Opening sentence: “I’m standing on the red railway car that sits abandoned next to the barn.”
Educated is a new type of read for me: It’s the first time I’ve picked up a biography of someone I didn’t know (read: not a celeb.) I’d never heard of Tara Westover before, but her story is fascinating. Recommended to me on Bookstagram and IRL, this book has definitely opened my eyes to this genre and I’ll be looking to add more to my (never-ending) TBR list. Recommendations welcome!
Tara was brought up in the Mormon faith, but as she prefixes: ‘This story is not about Mormonism. Neither is it about any other form of religious belief.’ This is a coming-of-age story in many ways, about how Tara’s very unconventional childhood made her the person she is. Her life was very much decided by her father’s view of the world, which affected the way he chose to bring up his children. Tara spent a lot of her childhood preparing for the End of Days. Growing up in a big, isolated house in the shadow of Buck’s Peak, a mountain in Idaho, her father stockpiled food and was obsessed with making their house strong enough to survive the impending end of the world. He had a deep rooted hatred of the government, so Tara’s birth wasn’t registered and she never went to school or hospital. She was taught that all women who show any skin are sluts and a woman’s job is to marry and pop out kids.
Despite this repressive upbringing, Tara naturally came to her own conclusions about the world, as she says: ‘It’s astonishing that I used to believe all this without the slightest suspicion. The whole world was wrong; only Dad was right.’ Unlearning the ideals of your childhood is a massive undertaking and when your family is so intrinsic to your identity (as Tara’s were) disagreeing with them – even for your own survival – is a huge step. She had to make some very painful decisions, address how certain family members were treating her and find a way to survive: ‘Although I had renounced my father’s world, I had never quite found the courage to live in this one.’
Educated raises interesting questions on the whole nature/nurture debate, as out of seven siblings, three of them (Tara and two of her brothers) went on to achieve higher education accolades that people with a lifetime of eduction might struggle to get. Tara is obviously naturally gifted, she studied at Cambridge and Harvard and this memoir is testament to her beautiful way with language; she takes the phrase ‘self-taught’ to new levels. Both humbling and inspiring, this is a must-read. To find out a little more about Tara (and put a face to the name) take a look at this great interview she did with Ellen.
/ Published by Windmill Books 2018
/ 377 pages
/ Rating: 4/5