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Book Review: Educated

Tara Westover’s personal story is gritty and gruesome yet wildly inspirational.

Rarely is a memoir so distinctly personal and unique and yet also universally acclaimed and widely understood as Tara Westover’s Educated. A brutally honest account of the courage it takes to live your truth despite the painful collateral damage, it follows the transformation of a young farm girl isolated in rural Idaho into a Ph.D. candidate at Cambridge University, having never stepped foot inside a high school.

Tara Westover is the only daughter of a survivalist Morman family. Her father, a junkyard owner and mechanic believed that the End of Days was coming and that his family would be saved as long as they rejected the temptations of â€immodest gentiles.†His extreme views included rejecting modern western medicine, the public education system, and the government. As Tara grows up and encounters the world outside her mountain home, she wisens to the extreme views of her father and the danger it regularly places her entire family in. After many serious injuries are left untreated and the anticipated the Year 2000 apocalypse is a non-starter, she realizes the flaws in her father’s beliefs and begins to seek answers in the wider world via a university-level education.

Westover is a whip-smart, self-aware, critical thinker born into a fundamentalist way of life with a family whom she loves but does not share their radical views of the world. This book documents her physical and emotional road to emancipation and empowerment through the lens of an astute scholar and young woman.

A book to inspire hope and courage, you cannot help but find this a compelling story and an astonishing display of true grit from start to finish. Each gruesome anecdote told with such earnest care and attention to detail, so as not to misrepresent the facts. The stories serve to repel and garner support from the reader, as you are dragged through the murky details of some of the terrifying accidents the family has lived through. The struggle to reconcile the inner conflict she feels is visceral, almost traumatic in its telling—you cannot look away and yet want the danger and madness to stop after each ordeal is over.

Written to describe and divulge a horrific childhood resulting in some deep emotional (and physical) scars, her memoir also draws out tenderness for her siblings, and even her parents, illustrating the power of family loyalty, love, and belonging. Westover treats her darkest memories with the utmost respect and bravely exposes the moments she would most likely best forget. It is an astonishingly raw and real tale of relinquishing the community that raised you for an education that makes you whole.

by Tara Westover
Random House, 2018

Review by Vanya Maplestone

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