Cover Image: Educated

Educated

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This memoir had an effect on me and I want to recommend it to everyone. Educated by Tara Westover is a memoir about family obligations, systems of control, and the power of education. It was a hard, but good read. 

Westover grew up in a strict, Mormon household in rural middle America with parents who had their own interpretation of Mormonism that they proselytized to their children and used to condemn others’ interpretations of divine faith, including other Mormons. The parents did not trust the government, which extended to not birthing most of their children in hospitals because they were part of the evil “medical establishment”,  not legally recording most of their children’s births until many years later, not immunizing their children or permitting them to visit doctors for care in favor of homeopathy, and not enrolling their children in schools for fear the schools would brainwash their children with nonsense. The denial of all of these things to their children, particularly access to an education as the children weren’t really schooled at home either, was a way to indoctrinate the children into the parents’ belief system, bound the children to their parents’ sphere of control so that the children may never leave, and limit the children from access to other ways of thinking that would allow the children to be able to question their family’s way of life. 

Westover’s tale highlights how important access to an education is as she details the life circumstances of her siblings — those who managed to be admitted to college, after secretly studying for standardized testing, went on to receive doctorates, whereas the others never received high school diplomas or GEDs and subsequently had limited job options and continued to be employees of their parents’ businesses as they had been since they were children. The memoir is broken into three parts, beginning with Westover’s childhood, transitioning into Westover’s teen years when she enrolls in an undergraduate program, and the last pieces include her venturing to another part of the world for education purposes and having her worldview expanded even more than her undergraduate experiences initially opened. While education definitely plays a central role in this memoir, a large part of Westover’s story involves controlling family dynamics, the emotional abuse that often rains down from the controlling heads of household, unfettered physical abuse that family members conveniently ignore or outright deny because acknowledgement of its actuality could challenge their pleasant forms of reality, and outright misogyny about a women’s place in the family and in the world that is shielded from question by religious morales. 

While Westover’s education granted her access to many things, it also created many conflicts with her family and led to estrangements from certain members. Becoming “educated” isn’t always cost-free and Westover’s story illuminates some of the challenges that can be associated with advancing oneself, whilst one’s family tries to hold them back. This was a book that I needed to read and I hope that it is enlightening for others.
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Everybody loves survivors' memoirs. We especially like to cheer them on their way to freeing themselves and finally making it. Tara Westover's story is one such survivor's tale. What's unique about it is how she used the power of her intellect. This fantastically gifted, talented and brilliant young woman was deprived of a conventional education through normal schools by her extreme, paranoiac, religious zealot of a father who saw conspiracy of iluminati everywhere including public school system and healthcare system. His children were pulled out of schools, or never sent to one, never allowed to use doctors and hospitals even in the most life-threatening circumstances. She was educated instead through her life experiences within this very dramatic and abusive family whose particular brand of religion served to cover the subjugation and abuse of women. Her lessons were about paranoia, subjugation, fanaticism, humiliation and helplessness. The cognitive dissonance between what she was experiencing and what she was told her experience was, led her to a loss of herself. The fact that she kept journals helped her to discern what was real and what was not, but in view of eyewitnesses denying her accounts, she often was unsure and kept doubting herself. The required demanded loyalty to the crazy family almost destroyed her. Only through unbelievable power of the intellect and discerning thinking, when she finally decided to leave and enroll in college, she was able to start making sense of her life. I have never before read such heart-stopping and heart-wrenching book. I was reminded of Edward St. Aubyn's Patrick Melrose novels in which he reworked his particular trauma. Tara Westover is a gifted intellectual, an analytical thinker to whom a professor at Cambridge University referred as "pure gold" speaking of her power of thinking and reasoning. Through study of history and historians she was able to see many view points and discover that her own perspective was a valid thing. She then started to write her own history. It is a fast read, hard to put down page turner although at times one needs to stop, simply because the degree of intensity of terrible things happening is so high that the reader needs to take breaks. I am in complete awe of the power possessed by Tara Westover and her ability to overcome such deep trauma. All those who helped her, various professors along the course of her studies, deserve a great deal of appreciation for recognizing her abilities and giving a helping hand. Ultimately she obtained her education at Cambridge and Harvard universities which elevated her into the peaks of scholarly thinking and placed her among great thinkers as an equal. The revenge was sweet. However Tara Westover never stopped loving her family, she did her best trying to remove herself and to understand. This is simple a feat of marvel. I highly recommend this book to anyone who likes to read about adversity but also about intellectual pursuits.

