"Educated" by Tara Westover

By Tara Westover

Reviewed by Shari

ISBN 9780399590504

These were the questions that entertained my thoughts while reading Tara Westover's new memoir, Educated.  One, how did she learn to write like that at such a young age? Two, was she aware of how well she used language as process to reveal truth? Finally, what was the truth anyway when we looked for ourselves free from the shape-shifting landscapes of our childhood upbringing?
Tara Westover began her memoir describing Bucks Peak, the mountain her and her family lived near in Southern Idaho. We meet right away a larger than life father who was at best charismatic and at worst a paranoid survivalist with deep suspicions about the government, with undiagnosed bi-polar disorder. Westover's mother we come to know as the woman who married a religiously zealous man, who had extraordinary gifts as herbalist, midwife and healer. The family (seven kids) grew up fringe Mormon, off the grid (mostly) and unschooled.
Tara's mountain becomes myth, touchstone and placeholder, the place that kept her grounded in a life far from safe. It's frankly hard to believe all the accidents both collective and individual the family accrued. Westover detailed many of these. The accidents were secondary however to the revelation that she was abused by an older brother. With raw and sharp prose she speaks of trying to cover up the abuse. As reader you keep asking her to wake up. And she did wake up, very slowly and over time as she ejected from her family life and went to BYU at 17 years old. Here she charted a course from naïveté and ignorance all the way through to earning her PHD from Cambridge University. We see her wake up to the big things like the holocaust and slavery all the way to the little things like drinking a cup of coffee for the first time.
Tara confronted her family about the abuse with her brother and it cost an association with half of her family including her mother and father. As she comes to terms with and confronts her family and brother she contemplates the path out of family into the world and the transformation therein... there was a single moment when I was unable to climb through the mirror and send out the 16 year old self. I was still her. I called on her and she didn't' answer. She stayed in the mirror. They were the choices of a change person a new self. You could call this self hood many things. Transformation. Metamorphosis. Falsity. Betrayal. I call it an education.
Tara Westover astutely takes the reader to the headwaters of her family and religious upbringing describing in exquisite prose, what it's like to float on past. These are the questions we are left with. What do we give up for knowledge? What sacrifices will we make at the hand of our education? What does education cost us? This is a book not to miss. A book to savor. A book to contemplate.

More about this book...