Summary and book reviews of Educated by Tara Westover

Educated

A Memoir

by Tara Westover

Educated by Tara Westover X
Educated by Tara Westover
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  • Published:
    Feb 2018, 352 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Rebecca Foster
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About this Book

Book Summary

Winner of the 2018 BookBrowse Nonfiction Award

An unforgettable memoir about a young girl who, kept out of school, leaves her survivalist family and goes on to earn a PhD from Cambridge University.

Tara Westover was seventeen 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 metal in her father's junkyard.

Her father distrusted the medical establishment, 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 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.

Educated is an account of the struggle for self-invention. It is a tale of fierce family loyalty, and of the grief that comes from severing ties with those closest to you. 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.

Chapter 1
Choose the Good

My strongest memory is not a memory. It's something I imagined, then came to remember as if it had happened. The memory was formed when I was five, just before I turned six, from a story my father told in such detail that I and my brothers and sister had each conjured our own cinematic version, with gunfire and shouts. Mine had crickets. That's the sound I hear as my family huddles in the kitchen, lights off, hiding from the Feds who've surrounded the house. A woman reaches for a glass of water and her silhouette is lighted by the moon. A shot echoes like the lash of a whip and she falls. In my memory it's always Mother who falls, and she has a baby in her arms. The baby doesn't make sense - I'm the youngest of my mother's seven children - but like I said, none of this happened.

A year after my father told us that story, we gathered one evening to hear him read aloud from Isaiah, a prophecy about Immanuel. He sat on our ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. Many of Tara's father's choices have an obvious impact on Tara's life, but how did her mother's choices influence her? How did that change over time?
  2. Tara's brother Tyler tells her to take the ACT. What motivates Tara to follow his advice?
  3. Charles was Tara's first window into the outside world. Under his influence, Tara begins to dress differently and takes medicine for the first time. Discuss Tara's conflicting admiration for both Charles and her father.
  4. Tara has titled her book Educated and much of her education takes place in classrooms, lectures, or other university environments. But not all. What other important moments of "education" were there? What friends, acquaintances, or experiences had ...
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    BookBrowse Awards
    2018

Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Westover's incredible story is about testing the limits of perseverance and sanity. Her father may have been a survivalist, but her psychic survival is the most impressive outcome here. Although this memoir represents Westover's own perspective, she strives to be rational and charitable by questioning her own memory and interpretation of events, often looking for outside confirmation from other family members who witnessed the same events. This is one of the most powerful and well-written memoirs I've ever read.   (Reviewed by Rebecca Foster).

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Media Reviews

Kirkus Reviews
An astonishing account of deprivation, confusion, survival, and success.

Library Journal
Explicit descriptions of abuse can make for difficult reading, but for a student who started from a point of near illiteracy, Westover's writing is lyrical and literary in style. With no real comparison memoir, this joins the small number of Mormon exposés of recent years.

Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Westover's vivid prose makes this saga of the pressures of conformity and self-assertion that warp a family seem both terrifying and ordinary.

Author Blurb Susannah Cahalan, author of Brain on Fire
Tara's story will find a place alongside modern classic memoirs like Wild and The Glass Castle. It's that special

Author Blurb J. D. Vance, author of Hillbilly Elegy
Educated shines a light on a part of our country that we too often overlook.

Author Blurb Amy Chua, Yale law professor and author of Political Tribes and Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother
Breathtaking, heart-wrenching, inspirational - I've never read anything like this.

Reader Reviews

Anl

Great read - easy to read
Loved this book. As I live close by and am familiar with the culture, I do not dispute any of it. I would love to know the author’s opinion as to why some are educated and some are not. As a grown child of an abusive parent I applaud your ...   Read More

JUNE M SHOJI

Importance of a Proper Education
Tara persevered from a home life which did not believe in the main stream of society. Home schooled with ideals that modern day medicine and teachings would corrupt her soul. The changes in her from the education she received at the university ...   Read More

Krm

Great, insightful book on current day events
Can relate to some of her struggles. Was very well written and I hope she makes a sequel to this book...how she sees her life after marriage and children.

lani

Family pathology and hope for the future
What an accomplished novel: superb execution, raw unflinching dialogue, impressive character descriptions,and unrelenting tension. I am not sure there is going to be a better memoir in all of 2018. In Westover's searing novel, and I can't use ...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

Herbalism

Educated author Tara Westover's Idaho family runs Butterfly Express, a successful business selling essential oils and other herbal remedies. Her mother, LaRee Westover, trains herbalists and is the author of a book on herbalism, Butterfly Miracles with Essential Oils. Throughout her childhood, Westover was treated with foraged herbs instead of pharmaceuticals. "For as long as I could remember, whenever I was in pain, whether from a cut or a toothache, Mother would make a tincture of lobelia and skullcap," she writes. "It had never lessened the pain, not one degree. Because of this, I had come to respect pain, even revere it, as necessary and untouchable." It wasn't until she was in college that she tried painkiller pills for the first time....

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