Educated: A Memoir

Educated: A Memoir

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 UniversityTara Westover was 17 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...

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Title:Educated: A Memoir
Author:Tara Westover
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Edition Language:English

Educated: A Memoir Reviews

  • Liz

    I grew up with my nose perpetually in a book. So, the idea of not being able to go to school, of being deprived of an education, hit me really hard. It was hard for me to grasp that things I take for granted, like knowing what the Holocaust was or who MLK, Jr. was, were black holes to Tara.

    Tara Westover is the child of a religious fanatic, someone who sees the government as pure evil. And by government, he means schools, hospitals, vaccines, seat belts, car insurance, etc. Everything we think o

    I grew up with my nose perpetually in a book. So, the idea of not being able to go to school, of being deprived of an education, hit me really hard. It was hard for me to grasp that things I take for granted, like knowing what the Holocaust was or who MLK, Jr. was, were black holes to Tara.

    Tara Westover is the child of a religious fanatic, someone who sees the government as pure evil. And by government, he means schools, hospitals, vaccines, seat belts, car insurance, etc. Everything we think of as civilization. His family awaits the Days of Abomination. There is a similarity here to The Glass Castle. Once again, we see how a mentally unbalanced father holds sway over an entire family. He thinks he speaks for God. Tara struggles with the knowledge that for her to go to school will mean a total separation from her father because he will never acknowledge that his ideas are not the correct ones.

    Parts of this book are cringeworthy. I found myself shaking my head that folks would allow severe suffering rather than a trip to the hospital or the use of real medicine. I’ll warn you that some of these sections are not for the faint of heart. The descriptions are sickening.

    I know little to nothing about the Mormon faith. Certainly, the faith of this family is not the true Mormon faith. But you get glimpses enough to also realize that there is a strong anti-woman bias in the faith and that women are definitely second class citizens. Broodmares more than humans on a par with men.

    This book doesn’t sugarcoat things. It’s not an education makes everything better kind of story. Tara continues throughout the book to struggle to find her way, to stand up for her beliefs. Hell, to find her own beliefs.

    This is an amazing book. It makes you realize how easy your life is. And how strong folks like Tara are to be able to rise above their beginnings and be able to fight back against the attempts of family to hold them down.

    I’m willing to bet this book makes it onto a lot of best of 2018 lists. It will certainly be on mine. Highly recommend!

    My thanks to netgalley and Random House for an advance copy of this book.

  • Jennifer ~ TarHeelReader

    🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟

    I grew up in a home of readers with a teacher mom and a dad who questioned my effort when I made an A-minus on my report card. When I began reading Educated, I was floored that Tara and her siblings were not in school, and they were not homeschooled either. How could this happen in modern times with compulsory schooling put in place long ago?

    Tara made it clear from the start that her family’s Mormon faith did not cause her father’s substantial paranoia;

    🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟

    I grew up in a home of readers with a teacher mom and a dad who questioned my effort when I made an A-minus on my report card. When I began reading Educated, I was floored that Tara and her siblings were not in school, and they were not homeschooled either. How could this happen in modern times with compulsory schooling put in place long ago?

    Tara made it clear from the start that her family’s Mormon faith did not cause her father’s substantial paranoia; however, he used his faith to feed it. This family not only did not have insurance, they did not believe in accessing traditional medical care. Horrific accidents and illnesses abounded due to the father’s and one sibling’s risk-taking, and no one went to the doctor.

    While the family was clearly having difficulty grappling with many things, I was struck by the love and devotion between them, even with the strained family dynamics. It was both fascinating and heartbreaking to watch those dynamics shift even more as Tara’s aspirations developed and were achieved.

    Strength. Grit. Perseverance. Tara’s tenacity resulted in her leaving the farm at Buck’s Peak and enrolling in college, after never attending a day of school. Her words were upfront, bold, but never complaining or looking for pity.

    Overall, I found Educated to be one of the most engaging, powerful, and inspiring memoirs I have read.

    Thank you to Tara Westover, Random House, and Netgalley for this reading experience I will treasure. Educated is now available!

  • Angela M

    Difficult to read. Impossible to put down. A powerful, powerful book that you shouldn’t miss. I can’t just leave it at that because Tara Westover’s story deserves more than those few words. I don’t often read memoirs, but when I do I want them to be told by extraordinary people who have a meaningful story to tell and that would be faint praise for this book. It sounds odd to say how beautifully written this is because we are not spared of the ugly details of what this family was about, but yet i

    Difficult to read. Impossible to put down. A powerful, powerful book that you shouldn’t miss. I can’t just leave it at that because Tara Westover’s story deserves more than those few words. I don’t often read memoirs, but when I do I want them to be told by extraordinary people who have a meaningful story to tell and that would be faint praise for this book. It sounds odd to say how beautifully written this is because we are not spared of the ugly details of what this family was about, but yet it is beautifully written. I had to remind myself at times that I wasn’t reading a gritty novel, that Tara and her family were real as I got more than just a glimpse of a life that was hard for me to even imagine.

