Published: February 20, 2018 by Random House
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Publisher’s Blurb: Tara Westover was 17 the first time she set foot in a classroom. Born to survivalists in the mountains of Idaho, she prepared for the end of the world by stockpiling home-canned peaches and sleeping with her “head-for-the-hills bag”. In the summer she stewed herbs for her mother, a midwife and healer, and in the winter she salvaged in her father’s junkyard. Her father forbade hospitals, so Tara never saw a doctor or nurse. Gashes and concussions, even burns from explosions, were all treated at home with herbalism. The family was so isolated from mainstream society that there was no one to ensure the children received an education and no one to intervene when one of Tara’s older brothers became violent. Then, lacking any formal education, Tara began to educate herself. She taught herself enough mathematics and grammar to be admitted to Brigham Young University, where she studied history, learning for the first time about important world events like the Holocaust and the civil rights movement. Her quest for knowledge transformed her, taking her over oceans and across continents, to Harvard and to Cambridge. Only then would she wonder if she’d traveled too far, if there was still a way home. Educated is an account of the struggle for self-invention. It is a tale of fierce family loyalty and of the grief that comes with severing the closest of ties. With the acute insight that distinguishes all great writers, Westover has crafted a universal coming-of-age story that gets to the heart of what an education is and what it offers: the perspective to see one’s life through new eyes and the will to change it.
The Author: Tara Westover is an American author living in the UK. Born in Idaho to a father opposed to public education, she never attended school. She spent her days working in her father’s junkyard or stewing herbs for her mother, a self-taught herbalist and midwife. She was seventeen the first time she set foot in a classroom, and after that first taste, she pursued learning for the next decade. She received a BA from Brigham Young University in 2008 and was subsequently awarded a Gates Cambridge Scholarship. She earned an MPhil from Trinity College, Cambridge in 2009, and in 2010 was a visiting fellow at Harvard University. She returned to Cambridge, where she was awarded a PhD in history in 2014.
My Thoughts: This memoir didn’t turn out as I expected. I set out to read a book that would ‘educate’ me on how someone who never stepped foot in a classroom, taught herself algebra and was able to pass the ACT (though after two attempts) and eventually end up with a P.hd from Harvard University. It turned out to be a very difficult book to read which was more about domestic violence at a degree that I couldn’t even comprehend. I didn’t also find any qualities in Tara that I could point out to say were exceptional, I feel it was all time and chance that got her to the places she ended up. In this book, Tara records her life from childhood with her family in Idaho in an isolated mountain side with a father who had extreme beliefs about God, the government and health care. Her birth was not registered until she was nine years old and she was not home schooled by her parents. Most of Tara’s descriptions of the events that took place both at home and at other places with her abusive brother and her father were really gruesome and a bit too much for me. I was determined to finish the book because I still believed that at some point when she left home for university, she would emancipate herself from all that had taken place in her childhood and her story would change. Unfortunately, from my own point of view, up until the last page of the book I didn’t think that Tara was too different from the girl at the beginning. I understand that it is difficult to sever yourself from your family as they are all that you really know even if they are abusive and I sympathize with her having to make that choice, however I didn’t enjoy reading this book. I have never been big on non-fiction so I may be a bit biased in my views. I would not recommend it to people who love fiction and nice stories but if you have the stomach for reading about extreme acts of abuse and irresponsibility then this may be your book.