow.

Then there's Westover's assertion she and her six siblings were home-schooled by their mother, not much beyond a rudimentary ability to read and write. Not that the education (or lack thereof) wasn't possible, but that with this barely adequate education Westover somehow manages to not only escape the family cult, but achieve a stellar university education at Brigham Young, which institution is a known Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints university. While her education at is in fact a matter of record, how she achieved that given her background and financial distress remains questionable. Sure, there were grants, but as others have questioned, grants only take you so far.

And there is so much more which left me growling and researching to verify her allegations. I could go on. But what's the point?

Yet this autobiography received considerable literary and critical acclaim, having achieved the LA Times Book Prize, PEN America's Jean Stein Book Award, and two awards from the National Book Critics Circle Award. And that doesn't encompass the endorsement and praise received from the likes of President Barak Obama and others.

Did no one question Westover's radical claims? Did no one even have the basic understanding of some of the basic physics and science behind some of what she presented? Not one question from these luminaries? Just acceptance that because Westover wrote these things, and spoke with confidence, that all of this remarkable story is credible and true?

Perhaps I have grown cynical with age. But last I checked my ears weren't wet, and if I'm going to invest time in a reading journey with an author, that author best be sure their facts are straight.

Read Educated or not as you choose. Just be aware you're never going to get those hours back.
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LibraryThing member sturlington
Tara Westover grew up in an environment that I found to be completely alien, even though we are both from the same country and time. Her survivalist family is dominated by a paranoid, delusional, bipolar father who denies his children access to school and health care. Her mother starts out subservient but gradually transforms herself as she builds a successful business, yet never really challenges her husband's dangerous beliefs. Tara's home environment is inherently abusive, but she only comes to realize that as she grows older and begins to get out into the world, and the memoir reflects that slow self-realization. Her father forces his children to work in a scrapyard without proper safety equipment or precautions, and the horrific accidents they suffer are harrowing; afterward, they are treated with her mother's homeopathic remedies and must endure needless pain and deformity. It's a wonder none of them died. Tara's older brother is so completely damaged by his upbringing that he becomes abusive toward his sisters and eventually his wife, yet no one in the family will acknowledge his abuse. Eventually, Tara does escape, all the way to a doctorate program in Cambridge, where her reading on feminism and history gradually awaken her inner strength, her realization that what her family has taught her was wrong, and her determination to make her own life. This book was both moving and inspirational, and the only flaw it had was that I had a hard time understanding Tara's almost immediate success in higher education: was it due to innate talent or intense study or what? I wish she had shed more light on that aspect of her life, but otherwise this was an excellent book.… (more)
LibraryThing member hskey
Extremely good, one of the best non-fiction books I've ever read. Westover's story is as compelling as any fiction; heartbreaking, shocking, tragic. You want to reach out and give her a hug in nearly every chapter. Beyond her incredible upbringing among a gaslighting, fanatical, abusive family, her writing is outstanding - the prose, the structure, the pacing, the self-awareness, all of it is mesmerizing. A difficult, but worthwhile, read.… (more)
LibraryThing member lauralkeet
Tara Westover grew up in rural Idaho with survivalist parents who sought to prepare for the “End Days” and live independent from government interference. The children did not attend public school, but weren’t consistently home-schooled either. They did not have birth certificates. Medical treatment was administered by the parents using various homemade herbal salves and remedies. And yet in 2014, Tara was awarded a PhD from Cambridge University. Educated is her memoir of that long, harrowing journey. And it is excellent.

Tara and her siblings faced so many obstacles, educational, financial, medical, and more. Let’s start with Tara’s father, a true patriarch whose word was law. He insisted Tara and her siblings work in the scrapyard he managed on their property, exposing them to all manner of occupational hazards and the inevitable injuries, some serious with long-lasting consequences. He enforced rigid rules governing gender roles and forms of dress. As they grew up, each of the children made some attempt at independence, with widely varying results. Those who were able to claim full adult independence started by surreptitiously studying during their spare time. It is difficult to grasp the persistence required to master secondary school concepts, gain admission to college, and progress through a post-secondary program with virtually no family support. For some of Tara’s siblings this proved impossible, in no small part due to the hold their father had on each of them and on their mother.

