Book Review: Educated
Westover, Tara. Educated.Harper Collins, 2018.
One of my book-related goals in 2018 was to read more nonfiction; sadly, amid the chaos of graduate school and my cross-country move, I haven’t read quite as much as I anticipated. When I saw Tara Westover’s memoir Educated on my Instagram feed, I decided to remedy that. The book’s cover and title called out to me.
Tara is a member of a large Mormon family that populates a secluded area of Idaho known as Buck’s Peak. Tara’s father believes modern medicine and public schools are socialist institutions or instruments of the Illuminati; thus, Tara, like her siblings before her, does not attend school. Instead, she spends the day working in her family’s scrapyard, a treacherous place where she is lucky to walk away unscathed. Tara’s father struggles with paranoia and believes that the end of times is nigh. He stockpiles food, guns, and fuel.
Tara knows that her life will follow a predictable pattern—she will work in the scrapyard or help her mother with midwifing until she becomes a wife and mother. When Tara’s older brother, Tyler, seemingly abandons the family to attend college, Tara’s life is turned upside down. As she makes steps to further her education and change her path, she must deal with her father’s anger, her mother’s indifference, and cruel taunts and moments of abuse from her older brother Shawn. Can Tara pursue her education in peace? Will her pursuit of higher learning create a chasm between Tara and her family?
Educated is a staggering account. Readers will cycle through moments of shock and horror as the amount of violence—from accidents and abuse—is completely astounding. The gritty nature of Tara’s life only adds to contrast between Buck’s Peak and academia. Tara’s journey, too, makes the reader reflect on their own education and marvel at Tara’s quick progress. For example, Tara has never heard of the Holocaust, the Civil Rights Movement, or Martin Luther King Jr. until she attends college.
Overall, Educated is a solid memoir that doesn’t get too terribly bogged down in unnecessary detail. The only thing I craved was perhaps an additional brushstroke of information surrounding Tara’s friendships. Tara at first struggles socially, but then seems to have a gaggle of friends with little explanation. Although it can be argued that the book is focused on family and not friendships, I believe Tara’s unique upbringing would be present in every facet of her life. Even so, Educated is a well-written snapshot of a fascinating individual and says a great deal about perseverance and individuality.