Review of Educated by Tara Westover
Thank you to Randomhouse for generously supplying me with a free review copy of Educated by Tara Westover. I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
"I am only seven, but I understand that it is this fact more than any other, that makes my family different: we don't go to school."
Not the most traditional opening for a book. Educated is written by Tara Westover the daughter of Morman survivalist who live in Idaho. Memoirs are funny things in that my mind tends to think they all must involve people who are older and the stories they are sharing are about people who are no longer alive. That is absolutely not true in this case because the Westover family is alive and well, and still living with their extreme survivalist nature. Memoirs also fascinate me in the sense that you can't judge them very easily because it would be like telling someone their memories are wrong or not worth sharing. When in reality everyone's story is important and worth sharing. That being said there are just some peoples stories that lend themselves to a book more than others, and Tara Westover's story most definitely lent itself to being written down in book form.
I got the amazing opportunity to read this book with a group of about thirty ladies through an online buddy read. It added to the reading experience of this book tremendously because we got to discuss it from everyone's different lifestyle and from each person's personal experience. Let me just tell you reading with others richens the reading experience by about ten thousand. I think the consensus is that we never need to read the word "tincture" again, but overall the book was well written and thought provoking in ways we did not expect.
This book was very different then I expected and each time I thought I knew how her parents would react to a situation or that Shawn would somehow magically change his abusive behavior I would be proven wrong. This book is filled with situations that make you turn the cover over and confirm that this it is indeed a true account because some of them or so tragic and intense you think they must be a figment of someone's imagination. Tara has a way of moving along through her story so we really got a visual of her life from a young age until current day. Educated is mostly about the fact that Tara was never put in school because her father believed the government was an organization never to be trusted, but it's also about so much more than that. It is about a young girl who lived a life shielded from the world and when she finally escapes her sheltered life she comes to terms with the fact that the lessons she "learned" growing up were placed into her head by a man who was not mentally stable. It's about a family who lives in fear of the world that they believe is coming to an end based on facts delivered to them by the only source they have, their father. It is a story about a girl who literally needs to navigate the world on her own because her family is unwilling to direct her on how to become educated in "worldly things." At its core, Educated is a story about family and are family ties strong enough when the world is suddenly opened up to you and you realize it is very different than the one that you were shown growing up. Is life better by living amputated from the world or is life meant to be lived in the it with the opportunity to choose your own thoughts and opinions?
Tara is "homeschooled" but so loosely and based solely on what her parents believe she should learn that she is left in the dark about nearly everything that was happening in the world and what happened in the past. When Tara's older brother breaks free of the family and gets himself into college he opens up a world to her that she truly never knew existed. Tara's journey through the education system is not mainstream in any way, and her path was riddled with family drama, but Tara would proceed to gain one of the best educations anyone can receive at several of the worlds top schools.
I can't stop thinking about this book. I would absolutely love to hear Tara speak in real life and hear her story again in her own voice. This book is tricky to recommend because it is a very difficult book to read due to the situations that happen to her family that will shock and frustrate you. But it is also fascinating to see how Tara's father ruled their home in such a way that breaking free from living at home meant more than just getting out of the house to get an education, but rather by getting out of her fathers home meant she got an education in the world and gained the ability to form her own opinions.
"I had started on a path of awareness"
This book is a must read if you read and loved The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls. Similar storytelling tone. Both books are stories about children who rise up from a neglected childhood and go on to accomplish some amazing things in spite of their upbringing.
Quotes that stood out to me:
"I don't understand why I wasn't allowed to get a decent education as a child."
"The word and the way Shawn said it hadn't changed; only my ears were different."
"To admit uncertainty is to admit to weakness, to powerlessness, and to believe in yourself despite both."
"I could tolerate any form of cruelty better than kindness. Praise was a poison to me; I choked on it."
"Clothes could not fix what was wrong with me."
"Maybe, she said. But sometimes I think we choose our illnesses because they benefit us in some way."
"The thing about having a mental breakdown is that no matter how obvious it is that you're having one, it is somehow not obvious to you."
"Why it's better tot think yourself lazy than think yourself in distress, I'm not sure."
The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls