Educated: A Memoir
My Rating: ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ 5 out of 5 ⭐️’s
This is a review of the wildly popular New York Times bestseller Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover. I was initially drawn to this book after a dear friend— who also happens to be a family member, recommended that I read it. This individual has been aware for quite some time that I have been writing at any opportunity I can get, and this person has also never ceased to encourage me to put my own life story down on paper. I don’t elaborate much on the contents in which I write about, not to anyone really, not even to my husband—and the topics that I write about vary, but I felt compelled to share with this particular person that my life, specifically my past, is actually my primary source of inspiration. It is undoubtably the most difficult topic to write about so it gets neglected when I am not in the mood or up to the task, and in those moments other pieces receive more of my attention, but ultimately I know it is by far the most important thing for me to write. I haven’t shared more than that, nor will I do so here, with you, but I became intrigued when said person suggested I read Educated. I could see a look in her eye that indicated I would find it to be more than just a good book. I consider this person to know me on a deeper level than most, and I didn’t take her suggestion lightly. The very next day I made a trip to the bookstore to take a closer look at Educated. After reading the description and most of the first chapter, I was immediately hooked. Even though the book was released last year and for the purposes of this blog I prefer to review books released in the same year— I knew this was one I had to add to the next poll. I was elated when it was voted to be the next book I review. I fell into Westover’s memoir hard, I devoured the words on the pages at any free moment I could muster up. I couldn’t think of much other than the pain, terror, and angst she endured as she traveled on a rollercoaster of unknowns, while internally suffering with her thoughts. I feverishly plummeted through the captivating, raw, true, and authentic story of her life, from beginning to end, and it moved me at every turn. Although the details and storyline of Westover’s childhood are much different than the details of my own life— I was able to draw on her emotion and relate to the internal struggles she navigated through that were also present in my own childhood. After finishing her book I have never felt more empowered to finish writing mine.
What is it about?
Westover writes about the gripping tale of her childhood, having grown up in rural Utah— the youngest of seven siblings, and under the control of suppressive, devout Mormon parents who saw their “survivalist” way of life as the only way. The story of Westover’s early childhood is perhaps the most disturbing— readers are given a look at the countless dangerous situations that her, and other members of her family are thrown into without regard for human life, or of the importance of survival— as they were often told by their parents that God was in control of every outcome. Westover’s parents did not believe in modern medicine, or in formal education, and believed the government was out to get them. It wasn’t until the age of seventeen that Westover walked into a classroom for the first time. The story telling gives readers an opportunity to walk alongside young Westover and to re-experience those early moments of her life, and to learn how she mentally processed all that was happening to her, and to the people around her. The terror that Westover endured is real, heart wrenching, and horrifying, and not only because of the physical and psychological harm she endured, but also because she was left to grapple with the terror of her existence, usually alone, without support— having little to no power or ability to alter it. It isn’t until her decision to explore education outside of the home at the age of seventeen that her path is redirected— it can be viewed as the most defining moment of her life.
“I could have my mother’s love, but there were terms, the same terms they had offered me three years before: that I trade my reality for theirs, that I trade my own understanding and bury it, leave it to rot in the earth.” –Tara Westover
After finishing this book I am certain that Tara Westover is one of the most tenacious, driven, and strong minded individuals I have ever read about. The story of her life moved me to tears— reading about the emotional and physical abuse she endured and how she painstakingly justified it over and over again, because of her all consuming intrinsic desire to be connected to and to please her biological family (which is something all of us are wired to do)— is absolutely heart wrenching. I love how this book reads, it flows beautifully, like a novel, and at parts like poetry. Her writing is so descriptive, elegant, and captivating. I soaked up each word and felt in awe of the seemingly effortless way in which she strings words together that flow so beautifully, so perfectly alongside one another. This alluring writing style left me wanting more, and I couldn’t put the book down until I had finished it. These are all positive aspects of the memoir, but, by far, the most inspiring part of her life, as depicted in the book— is how even with every setback she endures, even with every doubt, every urge to go back to her past, and when at her lowest of lows— she is still able to find the strength to overcome and push forward. Tara Westover is an inspiration, and an exemplary pillar of self made— true, raw, authentic strength. We should all feel honored that she opened herself up, that she became vulnerable enough to share such a private story— a story in which each and every one of us can draw inspiration and strength from.
“…vindication has no power over guilt. No amount of anger or rage directed at others can subdue it, because guilt is never about them. Guilt is the fear of one’s own wretchedness. It has nothing to do with other people. I shed my guilt when I accepted my decision on its own terms, without endlessly prosecuting old grievances, without weighing his sins against mine.” -Tara Westover
From my perspective there isn’t anything necessarily bad about this memoir. There is, however, several difficult moments— that specifically involve injury or gore that take a good stomach to get through. I had to put the book down a few different times in order to plug through the descriptions— which were magnificently written (might I add)— in order to mentally build myself up to read the words describing the experience. For example, and I’m paraphrasing here, but I don’t think I will ever be able to get the words she used in reference to a leg injury she suffered after reading it described as resembling a knife going through her leg like warm butter out of my head anytime soon. I’m still squeamish over that one, phew! There is more in the way of that throughout the book, so as long as you’re aware of this going in then it shouldn’t be a huge shock, and you will definitely see what I mean. The only other thing I can think of worth mentioning is something that I found to be a little frustrating— and keep in mind this isn’t something that could be changed, since it’s a memoir, it’s Westover’s life story— however, I struggled with how long it took her to wakeup, so to say. I was hoping— I was in desperate anticipation that her awakening would occur sooner, that more time would have been spent explaining why the path she took was the better one, and how it has changed her life, her outlook on life— and how it’s inspired her to help others, etc. This preference, however, is specific to me, and my personality— as I love motivational books. And, although this book does motivate, by illustrating the major setbacks Westover overcomes— the bulk of it is spent on recounting her struggle, including how she continued to doubt herself, and her inability to trust her own mind and intuition.
I can only imagine how therapeutic it was for Westover to write this memoir. She was able to release the secrets, and the history of her past down on paper for all the world to see (her family included). I highly recommend this book, and any book(s) she decides to write in the future. Her journey is an inspiration, and I cannot wait to see what she writes next! If I ever have the opportunity to talk to Tara Westover (!), I would urge her to consider writing her next book with the specific thought in mind to reach others who are either living in, or who have lived through a similar situation to her own. I would love to read more about the “peace” she speaks of and how it has changed her life for the better.
What did you think of my review? Have you read Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover? If so, what was your reaction? If not, do you plan to? Please let me know in the comments section below! Also, if you’re interested in purchasing it, you can do so below!