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A book review of Educated: a Memoir by Tara Westover

Stars: *****

Random House (2018)
352 pages

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Summary: An unforgettable memoir about a young girl who, kept out of school, leaves her survivalist family and goes on to earn a PhD from Cambridge University

Born to survivalists in the mountains of Idaho, Tara Westover was seventeen the first time she set foot in a classroom. Her family was so isolated from mainstream society that there was no one to ensure the children received an education, and no one to intervene when one of Tara’s older brothers became violent. When another brother got himself into college, Tara decided to try a new kind of life. Her quest for knowledge transformed her, taking her over oceans and across continents, to Harvard and to Cambridge University. Only then would she wonder if she’d traveled too far, if there was still a way home


I heard nothing but praise for this book with other book bloggers in 2018 so I picked myself up a copy but just got to it recently. It is as good as the other’s said.

The book is currently #5 on Amazon and is #1 on the NYT, Wall Street Journal and Boston Globe Bestsellers lists. It was named one of the ten best books of the year in 2018 by the NYT Book Review and is one of Barack Obama’s favourite books of the year. If you haven’t read it yet, you should.

The way Tara grew up makes you think the book must have taken place in the late 1800s but I was shocked to discover she is younger than me (I’m 36.) She grew up in a segregated part of Idaho with parents who did things the old fashioned way. Not only that but they didn’t believe in modern medicine or sending their kids to school and her dad, whom she later believed to be suffering from Bipolar disorder or schizophrenia, was constantly worried about being found out and the kids being taken away from them. I’m not talking a founded worry because the kids weren’t in school, but an over the top fear that others were “out to get them.”

The book was captivating, shocking, amazing and I just couldn’t believe what she went through. There are people who don’t believe her story and think there is room to assume she may have remembered things a little off here or there when she was a kid but I don’t doubt it’s truth overall. It’s just too shocking.

Just to clarify for homeschoolers who may be reading this, Tara and her siblings weren’t homeschooled, they were not schooled, at all. They VERY occasionally brought out a few text books but they sat and read them by themselves, with no one to see if they knew what it meant. But that was it. They weren’t even taught using everyday non-textbook ways such as teaching math while cooking.

What shocked me more than that was their aversion to health care. They were never careful and their father especially had the kids do tasks that were way too dangerous for kids and in extra dangerous ways and there were inevitably lots of injuries. They also didn’t use seat belts in their cars. The injuries kept escalating and I though, oh THIS time they’ll have to go to the hospital, but no. They only went once because someone else called an ambulance and another time Tara made the decision while she was alone with her brother.

I’m sure some of her family is not happy with this book and she was very brave to put it out there. I think she should have cut off ties with some members of her family long ago though.


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About Kathleen

I've been a nonfiction lover for as long as I can remember. I love children's nonfiction as well and love to share my knowledge and the books I gained them from, with the world. I wish more people would give nonfiction a chance.