    A religious fanatic father, hoarding food and guns and bullets and keeping his family off the radar, not filing for birth certificates, not getting medical attention when they needed it, avoiding the government, the feds at all cost , keeping his children out of school, the paranoia, the preparation for the “Days of Abomination” - this is what we find in this place on a mountain in Idaho. There are horrible accidents and he won’t get medical help for his family. Her mother’s healing herbs and tinctures are used to treat the slightest scrape to the most horrible head injury or burns from gasoline to an explosion. If some thing bad happens it because that’s the will of the Lord. Her mother seems at times more sympathetic to her children, but she is complicit by her subservience to her husband. I don’t even know how to describe it other than gut wrenching to see the effects on this family of neglect in the name of religious beliefs and in reality mental illness. It isn’t just her father but the brutality by one of her brother’s which is more than awful and creates rifts between family members,

    That she was bold enough and somehow found the will to rise above it all while she is torn with the sense of duty, of loyalty to her family, the ingrained beliefs, still loving her family is miraculous. Going to college was the first time she’d been in a classroom, not knowing what the Holocaust was, learning about slavery, the depression, WWII, the civil rights movement. She doesn’t just get a college education but ultimately a PhD from Cambridge, a Harvard fellowship. She struggles for years to discover who she was, who she could be - a scholar, a writer, an independent woman. This is a stunning, awe inspiring story that will haunt the reader long after the book ends.

    Thank you to Tara Westover for sharing yourself with us. I received an advanced copy of this book from Random House through NetGalley. Thanks to my friend Diane for bringing this book to my attention. Without her review I might have missed this.

  • Karen

    Wow! Tara Westgrove is one of the strongest, and bravest people I have ever read about! This woman grew up as the youngest child in a big survivalist, Mormon family, in Idaho at Buck Peak. So much danger for her in that life, mostly because of her father and one of her older brothers.

    This memoir is so brutal at times and hard to read, your heart just breaks for this girl, and for some of her siblings.

    Tara rises up to become extremely “educated” despite the fact that she never attended school, an

    Wow! Tara Westgrove is one of the strongest, and bravest people I have ever read about! This woman grew up as the youngest child in a big survivalist, Mormon family, in Idaho at Buck Peak. So much danger for her in that life, mostly because of her father and one of her older brothers.

    This memoir is so brutal at times and hard to read, your heart just breaks for this girl, and for some of her siblings.

    Tara rises up to become extremely “educated” despite the fact that she never attended school, and was barely homeschooled.

    Her academic achievements were fascinating to read about, especially with all the turmoil in her life.

    Recommended!!!!! What a story!

    Thank you to NetGalley and Random House for the advanced ebook!

  • Debbie

    [News flash: I see that this review is WAY too long! I’m such a blabbermouth! Feel free to skip sections. I went way overboard. Geez….]

    Meanwhile, I’m bouncing on mine, going high and far to escape her whacked-out father and super-scary psycho brother. Plus, face it, I bring out the pogo stick when it’s a fantastic read and believe me, this qualifies

    [News flash: I see that this review is WAY too long! I’m such a blabbermouth! Feel free to skip sections. I went way overboard. Geez….]

    Meanwhile, I’m bouncing on mine, going high and far to escape her whacked-out father and super-scary psycho brother. Plus, face it, I bring out the pogo stick when it’s a fantastic read and believe me, this qualifies. Holy moly what a tough and bizarro life this amazing woman has had, and oh what a writer!

    I was so jazzed after reading this book, I went online and watched every interview with Tara that I could find (and there are many; I’ve added a few at the end of this review). I just had to see and hear this woman, this woman who had a strange, horrendous, and dangerous childhood and lived to tell about it—and so eloquently. She’s only in her 20s—so young to be so successful. From the interviews, I see that she happens to be articulate, quick-witted, and confident, and she totally passes for normal, whatever that is. On the outside, you don’t see the scars, the scars that have to exist on her psyche after the hellacious childhood she endured.

    I didn’t love this book for the first half hour or so of reading; I thought I was in deep do-do. Again, it’s that damn description—which just isn’t my style. The book opens with Tara describing the beauteous mountain that she grew up on. It was perfectly written; a creative writing teacher would have been damn proud of her. But I was screaming inside, “This is a memoir! Tell your story!! Give me some juice! Tell me what happened and how you feel. Save the mountain business for a poem, will you please?” Ha, the mountain was affecting me too—I didn’t like it because it was this giant barricade blocking me from feeling anything about this writer or her story.