Thank you NetGalley for loaning an electronic version of the reader's copy of this title.
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I'd like to thank NetGalley and Random House Publishing Group for making this copy of Educated available. All opinions are my own.

The Glass Castle meets Gap Creek and earns a PhD.
Can I give this six stars?? More in-depth review to come.

UPDATE: 
It took me about a week or so to digest and live in the words of this book and the incredible story of Tara Westover growing up with extremist parents that were against all things "unnatural" and how she eventually earned a PhD from Cambridge.
If you are having a bad day or a pity party, read this book. If you are having financial problems, read this book. If you think you can't make it another day, read this book. If you think your job is miserable, read this book. Tara Westover grew up at the base of a mountain in Idaho within a Mormon family with six siblings and a mother and a father. However, she didn't receive much parenting as a child. Her father was a strict enforcer of Bible verses and her mother deferred all decisions to him. When her mother acted as a mid-wife, (because her father thought it would be a good idea) Tara became the assistant. When her father needed assistance with pulling and throwing scrap metal, Tara and her brothers were the employees.
I'm no wimp and certainly not afraid of work, but the extreme and and incredulously unsafe practices of this family living "off the grid" kept me predicting someone's certain death.  From car wrecks with brain injuries to motorcycle accidents to second degree burns, all ailments were treated with tonics, poultices and herbal oils. Anything associated with the government was off limits, which meant, school, doctors, hospitals, laws, taxes, Pell grants, etc...When her father hears of the nearby Ruby Ridge siege, Tara and her brothers have to prepare, and sleep with a "head for the hills"bag.
When one of her older brothers defies his upbringing and goes on to college, he encourages Tara to do the same. At the age of 16, she takes the ACT test, fails, then teachers herself trigonometry to  earn an acceptable score to attend BYU. At 17, she becomes a freshman at BYU, alienates her classmates and roommates with her "strange clothes" and "strict beliefs." Thankfully, a professor takes interest in her, senses her determination and helps Tara adjust as well as find ways to further her education.
This book probably could have been twice its length, but Westover has chosen just the right events and woven them seamlessly into a page turner quest for a different life. Through her experiences, she takes the reader with her as she revisits her life through physical abuse, poverty, survivalist and religious beliefs, her exclusion by some of her family and her determination to overcome it all.
Educated should be a must-read for teachers, students and anyone.  Gillian Anderson is right, "You can do anything you set your mind to, but it takes action, perseverance and facing your fears." Tara Westover's story is this quote in living color. 
#netgalley #Educated
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Westover's memoir is lyrical at times, conversational at others, but always compelling.  Her story of overcoming abuse and neglect to achieve educational success is astonishing, yet Westover never lets bitterness, self-pity, or anger color her story.  At points, I lost a sense of her timeline but overall this story is a stunning one written with heart, honesty, and bravery.
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Outstanding story of individual patience and perseverance. Excellent read, great characters and terrific writing. Reminds me of Jeannette Wells "The Glass Castle" and "Half Broke Horses". Look forward to reading more from this author.
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Writing: 4.5 Plot: 4.5  Characters: 4
Disturbing in places

A remarkably level headed tale of the “education” the author received growing up. The youngest of seven children born to an ultra strict Mormon, survivalist, anti-government, and probably bipolar man and his wife in rural Idaho, Tara Westover never went to school, never saw a doctor (even for life threatening illnesses and accidents), and was not allowed to wear a seat belt.  She was called a whore if skin showed accidentally or if her father or older brothers determined she was acting in a “whorish” fashion.  When she wanted a birth certificate, the family could not even agree on the day that she was born.

