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Review: Educated by Tara Westover

Title: Educated
Author: Tara Westover
Year Published: 2018

Genre: Adult nonfiction (memoir)
Pages: 329
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Location (my 2018 Google Reading map)USA (ID, UT)

FTC Disclosure: I bought this with my own money

Summary (from the inside flap of the book): Tara Westover was seventeen the first time she set foot in a classroom. Born to survivalists int he mountains of Idaho, she prepared for the end of the world by stockpiling home-canned peaches and sleeping with her "head for the hills" bag. In the summer she stewed herbs for her mother, a midwife and healer,  and in the winter she salvaged metal in her father's junkyard.

Her father distrusted the medical establishment, so Tara never saw a doctor or a nurse. Gashes and concussions, even burns from explosions, were all treated at home with herbalism. The family was so isolated from mainstream society that there was no one to ensure the children received an education, and no on e to intervene when an older brother became violent.

When another brother got himself into college and came back with news of the world beyond the mountain, Tara decided to try a new kind of life. She taught herself enough mathematics, grammar, and science to take the ACT and was admitted to Brigham Young University. There, she  studied psychology, politics, philosophy, and history, learning for the first time about pivotal world events like the Holocaust and the Civil Rights Movement. Her quest for knowledge transformed her, taking her over oceans and across continents, to Harvard and to Cambridge University. Only then would she wonder if she'd traveled too far, if there was still a way home.

Review: I heard the author interviewed on NPR and thought this book sounded really interesting so I went out right away and got it. Then I didn't try to read it for a while and wasn't in the right mood when I picked it up the first time, putting it down after 20 pages. Now it's months later and I just watched my mom read it in a couple days; she was obsessed with it and loved it. So, I started it when she finished. 

This woman could not have had an upbringing more different from my own! And that's one of the things that makes the book so intriguing. There are so many layers to her story: how does someone with no education end up with a PhD from Cambridge (and other academic accolades)? How does someone from such a severe religious background end up not part of the church? How does someone whose family turns against her create relationships that are lasting, real, and true?

Although Westover is still young, she seems to have lived a lifetime, overcoming abuse at the hands of her parents and brother. The power of family is so strong and I wanted to yell at Westover each time she returned home to Idaho; I was afraid the violence would escalate and I didn't want to read of more pain. 

But this is also a story of resilience. Despite the control exerted over her by most of her family, the author manages to get out, get an education, find love, travel the world, and, most importantly, find herself. I hope she continues to talk her life out with counselors, friends, and family who support her. I hope she continues to contribute as her's is an important voice.

Challenges for which this counts: 

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