    Luckily, the mountain talk stopped and then I got pulled in real fast. And as I got into the story and forgave her for her brief stint with DD (description disorder, which some writers are afflicted with), I have to admit I sort of liked that she described the mountain and her love for it. The mountain gave her some feeling of safety and peace, and its beauty stayed with her as she trekked to places far away to get her education.

    I could sit here and write a Cliffs Notes version of her life, just because I’m so excited to share it, but I’ll try to put a sock in it (one of the two that were knocked off my feet by the power of this story) because you really need to experience this book all for yourself.

    Tara is the youngest of seven kids, all raised in the mountains of Idaho by a madman father who was a religious fanatic and believed the end of the world was coming. He buried gas and guns so that they could survive after the end came. He thought the government, schools, and medicine were all bull—and dangerous. It was all about God’s will and Satan’s grip. He was charismatic and forceful.

    Although Tara doesn’t think of it as a cult, it sure seemed like a family cult to me, with her dad as the far-out leader. He brainwashed all of them. She says she’ll always have to stop and question whether what he said was true.

    They are Mormons, but the type of religion is beside the point. Dad is an extremist, that’s all we need to know. Tara says right up front that the book is not about Mormons. I absolutely hate religious rantings, but luckily no one is pushing the religion; Tara is just telling us what it was like around her house. Tara doesn’t talk about her religious beliefs today; I’m mildly curious. At the time, she believed everything he said.

    Tara doesn’t have a birth certificate and doesn’t know her birthday--just an approximation. How weird would that be? She was born at home and her father didn’t register her existence because he didn’t want the government to make her go to school. When she is seven, she says:

    “…When I am nine, I will be issued a Delayed Certificate of Birth, but at this moment, according to the state of Idaho and the federal government, I do not exist.”

    I will say that this memoir reads like fiction. It’s hard to believe that it’s not. Expect to bite your lip and grimace and scream inside as you read detailed descriptions of MANY accidents that happened to Tara and her family members. Burns and gashes and raccoon eyes and brains hitting concrete. Some people say that she probably misremembered or exaggerated, but I say you don’t make up seeing your brother’s brain peeking out of his skull. How did they all stay alive?

    And then there’s the mental and physical torture that her psycho brother Shawn inflicted on Tara and others. Oh, he’s a cutie all right. He broke her fingers, put her head in the toilet—normal stuff like that. If there was ever a need for a therapist….

    Tara doesn’t play the victim. And she doesn’t hate her family—which at first seems hard to believe. But she says her life seemed normal to her: she had nothing to compare it to, for one. All kids must help their fathers work; her dad just happened to own a junkyard with dangerous equipment. How could she know that other families didn’t get injured all the time? How did she know that other families went to hospitals instead of using herbs to cure everything? (Her mom is an accomplished herbalist.)

    And she knew her parents loved her and meant well. Dad couldn’t help it that he was crazy. He did the best he could. So despite growing up in this intense, isolated family with a mad father, an abusive brother, horrific accidents, and a fear of the apocalypse, she doesn’t think she had a terrible childhood-- and she has many good memories. Wow.

    Her formal education began when she was 17 when, after studying on her own for the ACT exams, she got into Brigham Young University. Before this, she had never stepped foot in a classroom. She had never heard of the Holocaust or the civil rights movement. She thought Europe was a country. She didn’t think to read her textbooks; she thought she was supposed to just look at the pictures. Despite this, she ended up at Cambridge. She says getting an education is not about making money, but about making a person.

    I identify with her being hell-bent on getting educated and knowing she had to do it herself. My parents wouldn’t send me to college (they wanted me to be a flight attendant, but they did worry I was too short). I had an intense drive to go to college. I went to the library to find out which city had the most colleges and that was Boston, with 58 of them! When I was 18, I moved there, determined to get accepted into one that I could afford (I did.) But wait, I must stick to Tara’s story. I just wanted to say that I identified with her drive and her success in getting through college. (Ha, I wasn’t anywhere near as smart as her; I certainly didn’t end up at Cambridge University!)

    Her education (for her, an awakening) included taking psych courses. She realized then that her dad was probably mentally ill, and this knowledge allowed her to forgive him. He couldn’t help being scary, controlling, and fanatical. And he didn’t purposely put her in harm’s way in the junkyard; he just didn’t have the ability to see danger.

    Psych classes also helped her become super self-aware. I loved the parts in the book where she analyzes herself. One thing she talked about was gaslighting—the process of people denying your reality and making you feel crazy. For example, this happened when she tried to tell her parents what her psycho brother had done to her. Although her mom first believed her, she soon changed her tune and sided with Tara’s father, denying that such bad things happened. Tara says she started doubting her sanity—which has to be scary. She says she had a breakdown at one point. Not surprising.

