BOOK REVIEW: Educated by Tara Westover
BY TARA WESTOVER
“Everything I had worked for, all my years of study, had been to purchase for myself this one privilege: to see and experience more truths than those given to me by my father, and to use those truths to construct my own mind.”
Educated is the harrowing memoir of Tara Westover, a girl who grew up in rural Idaho in a survivalist family, spending her time preparing for the End of Days. Working either in her father’s scrapyard with her brothers or in the kitchen with her mother, preparing herbal remedies, there was no time for school or an education. Up until the age of seventeen, Tara had never once stepped foot inside a classroom. But that didn’t stop her from earning her PhD, an achievement that would be monumental for any educated individual, let alone one that taught herself algebra and trigonometry in the basement of her parent’s home.
We see Tara grow from a young girl play fighting with her siblings and working with her parents, to a young woman, experiencing trauma and abuse from those who were supposed to love and care for her. After her brother becomes more violent, she realises that she needs to find a way out of her parents suffocating home. With encouragement from another sibling who found a way out, Tara purchases some textbooks and begins to study for University. In the pages of those textbooks, Tara finds a future for herself that doesn't involve risking her life each day. She fights her way into University lecture halls where she discovers for the first time, at the age of seventeen, what the Holocaust is. She learns everything she can from the textbooks, studying them day and night. And gradually, she learns how to live her own life, away from the ideals her father has pushed upon her for as long as she can remember.
The story reads much more like a novel than a memoir in places. I almost had to remind myself that the person I was reading about was real, that the things she experienced actually happened. There were times when my whole body was tense, frantically reading to find out if the character survived the ordeal they were going through, only to remember that she did and was now narrating from the safety of her desk.
The way in which Tara tells us her story is also interesting. She makes it clear that this is her version of events and how she remembers them, using notes from her journals and letters to back them up and remind herself how she felt, or wanted to feel, at certain moments in her life. Tara also includes footnotes throughout to add in her sibling’s versions of certain events.
Despite the violence and abuse inflicted upon Tara, I believe that the theme of familial love is strong throughout. There are small moments, seemingly insignificant, where you can see that there is love there between Tara and her parents. And there is certainly a great deal of love between Tara and her siblings. Reading about their relationships brought a lot of hope and light to the story.
This memoir is absolutely incredible and inspiring. I couldn’t put it down and if I wasn’t reading it, I was talking about it. I highly recommend it!
Rating: 5 out of 5.
“There’s a world out there, Tara. And it will look a whole lot different once Dad is no longer whispering his view of it in your ear.”