February Book Review - Educated

Feb 12, 2019

Determined to leave a home, more dysfunctional than she even realizes, and get a formal eduction is the mission on which Tara Westover embarks. Here's this month's book review of Educated by Tara Westover.

On the October New York Times Bestseller list, two memoirs made the top 10; In Pieces by Sally Field, age 72 and Educated; a Memoir by Tara Westover, age 31.

One might doubt a person could accumulate enough interesting life experiences in 30 years to compile a memoir. In this case, one would be wrong.

Westover grew up in southern Idaho, the youngest of 7 siblings in a survivalist, Mormon family. Her dominating father had severe, bi-polar disorder compounded by fundamentalist and anti-establishment beliefs. No birth records, no medical records, no education records, Westover spent her childhood preparing for the “end of days” to occur on Millennium new year. When it didn't happen, she needed a “Plan B”.

The focus of her story is not on religious beliefs but rather the impacts of having or not having an education. Quote.....“I understood that it was this fact.....more than any other....that made my family different: We didn't go to school.”

An older brother urged her to self-educate. She taught herself enough to pass the ACT and enter BYU. From that point on…...it was a whole new world.

This memoir was written after the author completed her Ph.D at Cambridge…...a long, long journey from the Provo campus of BYU.

An education can make a person so very different from their family and culture…..it becomes difficult, if not impossible, to redefine a role in either. According to Westover…..“You can love someone and still choose to say goodbye to them. You can miss a person every day, and still be glad they are no longer in your life.” 

Comparison to J.D. Vance's Hillbilly Elegy, is inevitable. Both deal with young people overcoming family dysfunction and lower social-economic status to obtain a higher education.  Both had culture shocks along the way but for Westover….it was nearly an electrocution. She leapt much higher hurdles in more dramatic fashion…..fortunate really….. just to have survived.

When comparing a choice made by her “new” self as opposed to her old “self” Westover said, “They were the choices of a changed person, a new self.  You could call this self-hood many things. Transformation. Metamorphosis. Falsity. Betrayal.   I call it an education.” 

Educated by Tara Westover can be found at Park City Library in print, e-book and e-audio