    The only frustrating thing about her book is watching her return, time and time again, to visit her family. Quick, Tara, jump on my back as we pogo-stick on out of there! NOW! Psycho, sadistic bro Shawn is just too damn scary! He cranked it up a notch every time she visited, and I was scared he would seriously mess her up—break a bigger bone, give her brain damage, throw her off the mountain, something really bad.

    Part of her need to return was to win her family’s approval (and Shawn just happened to live there too, so there was no escaping him). But she also wanted to expose Shawn and to warn them about him, since he was attacking other people too.

    Plus, people who live together a long time get imprinted on each other. We can’t underrate how much the existence of a history ties people together. I think the only way she would have severed ties would be if there had been sexual abuse.

    Some critics doubt whether her story is true, or they think it’s exaggerated. She admits that we can’t always believe our memories, that they are tricky. To try to make her story as accurate as possible, she looked back through her journals. Usually journals are full of fact, not fiction, so I believe it’s a good source for her truth. Also, a couple of her brothers have corroborated her memories.

    I don’t think she made this stuff up. I’m not sure you can make this stuff up, especially the level of detail she gave for injuries and reactions to injuries. I buy her story—hook, line, and sinker.

    Her interviews are factual, analytical. In fact, she’s a little stoical. She seems to have intellectualized her trauma, which is a common defense mechanism. I’m probably just full of it, but I’m thinking that if she were a storyteller who wants to wow her audience with a wild story, she’d appear more animated, less analytical. She’d want to dwell on the juice, which she doesn’t do. In the longer interviews, she discusses her philosophy on education—not the kind of stuff that makes an audience wriggle in glee. I think of her as a reporter—she reports on the madness but she also reports on the scenery (remember the mountain talk that I didn’t love at first). She isn’t interested in creating fiction.

    There are a few scathing 1-star reviews on Amazon by family members and friends of the family. They say that most of what Tara says isn’t true, that the family is wonderful and not so isolated, that Tara’s dad helped fund her college. Tara even says in her book that he helped her out financially. He didn’t want her to go to college, but he didn’t prevent it either.

    These negative reviews say that Tara is unstable (let me say that in interviews, she does not in any way appear or sound weird). Of course they would say that. What self-respecting family wouldn’t be pissed at someone airing their dirty laundry? And again, it’s that memory thing. Put a bunch of siblings in a room and ask them about something that happened in their childhood, and they’ll all have a different memory of it. Plus there’s the truth that every sibling has a unique relationship and experience with their parents and with each other.

    At this point, most of Tara’s family (parents and a few sibs) have shunned her. I’m sure that not having her family’s support is killing her; a family has such power over you. No one wants their family to shun them. Luckily, she is close to a couple of brothers. In the book, she gives them credit for helping her.

    Now for some silly cover talk. For the longest time, I thought this was an artsy cover showing the back of a woman. She has this little head with long dark hair, and she’s wearing a red skirt that’s way bigger than her head. Then, what? OMG, it’s not a woman, it’s a pencil!! Very clever! Days pass before I see that there’s a little person standing on the pencil! It’s supposed to look like a girl standing on a mountain side, like Tara and her mountain. Wow! What an enticing and cool cover.

    Here are a few of the interviews I liked. (Warning: The one in Cambridge is really long.):

    Thanks to NetGalley for the advance copy.

  • Will Byrnes

    is both a tale of hope and a record of horror. We know from the first page of her book that Tara Westover is a bright woman, a gifted writer with an impressive, poetic command of language. But her early life offered no clue that she would become a Cambridge PhD or a brilliant memoirist. She was the youngest of seven children born to Gene and Faye (not their real names) Westover, fundamentalist, survivalist Mormons, in rural Idaho.

    - image from her

    The children constituted his workforce in Gene’s scrapyard. Father was the law in their household, but it was a rule informed as much by significant mental health issues as it was by his ardent religious beliefs. In a less rural, less patriarchal, less religious community, theirs could easily have been deemed an unsafe environment. The scrapyard was a particularly dangerous place.

    Ruby Ridge had occurred when Tara was five, and fed her father’s paranoia. Everyone had to have head-for-the-hills bags for when the government, Deep State, Illuminati, choose your own boogeyman, would come for them. He had a profound distrust of the medical profession, believing that doctors were agents of Satan, intent on doing harm. He saw the herbalism Faye practiced as the only true, righteous treatment for one’s ills, calling her products “god’s pharmacy.” And he practiced what he preached, for himself as well as for his children, even after suffering a devastating injury. Maybe not an ideal way to make sure your kids reach adulthood in one piece.

    - image from Westover’s site

    Home schooling was also less than idyllic, with mom’s attention spread not only over seven children but to her work as an herbalist and later, in addition, a midwife. Luke had a learning disability, frustrating mom, who really had hoped to educate them all. Dad undermined this, dragging the kids out to do chores and learn

    skills. Eventually mom gave up. Education consisted of Faye dropping them at the Carnegie Library in town, where they could read whatever they wanted. Dad rustled the boys at 7am, but Tyler, who had an affinity for math, would often remain inside, studying, until dad dragged him out.

    Successful schooling or not, Tara acquired a desire for and love of learning. Tyler, a black sheep, not only loved books but music, as well. This was a major tonic for Tara, who was smitten with the classical and choral music her brother would play on his boom box. Not only did she find a love for music, but she discovered that she has a gift for singing. Being a part (often the star) of the town musical productions gave her greater contact with peers outside her family than she had ever had before. It formed one pillar of her desire to go to school, to college, to study music. (I included a link in EXTRA STUFF to a music video in which she sings lead, so you can hear for yourself.)

    At age seventeen, Tara Westover attended her first school class, at BYU, clueless about much of what was common knowledge for everyone else, resulting in her asking a question in class about a word everyone, I mean everyone, knows. Oopsy.

    Her intellectual broadening and education forms one powerful thread in her story. How her natural curiosity emerged, was nurtured, discouraged, and ultimately triumphed. The other thread consists of the personal, emotional, psychological, religious, and cultural challenges she had to overcome to become her own person.

    The world in which Westover was raised was one in which a powerful patriarchy, fed by a fundamentalist religious beliefs, applied its considerable pressure to push her into what was considered the proper role for a young woman, namely homemaker, mother, probably following in her mother’s dual careers as herbalist and midwife. And what about what was the right course for Tara? There was some wiggle room. Once dad sees her perform on stage, he is smitten, and softens to her musical leanings. Male siblings had been allowed to go to college. But every step outside the expectations, the rules, came at a cost. Do something different and lose a piece of connection to your family. And family was extremely important, particularly for a person whose entire life had been defined by family, much more so than for pretty much anyone who might read her book.

    - image from the NY Post

    A piece of this proscribed existence was a tolerance for aberrant behavior. Father was domineering, and was feckless about physical danger, even as it applied to his children. And distrustful of the medical establishment. His solution for infected tonsils was to have Tara stand outside with her mouth open to allow in the sun’s healing rays. Severe injuries, including Tara having her leg punctured by razor-like scrap-metal, a brother suffering severe burns on one leg, and even dad himself suffering catastrophic third-degree burns in a junkyard explosion, were to be treated by home-brew tinctures. He was also extremely moody, a characteristic that carried forward in some of the family genes.

    Tara’s ten-years-older brother, Shawn, was a piece of work. She felt close to him at times. He could be kind and understanding in a way that moved her. He even saved her life in a runaway horse incident. But he had a reputation as a bar brawler, as a person eager to fight. Sometimes his rages turned on his own family. And it was not just rage, sparked by trivialities, but cruelty, to the point of sadism. Tara was one of the objects of his madness. Dare oppose him and he would twist her arm to the point of spraining, drag her by her hair, force her face into unspeakable places and demand apologies for imagined offenses. Possibly even worse than this was her family’s denial about it, even when it occurred right in front of them. It is this denial that was hardest to bear. If your own parents will betray you, will not look out for you, in the face of such blatant attacks, then what is the value of the thing you hold most dear in the world?

    Her brother, aliased as “Shawn” in the book, was a master manipulator, who, for years, succeeded magnificently in persuading Tara that what she had just experienced had never really happened.

    One frustrating aspect of the book is Tara’s dispiriting, but also grating ability to doubt herself, to allow others in her life, bullies, to persuade her she does not think what she is thinking, that she does not feel what she is feeling that she did not see what she has seen. She was living in a gaslit world in which multiple individuals, people who supposedly loved her, were telling her that what she had seen was an illusion, and that bad things that other people did were somehow her fault.

    That gets old well before the end. I was very much reminded of victims of domestic abuse, who convince themselves that

    must have done

    to cause, to deserve the violence they suffer. One can only hope that she has been able to vanquish this self-blaming propensity completely by now. Years of therapy have surely helped.

    - image from Salt Lake City Tribune

    She struggles with the yin and yang of her upbringing and finding her true self. Her father was extreme, but also loving. Her abusive brother had a very kind side to him. Her mother was supportive, but was also a betrayer. Her parents wanted what they truly thought was best for her, but ultimately attempted to extinguish the true Tara. The dichotomy in the book is gripping. At times it reads like

    , an upbringing that was idyllic, rich with history and lore, both community and family, and featuring a strong bond to the land. Their home was at the foot of Buck Peak, which sported an almost magical feature that looked like an Indian Princess, and was the source of legends. At others, it is like a horror novel, a testament to the power of reality-bending, indoctrination, and maybe even Stockholm Syndrome. How she survived feeling like the alien she was in BYU and later Cambridge, is amazing, and a testament to her inner strength and intellectual gifts. Westover caught a few breaks over the course of her life, teachers, one at BYU, another at Cambridge, who spot the diamond in her rough, and help her in her educational quest. Reading of this support, I had the same weepy joyful feeling as when Hagrid informs a very young lad,

    When setting out to write the book, Westover had no clue how to go about it, well, this sort of a book, anyway. She had already written a doctoral thesis. But she did have stacks of journals she’d been keeping since she was ten. In figuring out how to get from wish to realization, one important resource was listening to the New Yorker fiction podcast, with its focus on short stories. And she took in plenty of books on writing. It is certainly clear that, just as she had the wherewithal to go from no-school to doctorate at Cambridge, she has shown an ability to figure out how to write a moving, compelling memoir.

    is a triumph, a remarkable work, beautifully told, of the journey from an isolated, fundamentalist survivalist childhood, through the trials of becoming, to adulthood as an erudite and accomplished survivor. It is a powerful look at the ties, benefits, and perils of families. Ultimately,

    is a rewarding odyssey you do not want to miss.

    Review Posted – 3/23/18

    Published – 2/20/18

    =============================

    Links to the author’s

    ,

    and

    pages

    Although the internet yielded no vids of Tara singing lead in her town’s production of

    in the wayback, here is one of grown-up Tara singing lead vocal on

    with John Meed

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    - interviewed by Susannah Cahalan – video – 1 hour – If you can manage only one of these, this is the one to see

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    - video – 6:41

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    promotional video – 7:01

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    - 8:46

    -----

    - with Dave Davies – the link includes text of the interview. There is a link on the page to the full audio interview – 38:18 - This is the source for several quotes used in the review, and is definitely worth a look and/or listen

    A sample of the audiobook, read by Julia Whelan, on

    A brief interview with Westover and Whelan re the making of the audiobook - on

  • Elyse

    Tara Westover’s book “Educated” is a distressing & discomforting - alarming & startling exposure of her Mormon fundamentalist family.

    “Educated” is a memoir of nonfiction - but names and identifying details have been changed. Aaron, Audrey, Benjamin, Erin, Faye, Gene, Vanessa, Judy, Peter, Sadie, Shannon, Shawn, Susan, Robert, and Robin are pseudonyms.

    Tara tells us in her authors notes:

    “This is not about Mormonism. Neither is it about any other form of religious belief. In it there are

    Tara Westover’s book “Educated” is a distressing & discomforting - alarming & startling exposure of her Mormon fundamentalist family.

    “Educated” is a memoir of nonfiction - but names and identifying details have been changed. Aaron, Audrey, Benjamin, Erin, Faye, Gene, Vanessa, Judy, Peter, Sadie, Shannon, Shawn, Susan, Robert, and Robin are pseudonyms.

    Tara tells us in her authors notes:

    “This is not about Mormonism. Neither is it about any other form of religious belief. In it there are many types of people, some believers, some not; some kind, some not. The author disputes any correlation, positive or negative, between the two”.

    Yet....as I read this novel - I not only felt angry - sickened at times - but really conflicted too. I had duel thoughts from the beginning of this novel to the end. I ‘did’ think - in part this book was about Mormonism ( let’s call a spade a spade).

    Tara and her siblings had backpacks filled with supplies to defend themselves ready to “head-for-the-hills” ....ready to run ( away from the government).

    Her dad, Gene, feared that the government might one day try to intervene their lifestyle. They were living off the grid. The kids had no formal education, or medical care when sick or injured. Instead of going to the hospital when needed - their mother, midwife/herbalist cared for them with alternative remedies.

    The government might have even brought in social workers to evaluate the health their family. Abuse? YES! This family stayed hidden. Abuse in many forms was hidden.

    Tara’s memoir-impart- also details ( summarizes) the transitions and challenges entering the academic world -Brigham Young University- Harvard- Cambridge ( PhD in History). Her educational journey was interesting — some of it maddening to me also ....

    not faulting anyone - but it was painful for me to discover just how ‘much’ about the world - life changing world events a 7 year old knew - at age 17 she ‘didn’t’ know - yet somehow was studying at a University. I questioned ‘how was this even possible’? Amazing. Tara had great support from a church entering college...which was wonderful.

    At times I felt frustrated ‘besides’ some greatly disturbing horrific frightening descriptions during Tara’s childhood.

    Tara’s academic accomplishments were extraordinary—but I couldn’t find her voice. She seemed - fragile - and often so uncertain of herself.

