Tara Westover was 17 the first time she set foot in a classroom. Born to survivalists in the 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 in her father’s junkyard.
Her father forbade hospitals, so Tara never saw a doctor or 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 one to intervene when one of Tara’s older brothers became violent.
Then, lacking any formal education, Tara began to educate herself. She taught herself enough mathematics and grammar to be admitted to Brigham Young University, where she studied history, learning for the first time about important 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. Only then would she wonder if she’d traveled too far, if there was still a way home.
Educated is an account of the struggle for self-invention. It is a tale of fierce family loyalty and of the grief that comes with severing the closest of ties. With the acute insight that distinguishes all great writers, Westover has crafted a universal coming-of-age story that gets to the heart of what an education is and what it offers: the perspective to see one’s life through new eyes and the will to change it.
I’ve wanted to read “Educated” for a while now as it’s extremely popular, award winning, and I’ve seen nothing but good things about it. “Educated” tells the true story of Tara Westover, the youngest of seven children raised as a Mormon in a survivalist home in rural Idaho.
In this memoir, Tara digs deep into her own personal history and the childhood that meant that she didn’t set foot into a classroom until the age of 17. The child of a religious fanatic, Tara’s life couldn’t have been further from the norm. Her father had a strong dislike for the government and with that he put a ban on pretty much everything, including owning a birth certificate, attending school, paying for insurance, and surprisingly (to me) going to a hospital, even in an emergency.
When she was 17, Tara went to school for the first time and her eyes were opened to the outside world. It wasn’t an easy road, but Tara is now educated to PhD level.
This is a really powerful read and one I would definitely recommend. Tara gives the reader a startling education and I certainly learned a lot from hearing her story. I know very little about the Mormon faith and the fact that there are people living lives like Tara’s had never really crossed my mind before. It really makes you realise how easy your life is and how much we take for granted.
A small criticism, I did feel that the book was a little too long, slightly waffly and repetitive in places, but in general this was a really great read that I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend.
“When I was a child, I waited for my mind to grow, for my experiences to accumulate and my choices to solidify, taking shape into the likeness of a person. That person, or that likeness of one, had belonged. I was of that mountain, the mountain that had made me. It was only as I grew older that I wondered if how I had started is how I would end—if the first shape a person takes is their only true shape.”