Tara’s impressive academic achievements are just part of her story. In Educated, she demonstrates a remarkable level of candor and self-awareness, describing how she had to shed the skin she grew up in to become a completely different person that could function in mainstream society. It took a long time for her to be able to take ibuprofen for pain, and to see a counselor who could help her work through a myriad of issues stemming from her upbringing. This memoir is an incredible story and highly recommended.
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LibraryThing member akblanchard
This is the book Hillbilly Elegy wanted to be, but isn't.

Educated, which as I write this is near the top of the New York Times bestseller list, is a powerful tale of religious fanaticism, domestic violence, and untreated mental illness. It is a wonder that the author and her siblings survived their hardscrabble childhoods in rural Idaho, as their zealous Mormon parents did not believe in modern medicine and instead relied on homeopathic remedies and homemade herbal treatments. Moreover, Westover's domineering father thought nothing of putting his children in harm's way, and the book contains several examples of serious accidents that did not have to happen. The children's education was sorely neglected, to the extent that when Westover finally got into college despite paternal objections and through the force of her own will, she found that she lacked even basic common knowledge of Napoleon, the Civil Rights Movement, and the Holocaust. Westover's dedication to her education came at a steep price; although she has earned PhD from Cambridge, she is now estranged from the family she left behind.

I found this book painful to read. The lives it depicts are grim and almost cheerless. Nonetheless, I recommend this book to readers of The Glass Castle and The Sound of Gravel.
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LibraryThing member gypsysmom
I don't know when I've been so angry while reading a book. I'm not even a parent and yet even I know that children should not be kept ignorant and unvaccinated and subject to dangerous work environments at a young age. I had to put this book to one side before for a number of days before I had calmed down enough to write this review.

Tara Westover was born and raised in the mountains of Idaho. It sounds like it was a beautiful area and she did appreciate her surroundings. Her parents were Mormon and her father, in particular, was a hard-core survivalist. Some of the older children in the family of seven did attend public school but by the time Tara would have started school her father had pulled the children from the schools. The children were supposed to be homeschooled but that quickly went by the wayside. Tara's father owned a scrapyard and operated a construction business and he needed the children to help in these businesses. When Tara wasn't dodging pieces of scrap being hurled at a pile by a father who didn't look if there was anyone in the way she was helping her mother in her herbal medicine business or she was working in town to earn some money for herself. Almost everyone in the family was severely injured at some point but doctors and hospitals were never part of the treatment. After an older brother managed to leave the farm and attend university in Salt Lake City Tara saw an alternative for her life that didn't involve getting married at a young age and raising a brood of children. Tara's mother was somewhat supportive of Tara's plan to go away to university but her father was rigidly opposed. Tara and all the rest of the family were so used to obeying the father that Tara wavered until the last about whether to go or to stay. Her father had a volatile temper; after Tara learned about bipolar disorder in university she was convinced that her father suffered from that. In addition to her father's mental health problems Tara's older brother Tyler was also mentally ill. Tara had to put a lock on the inside of her bedroom door to keep Tyler out because he would come in while she was sleeping and try to strangle her or drag her to the bathroom and dunk her head in the toilet. This behaviour must have been witnessed by the parents but they never intervened. Years later, when Tara tried to get them to admit that Tyler had a problem, they virtually disowned her. Given this upbringing it is astonishing that Tara managed to get to university and ultimately get a Ph. D. and learn how to get along in the outside world.

I am sure there are scads of lovely Mormons; I even knew some. And maybe there are extremists in every religion and faith but Mormons who are extreme certainly crop up frequently in literature and non-fiction. A few years ago I read Keep Sweet which is the memoir of a woman who was raised in a polygamous community in Canada. That account and this one are of relatively recent events, not something from the beginnings of the Mormon religion, and they paint a very disturbing picture. Both authors got away from their communities but what about all the ones who didn't?
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LibraryThing member lisapeet
Very interesting book. Westover grew up in a fundamentalist, survivalist, very dysfunctional and often violent Mormon family and didn't set foot in a classroom until she was 17, barely qualifying as homeschooled—she had LDS scripture and some ancient textbooks lying around the house to explore or not as she wanted, and mostly worked in her dad's incredibly hazardous junkyard from age 10 on—and she ended up getting a PhD from Cambridge and taking this extremely scholarly path.

