Book Review – Educated

How to review a memoir ? Educated is a memoir and it’s epic !! Tara Westover is a real person, just 36 years old. The reason I mention her age is because as you read the book, you may think that she lived a few centuries ago.

Educated is the story of how Tara from a survivalist Mormon family manages to go to college, and get a doctorate, no less. What makes it even more unbelievable is the fact that she steps into a formal classroom for the first time when she is 17. Tara is sporadically homeschooled by her mother before that.

Am still wrapping my head around this book. It’s deeply moving… a young girl growing up in a closed environment, with a “definite” future as a wife, just breaks away and manages to get educated. Watch this short clip where Tara says that as a young girl, she never imagined that she will be where she is today –

Educated – A Summary

Tara Westover’s family lived on a farm in rural Idaho. Her father made a living salvaging scrap. Her mother takes up midwifing reluctantly but becomes quite a successful midwife. Tara’s father was paranoid about the federal government’s influence and interference. So none of the children have a birth certificate, they don’t attend school or go to a hospital if they get hurt.

The Westover family are devout Mormons and her father fervently believed on an impending day of judgement. He is forever preparing for end of days situation, stocking up on fuel, water and food.

One of Tara’s elder brothers is abusive and it’s just difficult to read the portions where she is beaten up. Her parents refuse to step in to support her. Much later her elder sister tries to bring it up with their mother but gets nowhere. Her sister accepts the situation as she becomes dependent on her parents for her livelihood.

Her mother is also a herbalist and that business just flourishes making them quite rich. This happens much later once Tara is in Cambridge.

Tyler, one of her other brothers gets out of the house and gets himself educated. Probably without knowing it then, Tara was inspired by that. He calls her one day to find out if she was studying for the ACT. Her thoughts at that time are telling – “College was irrelevant to me. I knew how my life would play out: when I was eighteen or nineteen, I would get married. Dad would give me a corner of the farm, and my husband would put a house on it. Mother would teach me about herbs, and also about midwifery…. When I had children, Mother would deliver them, and one day, I supposed, I would be the midwife. I didn’t see where college fit in.”

Then these words that Tara wrote in her journal – “Its strange how you give the people you love so much power over you, I had written in my journal. But Shawn had more power over me than I could possibly have imagined. He had defined me to myself, and there’s no greater power than that.”

The book is truly worth reading because so many of us need a make over – we are broken, trod upon and made to believe in things that others believe in …. Educated is a story that proves our past is never equal to our future, that we can change everything, at any point in time.

Understandably, Tara is still estranged with her parents and some of her siblings. But she has so much more to live for. Yes, family is important but families that destroy your soul are better left behind.

There are many incidents in Tara’s life that will find resonance in several people’s lives, especially women. In many cultures and some religions, women are treated exactly the way Tara was. We need to overcome some of our conditioning to live a fuller life.

Recommendation – 6/5. It’s a must read. You learn a lot about yourself, not just about Tara.

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