Educated is a memoir written by Tara Westover about her own life growing up in the mountains of Idaho in a Mormon family headed by a survivalist father who rejected modern medicine and banned public school for his children. Tara grew up completely isolated, working in her father’s junk yard and helping her mother, a talented herbalist and self-trained midwife. All of the children are uneducated in the traditional sense and sustain major injuries throughout the book but are never allowed to be treated by a doctor. Some of them, including Tara, don’t even have birth certificates until much later in life.
The youngest of seven, Tara has an older brother who begins educating himself enough to go to college and he encourages Tara to do the same. She manages to teach herself enough to pass the ACT and apply to Bringham Young University as a “homeschooled” student. Once in university, Tara begins to realize just how lacking her life experience and education have been, not even knowing the word “holocaust” or having an understanding of the civil rights movement.
Educated absolutely captured me from the first few pages. Tara’s writing style is beautiful and full of metaphor that plays on the imagination and paints vivid pictures, transporting the reader directly back in time. You walk through life with her, the struggle of understanding a father who is mentally ill, the difficulty educating oneself enough to be able to achieve a formal education, and the tearing away from dysfunction that she didn’t even recognize at first. After going away to school, she becomes acquainted with the reality of her childhood, that it was not altogether normal or healthy, and as she begins to see her father as he truly is, Tara must decide to either embrace the gift of an education or return to the roots that made her and want to keep her.
I felt that this book dealt well with complicated family and psychological issues. I appreciated that Tara is careful not to deal harshly with her family and chooses not to write from a place of bitterness or anger. There is no vendetta in these pages. Rather, she tells you stories as they happened to her and relays with honesty what it was like to be her, and the unique challenges her life presented. Real, raw, and moving, I could not recommend this book highly enough! It is definitely a new favourite that will stay on my shelf!