It was a really fascinating memoir of reinvention, not just moving from outsider to mainstream or unschooled to academically adept, but how she forcibly reoriented her own internal world map. The first part of the book was more of a dysfunctional-family page-turner than I expected from reading reviews, a barrage of violence and mental illness and a jaw-dropping amount of physical injury—it boggles the mind how any of these people were still walking upright by the book's end—but it all served a purpose, and painted a good solid picture of the emotional and psychological boundaries she had to work so hard to redraw. Westover tells her story well, and of course it's all the more dramatic for not being a novel. But she manages to pull no punches and at the same time not edge over into pathos. As someone who's recreated myself in very comparatively small ways, but still thinks about all the tiny choices that went into something so momentous (to me), I found her story really affecting. I wonder if she'll write more popular work or settle into the academic life that seems to suit her so well.
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LibraryThing member thewanderingjew
Educated, Tara Westover, author; Julia Whelan, narrator
The author was raised in Idaho near a beautiful mountain called Bucks Peak. There was no record of her birth, and she never attended school. This is her inspiring story. Her parents were Fundamental Mormons who brought her up to be self-sufficient and modest in dress and behavior. Her mother, Faye, was a talented herbalist and an unlicensed midwife. Her father, Gene, was a survivalist who ran a junk yard, dealt in scrap metal and took odd construction jobs, locally. He was the master of his home and believed that a woman’s place was as a homemaker and mother. All of the children became part of his crew at one point or another in their lives, when necessary. Many sustained life-threatening injuries because of a lack of judgment and/or common sense. Their father believed that G-d would guide him and them. They all fell under the spell of their father, to a greater or lesser degree. Gene believed he communicated directly with his G-d and always had the one right way, even when tragedy occurred because of his foolish decisions. He believed whatever happened was G-d’s will, and G-d would always provide and care for them. Angels would guide them, and they would not be given more to deal with than they could handle. He was sure the end of days was coming, and he prepared for it, hoarding food and burying fuel underground.
Neither of Tara’s parents seemed quite stable. They were afraid of hospitals which might poison them; they were afraid of schools which might brainwash them. They were fanatic in their beliefs, and Tara’s formative years were sheltered from the outside world. She was often subjected to abuse by one of her brothers which went unnoticed or ignored by both of her parents. Her father believed females needed to be taught how to behave properly. If she accused her brother of hurting her, he demanded proof. Often, she had no one to protect her.
When, for some odd reason, she was allowed to apply to college, never having been to public school, Tara spent hours studying for the ACT. Her home schooling had been sparse at best, but her brother encouraged her because it was the path he had followed. On her second attempt she did well enough to enter Brigham Young University. She was out of place, unworldly and dressed differently than the other student, having no prior knowledge of anything worldly beside the religious books she had read and the medicines she had made with her mom. She was adept at construction with her brothers and fathers but had no idea about something so simple as basic hygiene.
Growing up, Tara did no know what she was missing, but as she entered the world, the opportunities and education she was exposed to caused tremendous conflict within her. She began to see the difference between her world and everyone one else’s world. She began to question her lifestyle.
As Tara describes her life, set firmly in the current events of the times, it is hard to believe that she and her family could survive so many mishaps intact, without the benefit of medical care or education. It is hard to believe that life was able to fulfill her dreams. She has written her memoir clearly and succinctly as she tells the story of a young girl who was both sheltered and abused. The miracle of that young girl’s success and her ability to break out of the mold she was in and grow to the person she is now, is the highlight of the book. The book is stirring as it illustrates the miraculous possibilities one can hope for and achieve against all the odds placed in the way. Without the inner strength and insight Tara possessed, it would have been impossible.
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LibraryThing member abycats
I simply could not bring myself to read this book. It's well enough written but way beyond depressing. I realize there are people who prefer to live off the grid and assume that everything (and everybody) that doesn't agree with them is evil, but this woman's life was hell. The father is, in my view, literally demonic for what he does to his children and his wife. Even if the writer triumphs eventually, reading the first part is too great a price to pay to share in her achievement.… (more)
LibraryThing member librarygeek33
I'm not sure why I was not as impressed by this as many other readers. Reading about severely dysfunctional families is never an easy read and I'm sure it wasn't easy to write (or live through either). If I was more engaged with the narrator I think I would have had a better opinion. A better editor would have helped. The author seemed, in my opinion, to just gloss over certain issues such as her relationship to her religion. It felt more like a set of diary entries than a work where you really get to know someone.… (more)
LibraryThing member Tytania
Did we really need another GLASS CASTLE so soon?
It kept me reading - you can't help but root for her. But it got so repetitive. How many times can we mentally scream, "NO, TARA, NO!" No, do NOT go get another ice cream with the guy who broke your toe and habitually shoves your head in the toilet! This will not end well! How many times can we think, "OK, now she's starting to get it, finally!" and then read "So I went home for Christmas." You WHAT?! "STOP GOING HOME FOR CHRISTMAS, TARA!!"