    This book is very well written - ( gloomy -perplexing - and wearisome at times from repetitive trips back home to seek validation from her family)- but it seemed her education brought her almost as much pain as it did inner fulfillment. Because Tara disputes any difference between negative and positive —admirable in ways —I had a hard time getting an experience of ‘HER’. I admit it’s my own frustration. This young girl had a childhood I could never fully comprehend- or know what scars remain...but the fact stands — she's living proof that amazing change is possible. Tara calls that “an education”. Alright ....I agree....but I’m still sad and feel incomplete. ( it’s my problem - not hers).

    There have been comparisons to this book and “The Glass Castle”. I understand that — but in reality they are presented very differently. Not only does Jeannette Walls not change any names in her book — she had just freedom to go on National television with her homeless mother. She didn’t need to hide or change identifying details. Tara Westover felt the need to keep names hidden. ( less freedom between the author and her readers for full- self expression). I understand- but a little less satisfying.

    I DO FEEL THIS BOOK OUGHT TO BE READ ....

    I DO SEE THIS BOOK’S IMPORTANCE....a story about an American family living by their own rules - ignoring others who don’t follow their beliefs.

    WE SEE TARA WESTOVER’S SKILLFUL LYRICISM in this book....very impressive— one of the most inspiring aspects to me. With her achievements, education, and talent, we got a well-written fascinating SAD STORY.

    I will think about Tara - worry & wonder about her in years to come. It killed me that Tara continued time and time again to seek validation - I’m not sure it’s over.

    She kept going home to a place where her own brother tried to kill her —

    She almost begged her mother to see her time and time again too— it was soooo painful to me that her mother rejected her ——but just as painful that Tara kept needing their approval. All so sad. I UNDERSTAND....yet I can’t see who she is through her own behavior.

    Tara has an inspiring academic education— a relationship with 3 of her siblings but trying to regain a relationship with her parents - her violent brother - and even one of her sisters she was once very close to was like trying to get blood from a turnip....it just wasn’t possible. It made for very frustrating reading.

    Why did Tara keep trying to fill her heart with the family that rejected her several times? And were abusive? And can a book education take that pain away? These are questions that lingered with me.

    Tara had a sweet - warm- soft voice on NPR. Her interviewer called her dad a ‘character’. She agreed. All light and fluffy.

    Tara share About MANY HAPPY CHILDHOOD MEMORIES on NPR. I was a little confused listening to her. Was she happy or angry? She seemed so happy about her childhood. Huh? Yet for years she suffered abuse which she tells us in her book.

    On NPR:

    She said the junkyard was playful and exotic, but was dangerous....but also fun.

    She said the Mountain where she grew up was magical and beautiful.....but they were closed off from the rest of the world.

    Duality....duality...duality ...... is a word that Tara used over and over again on NPR. Tara see’s two sides to her entire life. I felt a little “duality” in this story myself. I still feel Tara herself is hidden from this story.

    Can’t put my finger on it. But one thing does hit home — we can’t meet the rest of her family like we were able to of Jeannette Walls. So - this is clearly TARA’S memoir....and I’ll respect it at that.

    This is a valuable powerful read but I’m guessing there might be more to this story one day.

    Thank You Netgalley, Random House, and Tara Westover ( congrats to you on your book - may you continue to find inner peace and happiness)

    4.4 Stars

  • Emily May

    What a thoughtful, interesting fantasy novel.

    I'm kidding.

    I think.

    Some parts of this

    seem farfetched, such as how an uneducated mountain wildgirl clicked her heels together, magicked up thousands of dollars (yeah, yeah, scholarships don't cover everything, you know), and went on to some of the world's most prestigious higher education centres. Intelligence is not the main thing required to attend Harvard or Cambridge; being able to pass exams and perform the system's dance is. Someone withou

    What a thoughtful, interesting fantasy novel.

    I'm kidding.

    I think.

    Some parts of this

    seem farfetched, such as how an uneducated mountain wildgirl clicked her heels together, magicked up thousands of dollars (yeah, yeah, scholarships don't cover everything, you know), and went on to some of the world's most prestigious higher education centres. Intelligence is not the main thing required to attend Harvard or Cambridge; being able to pass exams and perform the system's dance is. Someone without formal education should have no idea how to do that.

    Also-- are some people magically cured by herbs and finger-clicking here or did I miss some medical intervention along the way?

    But I think, overall, I was just a little underwhelmed by this book because everyone seemed to find it so dramatic and awful and WOW. I've read a few books about isolated communities that go off the grid and enforce their own laws and, I have to say, Westover's experience felt pretty tame. Her family were survivalists who spent months canning peaches and hunting for scrap, but is this really that odd? My grandfather used to take us to collect blackberries and then we'd spend time making blackberry jam and canning. How avant-garde.

    They are also just really bad at going off the grid. I heard all these promises of "wilderness" and "mountain survivalists" but they have a phone and TV. Come on, guys! If you're going to do it, do it properly. I would say this family is more "eccentric" than "survivalist".

