Educated by Tara Westover
Tara Westover grew up on a mountain in Idaho with her parents and six siblings. She was given almost no formal education, as her father kept the family isolated, prepping for the end times, eschewing doctors and schools, and preaching a mixture of conspiracy theories and religious doctrine. How Tara went from scrapping in a junkyard at age ten to studying for a PhD at Harvard in her twenties is the fascinating hook of this memoir.
But Educated isn’t a quiet journey of a young woman falling in love with learning, as I thought it might be when I picked it up. Instead, it is raw, breathless, harrowing, savage and completely captivating. This is less a memoir about education, and more a powerful story of survival.
The violence against Tara comes in many forms; directly, at the hands of an older brother, and indirectly, through her parents’ neglect, dysfunction and insistence on avoiding medical care. Tara and her family suffer an extraordinary number of injuries and accidents. There were many moments when I had to put the book down and take a breath, because I was so worried for Tara’s safety, and I couldn’t bear another moment of her pain.
Comparisons to The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls and The Liars’ Club by Mary Karr are obvious, but also necessary, because Educated sits firmly alongside them. If you have read and loved either of those books, as I have, then you need to read Educated. This is an extraordinary, utterly immersive memoir.