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Monday, January 21, 2019

EDUCATED: A MEMOIR by Tara Westover



Published in 2018.

The author, Tara Westover, in 2014.
This memoir was one of the most celebrated books of 2018 and for good reason.

This is not a fun story to read, but it is absolutely engrossing. The writer has an extraordinary ability to write description - both of the physical environment and of emotional pain and confusion.

Tara Westover grew up in rural Idaho on a mountain near a small town. Her father refused to send his children to school, at least not consistently, because school was a plot by the government (and later, the Illuminati). Tara did not have a birth certificate until she was 9 years old and is still not entirely certain of her exact birth date. He also refused any sort of modern medical care or medication or vaccinations for the same reasons. And, he refused to get driver's licenses and have car insurance and to even wear seat belts because those were also a plot. Their home was stocked with weapons, food and fuel for a future Armageddon. Her mother was a midwife and created home remedies for families that couldn't afford modern medical care or refused modern it like her father.

The family was Mormon - but this wasn't Mormonism that most Mormons would recognize. It was an amalgamation of paranoia, fear, anger, ignorance and the need to dominate and control on the part of her father and one of her older brothers. Paranoia reigned in the house. The government was out to get everyone. Practitioners of more permissive strains of Mormonism were accomplices. Family members and friends were constantly being judged if they were loyal to the family or not - and loyalty was more important than anything. An abusive, explosive brother was protected because he was loyal to the family, even if he was beating and threatening other people in the family.
The family business was construction and "scrapping" (recovering scrap metal and salvaging usable parts from cars) - a business made all the more dangerous by lackadaisical safety precautions and improper equipment and training.  

Tara Westover was the youngest child and had never been to school. But, she decided she wanted out and knew from the experience of one of her older brothers that going to college might do that. She studied on her own, sought help when needed and did well enough on the ACT to enter into Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah. 


Educated is, I think, properly understood as the horrible tension between the education she learned on her mountain in Idaho and the education she received at BYU, Cambridge and Harvard as she worked her way towards a PhD. It is the tension between multiple interpretations of the truth and the lenses we use to perceive that truth.

This is not a fun read. As I noted above, it is an engrossing read, but oftentimes it is a distressing read.

I rate this book 5 stars out of 5. It can be found on Amazon.com here: Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover. 

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