    Where the book does succeed is as

    . I think this was the most important part of the book and it's been glossed over in favour of people's delight at learning about weirdos running around wild in the mountains. (I'm not judging; I came for that too.) I also found it really interesting and sad when the author suggested that her father's paranoid delusions might have been undiagnosed bipolar disorder.

    It's a

    , I'll give it that. But it's hard to not feel like something is amiss, and certain events were probably exaggerated. Or, alternatively, Westover's "survivalist" family were sitting on a few on-the-grid dollars that conveniently popped up when equipment needed repairs and people needed to go to college. It's also possible that the writing lacked clarity because some things definitely didn't add up.

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  • Debra

    "It's strange how you give the people you love so much power over you"

    I am in the minority on this one, but this did not blow me away. I wanted to read this after seeing so many high ratings. I was expecting to love this book but ended up feeling meh about it. I actually wanted to hurry the book up in parts and other times found it to be a little repetitive. There were other times I wanted her to go into more detail or explain things more. One thing I had an issue with is that her family is desc

    "It's strange how you give the people you love so much power over you"

    I am in the minority on this one, but this did not blow me away. I wanted to read this after seeing so many high ratings. I was expecting to love this book but ended up feeling meh about it. I actually wanted to hurry the book up in parts and other times found it to be a little repetitive. There were other times I wanted her to go into more detail or explain things more. One thing I had an issue with is that her family is described as survivalists who educated their children at home - many of which do not even have a birth certificate - but then they had many modern conveniences. Her father has a junkyard and a huge distrust of the government. Her Mother becomes a midwife at her husband's urging and makes tinctures and uses herbs to cure those in her family and in their community. I do realize that the family acquired the telephone due to her Mother's job as a mid-wife but then I wondered how they paid for everything. .

    Tara grows up free or wild. She didn’t bathe that often, didn’t wash her hands after using the restroom, and is unaware of world history, and is quite comfortable living around bad odors and smells. She is abused by an older brother and no one seems to notice, intervene, or even care. They seem to be a reckless group - example: multiple car accidents, etc.

    I had a hard time believing some of the information presented. Case in point the first car accident in the book, Tara's father offered to pay for the damaged tractor. Where did they get the money? Just how much does farm equipment cost? It's not cheap, I know that. Even if the farm equipment purchased is used it still must be pricey. Plus, the damage to their car would mean they would need to purchase another. Then the family has another car accident. More money, lots of injuries, possible need for another vehicle, etc. I am not saying that none of this happened, but I had a lot of questions about how things were paid for

    Plus, this family seemed to be very accident prone, falling from surfaces, fires, head injuries. Was this because they were raised without any rules and became reckless, or did bad things just happen to them?

    Tara does want a better life for herself. She does educate herself at home, so she can pass the test to get into College. College isn't cheap, nor are book, nor is housing or food. Again, I wondered how she paid for all of this. Plus, once she got to college, she didn't seem to mind that her roommates were upset with the smell in their home. Dirty dishes, not bathing, not having clean clothes. I get if this is the norm, in the home she grew up in but when faced with other's displeasure, I would think a smart girl like her would have taken the hint that being clean and living in a clean environment is the norm, not how she was raised. Plus, at home a young man even pointed out to her that her home smelled as did she.

    There was a part of this book that I did enjoy. Tara's thirst for knowledge and teaching herself and gaining entrance to college without a formal education. I appreciated her struggles and having to learn how to "learn". She went on to achieve a lot in her life and it is impressive and commendable. Tara definitely was an under dog and I did root for her. She definitely changed her life and sought for better for herself. Even without a lot of support from her family, she found strength and kept going. This is what shined for me in this book with otherwise left me with questions. Who doesn't want to root for her? I did. Having said that, there were just too many questions raised why reading this. I don't care if someone is a survivalist, I would think one would still want their children to be safe and free of harm. The turning the blind eye to abuse was despicable. The family also had a lot of modern conveniences which did not gel with my idea of what a survivalist family would own or not own. But I am no expert on survivalist families. Her father clearly had some mental health issues and they contributed to his beliefs and possibly to their way of life. Yes, she suffered abuse. Yes, she grew up in a home with an untreated mentally ill parent, yes, it is all very sad but it was still not enough to make me enjoy the book.

    What worked for me in this book was Tara's drive for a better life. How with very little support from her family, she went out on her own and obtained an education. I appreciated her drive and determination. Her book is well written and I realize this is her account of how she remembers things from her perspective. I just was left with questions hence the 3 star rating.

    Again, in the minority with this one. Most love this book. It just wasn't for me.

    I received a copy of this book from Random House Publishing group and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

    See more of my reviews at

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