Educated is a distressing memoir written by Tara Westover. I’ve seen so many great reviews about this book on Goodreads and bookstagram community. Despite that I didn’t happen to pick it up for some unknown reasons. It has been on my bookshelf for almost one and half year. I buddy-read it with @bookieecookiee last week and finished it yesterday. (finally!! 😅) Thank you, Joseph for reading it with me. ☺️
The book was told in three parts. In first part, Tara shared her childhood living with extreme fundamentalist Mormon parents in Idaho. Apart from going to church, her family was isolated from other people. Her father didn’t believe in government schools and doctors. Her mother was a midwife and herbal specialist. The seven children were loosely homeschooled by the mother and put into the jobs by the father in family owned junkyard. From minor illness to some serious injuries, the parents tried to cure at home and refused to go to the hospitals.
Tara is the youngest sibling and she was pretty close to her brother Tyler. He’s the first in the family to go to college. When he moved out, she started to feel depressed. She worked part-time in the neighbourhood and took piano and dance class secretly. Although her attempts to attend school and do some other ‘normal’ activities were denied by her father, when Tara was in casted a local play, her father was elated. She was allowed to go to auditions and rehearsals. She was bonded with her another brother, Shawn, at that time. When Tyler learned of the abuse by Shawn, he encouraged her to leave home, to take ACT and apply for college.
In second part of the book, Tara talked about her studies at BYU and how she learnt the important historical events such as Holocaust for the first time. She found out several other things she was alienated from the outside world. She was introduced about mental health in one of the subjects and she wondered her father may have bipolar disorder. She started to stray her parents’ upbringing but whenever she returned home, she was still abused and manipulated by her father and Shawn. She still couldn’t escape from her family and hometown.
Despite all these, her grades were good. Her professor encouraged her to apply for the study abroad program at Cambridge. She got in and after that, her education was on right track. She won Gates Scholarship to study in England. Shawn got married with Emily and Tara was worried for her cause Emily mentioned that she’s fear of her brother’s threatening behaviours.
Part three was Tara’s life at Cambridge and her pursuit for PhD. She and her sister tried to confront her mother about the abusive behaviours of their father and Shawn but the mother was never on their side. Her sister later cut out Tara from her life fearing of being disowned by her parents. She has become estranged from her parents and some of her siblings. Tyler was still supportive and encouraged her to complete her PhD. Tara accepted that she needs to be away from her hometown and cut some of the family members from her life in order to live happily.
A difficult and discomforting read throughout this traumatic rollercoaster ride of her life. Powerful and thought provoking, as well. Simple and effective narrative on such mind-boggling events. I was dumbfounded on some of the incidents though cause they are a bit hard to fathom. Nonetheless, it’s a brilliant book worthy of your time for sure.
In nonfiction books, I tend to seek whether the writer’s narration is reliable or not. I know that some memoirs and autobiographies are likely to lean on to the writer’s truth. In this book, Tara has added notes on some events that other people remembered differently. At first, I thought she might be fabricating some parts into the story but after reading the comments by her brother Tyler on this book, I became to understand. It’s not that she chose to remember some of the events in certain way or her memories were disoriented. Tyler had different perceptions on some events because he was treated differently. Boys were treated differently in their family. From a girl growing up in such extreme patriarchal culture as well as from her years of being mentally manipulated and physically abused, this book is what she experienced.