Best takeway came on the penultimate page: "Guilt is never about THEM. Guilt is the fear of one's own wretchedness."
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LibraryThing member SamSattler
"Educated" is an unforgettable memoir, the story of an amazing woman who overcame countless handicaps put in her way by her parents and still managed to educate herself to a level that only a few people ever attain. Despite never going to school at all (and having only a minimum of home schooling, Tara Westover eventually attended some of the finest schools in England and the United States. She even managed to regain her mental health, and despite still being estranged from her parents and half her siblings, she seems to be doing well today.

But "'Educated" is more than a memoir; it is a thriller and a page-turner as the author fights off the brainwashing techniques applied by her parents and the physical threats of one unstable brother. That Westover even managed to survive her upbringing is surprising; that she has done so well is almost a miracle.
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LibraryThing member AMQS
Educated is an extraordinary book, definitely worthy of the praise it has received here and pretty much everywhere. I experienced, as my daughters would put it, "all the emotions" while reading it - including awe, disbelief, anger, rage, frustration, wonder, admiration, and sadness. Tara Westover describes a childhood off the grid in a family of Mormon survivalists. Her parents are deeply wary of the government, of doctors and medicine, and of the brainwashing of schools. Tara spends her childhood helping her mother prepare herbal tinctures and salvaging metal in her father's scrapyard, a particularly dangerous place for children or anyone, really. The horrific accidents that befall Tara and her siblings are treated with herbalism, and considering none of them was ever vaccinated, I am astounded none of them ever had tetanus. The other part of their existence is about preparation - the stockpiling of food, fuel, and weapons for the coming Days of Abomination. Inspired by a brother who managed to get away and enroll at BYU (and the need to escape another, violently dangerous brother), Tara manages to educate herself, buying books on trigonometry, etc, so that she can pass the ACT and also enroll at BYU. This she does at 17 - the first time she ever stepped inside a classroom. She was utterly unprepared, but had the drive, the curiosity, and the support at critical times to persevere, earning a scholarship to study at Cambridge, a fellowship at Harvard, and finally a PhD at Cambridge. Her path to academic success was not linear, as she suffered crippling mental health issues, and a pull from her family to reject what she knew to be true and purge herself of the demon they knew was possessing her. This was a harrowing read - like a car accident you can't stop watching (and there were several of those in the book too). Amazing. I will be thinking about this one for a long time.… (more)
LibraryThing member write-review
Escaping Abuse and Ignorance

Today, Tara Westover, at 32, is a historian with a PhD from Cambridge University, impressive in and of itself. More impressive, however, is her journey, quite a harrowing one, from the mountains of Idaho, from a fundamentalist LDS family over which her father ruled with devote immersion in religious mythology and delusion, from a home that denied science and any sort of rational thinking, that believed in and practiced, and continues to practice, discredited herbal therapies, placing Tara, family members, and others who came to them for help in mortal danger, and that, above all, not only condoned but shielded an abusive brother, putting Tara, her sister, and her sister-in-law in the path of constant psychological and physical abuse. Add to this the fact that she pretty much had to self-educate herself, not just intellectually but also in social manners, as her parents prevented her and her sibling from attending public schools, and that she only became self aware of her need to educate herself, to become self-aware, and to enter the world, the real one beyond her mountain home, in her late teens. Remarkable and incredible seem insufficient words to describe her accomplishment.

Tara Westover is the youngest of seven born to Gene and Faye Westover in Clifton, Idaho, in the lower southwest of the state, about three hour drive north of Salt Lake City. The Westovers are The Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints; however, they adhere to a form of independent fundamentalism that views even regular members of the church as corrupted souls. They are survivalists who manage to live outside the system, eschewing doctors, hospitals, modern medicine, schools, and interaction with government of any sort. Tara was delivered by a midwife, and only got a birth certificate when she was nine. Like her siblings, she spent her time working in her father’s scrapping and construction business, where injury on the job appears to have been a regular occurrence. And when accidents or illnesses occurred, her mother treated them, even deep gashes and burns, with homemade concoctions (her mother has build a successful business selling what she calls essential oils). The parents mantra was, “God will provide.”

Family unity was and is at the core of the Westovers, and Tara’s parents, especially her father, appear to have wielded this to control the family, and as a tool to bring Tara back into the fold. They threatened with and then literally excommunicated her from the extended Westover family. As she relates in her book, this caused her tremendous psychological stress and self-doubt. Added to this, an older brother Shawn physically abused her and later threatened her life. She could never feel secure at home, and never in his presence. The worst part of this abuse and what split her from her family was and is her parent’s denial of Shawn’s abuse. Shawn demanded absolute obsequiousness from the women around him, and in the book Tara illustrates how he exercised control over girlfriends, his wife, and Tara that mirror the traits of controlling men. In many ways, Shawn followed in the footsteps of his father, who also demanded absolute adherence to his beliefs. With this, came the reality that Tara could not trust her mother. On a number of occasions after Tara had confided in her mother about her problems with Shawn, her mother promised to act, only to betray her daughter. Combining this with the authoritarian family structure, with the family’s isolation and denial of the greater society, even Mormon society, with a survivalist approach to life in which the end times were about to befall them every day, the only suitable way to characterize the environment in which Tara grew up and which, through her own will and instinctual intelligence, she was able to escape, is toxic.

The truly sad part of this memoir is that many children live in similarly dangerous households and hardly any have the personal wherewithal of Tara Westover. Hers, then, is a remarkable, inspiring, and probably unique tale of escape.

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LibraryThing member bragan
Tara Westover grew up on a mountain in Idaho, in a family of fundamentalist Mormons who were regarded as extreme even by other fundamentalist Mormons. Her father believed schools were instruments of government brainwashing, doctors were murderous tools of the Illuminati, and the apocalypse was looming at any moment. Her mother believed she could treat any ailment with faith, magic, and herbs. Her older brother was terrifyingly violent and abusive. She and her siblings were denied an education. They were put to work in her father's junkyard under incredibly unsafe conditions. They were denied medical attention for life-altering injuries. And they were repeatedly told that everything that happened to them was God's will, or even that it never happened at all.

Somehow, Tara got out. Through a combination of high ACT scores and lying about the quality of her almost nonexistent homeschooling, she got into college. She eventually ended up earning a PhD in history from Cambridge. But truly leaving the mountain and her family behind was never anywhere near as easy.

The story of Westover's academic accomplishments, given where she started from, is impressive, perhaps even inspiring. But mostly what this book was for me, was upsetting. Deeply, viscerally upsetting. I've read some disturbing books in my life, both fiction and non-fiction, but I have never so desperately wanted to somehow reach through the pages of a book and hit people. Which is, of course, a testament to its effectiveness, made even more effective, I think, by the heartbreakingly restrained, thoughtful way that Westover tells the story, as she reflects on issues of family, history, memory, and self.
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LibraryThing member John_Warner
Tara Westover, the youngest of seven siblings, was raised by survivalist parents "off-of-the-grid" in the shadow of secluded Buck's Peak, Idaho. Her father so feared the government that many, including Tara, did not have birth certificates or go to school. None received medical care from anyone other than their mother who was primarily self-trained in homeopathic medicine. Tara's world view was limited to only what her parents told her. When she finally began attending Brigham Young University at 17 years old after convincing the administration that she was home schooled (what schooling she received was primarily through self-education), she was truly John Locke's tabula rasa. She had never heard of the Holocaust and thought Europe was a country. School opened her eyes to the world and the reality of her family. Through a desire to learn, persistence, and assistance from key educators along the way, Tara eventually obtain an education from Cambridge University culminating in a doctoral degree from Harvard University at 28 years of age.

Like the author of The Glass Castle, this is a memoir of a woman who overcomes familial obstacles to obtain an education. As she tries to "have her cake and eat it too" between family acceptance and an education" she risks losing both. This memoir was particular difficult to stomach given a troubled brother whose abusive behavior was overlooked by Tara's parents. However, her craving to learn, drive for a good education, and desire for a better life was kept me turning to pages and has kept this book on the NYT bestsellers list for 38 weeks and I predict will keep it on it for many more weeks to come.
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