Saturday, February 02, 2019

"Educated" by Tara Westover

For Christmas I received Educated by Tara Westover from my friend Jeanne. She knows I like memoirs and off-the-grid. This book was off-the-grid in more ways than one.

Tara grew up in rural Idaho with a survivalist father, herbalist mother and older brothers and a sister. Their piece of the family ranch was now a scrapyard, and her father, who was extremely paranoid, was actively preparing his family for the End of Days.

Tara's young life was tough. Her father, who most likely was mentally ill, kept a tight rein on everyone. Home schooling (mostly no schooling) was used to keep his children hidden from a government he perceived to be dangerous.

While the book's main theme was Tara's drive to become educated, the backstory depicted an abusive home life for herself, her siblings and mother. Even after such a difficult upbringing, it was hard for Tara to separate from her family.

Tara wanted to go to school, but her father wouldn't allow it. She was needed to work in the family scrapyard. Her brother Tyler went to Brigham Young. Raised as devout (if not radical) Mormons, it was a logical choice. Plus, BYU accepted home-schooled students who passed the ACT. He encouraged Tara to try and she was accepted.

What follows is Tara's journey through becoming educated from nothing at all, through self-teaching, through university and ultimately to earn a PhD in history at Cambridge. Tara persevered through many challenges, so many it seems difficult to understand how she survived, let alone received an education.

The book was hard for me to read because of the harsh conditions Tara recounted from growing up. Unfortunately, that has been a common theme in other books published recently.

The memoir North of Normal follows Cea Sunrise Person from the Canadian wilderness to a nomadic urban existence with her mother. Cea's search for "normal" first led to becoming a supermodel, then a rewarding life with children of her own.

The novel The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah follows a similar theme with an abusive father, mental illness and isolation on a remote Alaskan property paralleling recent memoirs about coming of age and self-actualization.

At Amazon, Educated is available in three formats: hardback, paperback and Kindle. It is also widely available on bookstores and at other online booksellers.

What have you been reading? What about something fun and uplifting?


There's also the monthly Book Review Club for teen/young adult and adult fiction over at Barrie Summy's blog.

Also shared with Your the Star at Stone Cottage Adventures. -- Margy

17 comments:

  1. How some people triumph over adversity and others don't is a question a sometimes ponder.

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    1. It sure is. Educated and North of Normal were memoirs. I am sure the novel The Great Unknown was based on someone's life experiences. - Margy

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  2. Good book. I read it last summer and like you found it disturbing in parts. Especially that part where Tara and her brother worked on the giant crusher in the junkyard.

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    1. And all of their late night drives home from Arizona with wrecks that could have been avoided. - Margy

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  3. Interesting. I actually read an excerpt from this book and plan to read it. Thank you for reviewing!

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    1. In it's own way it was hard to put down. - Margy

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  4. It was hair-raising, wasn't it? The way her parents were allowed to deprive their children of an education. I thought she was too easy on them in the end. But she and her one brother were able to life themselves up. How brave.

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    1. In a way it gives home schooling a bad name. - Margy

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  5. Sounds like a fascinating memoir, if difficult to read. I admire someone who can prevail over such difficult circumstances.

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    1. I guess it either makes you strong or kills you. - Margy

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  6. I'm not going to read your review now since my mom just finished this book and said she'd be sending me a copy for my birthday. She said some parts reminded her of her own difficult childhood.

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    1. I guess more people experience difficult childhoods than we know. - Margy

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  7. I recently read this too. I liked it quite a bit, but I had a difficult time believing large chunks were not embellished. Unless her family is as hardy as cockroaches, they could not possibly survive all of the freak accidents depicted in this memoir.

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    1. I agree, they experienced more drama and tragedy than you would think possible. - Margy

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  8. I hear you about the harsh conditions. I find them tough reads, too. I read a book with a similar theme. I can't think of it, now, though! Thanks for the review.

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    1. There have been quite a few memoirs about difficult childhoods. That makes me wonder if a memoir about happy times would sell. - Margy

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  9. Thank you for sharing your review at the You're The Star party. Happy Valentine's Day, Kippi #kippiathome

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We welcome your comments and questions. - Wayne and Margy