As an avid reader, it’s a rare sight when I find myself finishing a book, and immediately texting every person I know that ‘they must read this book!!’ because I want to discuss it that strongly with anyone around me. However, ‘Educated’ by Tara Westover is just one of those rare gems.
Having seen this book hyped up across #bookstagram, I had pretty high expectations of the novel – but little to no idea of what it was actually about. What I saw on first glance was just another ‘outsider’ story. A young woman raised away from society by an over-zealous religious family. What I found on finishing it, was that this is a story of so much more.
Tara’s memoir is the story of her life on the side of a mountain. Raised away from the sins of modernity, she grows up with a Mormon family and her faith drives her life and everything she knows to be true. (My understanding of Mormonism is limited to seeing the musical ‘The Book of Mormon’ twice!)
Her father doesn’t believe in public schooling and keeps her and her siblings home from it. Spending her days scrapping on a junkyard and being encouraged to follow in her family’s footsteps, Tara taught herself everything that she knows. Studying late into the night, passing her ACT exams and gaining a place at BYU, Tara’s story is about pushing herself, and in this, away from her family.
It’s motivational at best. I’ve always loved to learn, but Tara willed herself on to study Algebra, Trigonometry, Physics, History… eventually becoming a student at Cambridge University, and later a Gates’ Scholar at Harvard. Her drive and passion sparked something inside me to be so much more and to continue to push myself in learning, in the way that she did.
Her writing is easy and digestible and she certainly knows how to engage the audience with her anecdotes and the way that she describes her family. However, the one major thing that made this memoir so stand-out – is that to the reader, we can see the traumatic childhood that Tara faced.
With no access to modern medicine (her mother being a herbalist), the work she was pushed into by her father, the abuse she suffered at the hands of her brother, and the traumatic injuries and eventual estrangement from her father – there isn’t one ounce of self-pity written into her words.
She doesn’t write for sympathy, but the book feels more like a way of her digesting what her childhood was – and at the heart of it, what it means to be family and to also pursue the person you have become. She questions everything about how she was raised, but never once does it in a critical way. I suppose she almost writes like an academic. Her writing engaging, balanced and fluid.
I can honestly say that this is without a doubt one of the best and most interesting books I have ever read. I’ll be recommending it for a long time yet!