Book Review: Educated

Author: Tara Westover
Published: February 20, 2018
Genre: Memoir
FLW Rating: 3.5/5

Educated was one of those books that came on to my radar suddenly, and then never really went away. When I first heard about the general premise – a self taught girl who later graduated from Harvard with a PhD, I made the thoughtless assumption that said girl was probably from an underdeveloped country. It was when I found out that she grew up in Idaho, that my interest was piqued. Really? Idaho? IN the United States? I don’t usually think myself very ignorant to what can happen in the US, but still this book surprised me. While Tara’s story is interesting, I found myself constantly wanting to pull lessons and explanations from her story, and that’s where it fell short for me.

Educated tells the story of Tara Westover, a young girl brought up in a survivalist family in Idaho. While her family members are practicing mormons, she makes it clear on Page 1 that this is not a story about mormonism, but a story of the small sect of Fundamentalist/ Survivalists Mormonism that her father believes in. Her father distrsuts  the government, the public education system, and the medicial institution (to name a few..) and believes that it would be a tragedy to partake in anything sponsored by any of the above. He subjects his family to these theories, so that, as a kid growing up in that environment, you wouldn’t know much better. What results are a series of accidents, close encounters with the outside world, and eventually, self discovery and rebellion.

As with any memoir, the most interesting parts come through the mishaps and adventures, of which there were many. Some seemed too shocking to be believable, which I suppose is a testament to the circumstances of Tara’s upbringing. The other highlight of course, are the successes. With each step that Tara took away from her parents’ home, I found myself happily rooting for her.

The final piece of the memoir puzzle, to me, is a conclusion– Lessons learned, reflection, etc. After finishing Educated, I began Under the Banner of Heaven by Jon Krakauer without realizing the similiarities — UtBoH discusses (at least in the first few chapters), a sect of fundamentalist mormons in Arizona and the lives they live. Even just starting this book shed so much light on Educated and also showed me how much of the story had been missing. My takeaway is that Educated is not a stand alone story, and Tara’s family is not as individual a case as the book had led me to believe. There is a lot to be learned, but Educated is not a standalone nonfiction. Instead it offers a peek inside, and is most effective when coupled with other knowledge.

Overall, I’m happy for Tara that she was able to find her own way in life, and ultimately this was a story of great triumph over a restricted childhood (to say the least). I didn’t feel like I learned a lot from it, and for that I don’t think I would recommend it to a friend.

Have you read this book? What did you think?

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