This memoir takes her from birth through receiving her PhD from Cambridge at the age of 27.  Her PhD topic: “The Family, Morality, and Social Science in Anglo-American Cooperative Thought, 1813-1890”, including a chapter on Mormonism as a social movement. The story is gripping, both in the details of actual events and in her reflections on how to become the person she is meant to be when there are such strong voices in her head telling her about government plots, whorish behavior, and false history.  Homeopathic remedies, work in a scrap metal business, Y2K scares,  some physical abuse and the lies people build around themselves - all told in a matter-of-fact style that lays is out without over-emotionalizing.

Great for fans of Jeanette Walls or Jill Kerr Conway.
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Overwhelmed with this wonderfully written book, stopping often to digest the neglect the author experienced.  

The author, Tara Westover,  describes her childhood that includes no formal schooling, yet rises above this to earn her Ph.D.  She writes about her efforts to educate herself, beginning with the problem of getting a birth certificate at the age of 14.  Home births, herbalism and no medical care made her undocumented in her own county and state government.  Ms. Westover writes about the daily neglect that her bipolar dad inflicted upon her family and to describe the deepening paranoia surrounding the government and outsiders. 

The book has been compared to the Glass Castle, which I adored, although this memoir has additional features of having national significance, being associated with the Ruby Ridge case of Randy Wheeler. Ms. Westover describes her struggle to obtain her education within a paranoid and neglectful upbringing. 

"Educated "has the feel of a book written for those who need inspiration to become their best selves. Highly recommended for adults struggling to find themselves in a sea of self doubt. 

Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for the opportunity to read this advance reader copy in exchange for an honest review. 

#NetGalley . #Educated
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The overarching theme of the redemptive qualities of education are spot-on and are the only thing that saved me from disliking the book entirely. The elements of Westover's life including her lack of education because of a religious father who was also fearful of the government and waiting for the second coming were all fascinating individually but it didn't flow together in a seamless memoir. 

I was reading and then it literally felt like I missed several chapters because it moved to another element of her life, upbringing, or family without any warning or understanding of their connection. So I was disappointed that I couldn't relate to Westover more in her telling of her story. She does what books like Hillbilly Elegy are doing, which is shining the light on social dynamics, geographical and religious boundaries that are drawn within the United States, and the fragility of a family structure.
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"There’s a world out there, Tara,” he said. “And it will look a lot different once Dad is no longer whispering his view of it in your ear.”

The above quote is true, in a sense, for all children but more so in certain families. This was one of the most captivating memoirs I have ever read. Ideas can be dangerous, and children are nothing if not always at the mercy of their parents. They are our Gods, they rule the universe until we are able to fully think and decide for ourselves, but how do you do that when you’ve been conditioned? What about being kept out of school, taught to distrust everyone that doesn’t share your parents beliefs? Here is the truth, when your world is small and contained you are so much easier to control, to manipulate. Maybe all parents poison the minds of their children with their ideology, often not meaning too. We can’t be right all the time, and aren’t as progressive as we imagine. Every parent has allowed their prejudices to bleed into their children, well meaning or not- born out of fear or from horrible experience that colored our thoughts and those things can wreak havoc for life on our children, carried well into adulthood. How do we purge the rot and nurture the seeds of good our parents have placed inside of us? As with all of us, Tara Westover spent much of her life sifting through her education, life lessons, religious beliefs, etc. A child of survivalists, believing the end of times is always around the corner, forced to prep endlessly, that the rest of the world is full of sin, forbidden to be seen  or treated by doctors (because God and nature heals, not man) barred from school (because it’s brainwashing) her father is first and foremost a faithful servant of God. Early on he has episodes, everyone must fall in line to his demands, even her mother forced into midwifery and healing. Her brother is brutally abusive, and abuse is something no one really understands until they’ve lived through it. Good, Bad… how do you make that separation with nothing to compare it to? You can only dissect things with what you are aware of, what do you do when it’s been drilled into you that all you can trust is your family, forced to view the entire world as ominous and evil?

Tara, of course has an inborn feeling of right and wrong and an intelligence beyond what is ‘acceptable’ but there is a struggle with religion and the love she feels for her family. While her father has spent his life sure the rest of the world is a threat, out to brainwash godly people he himself is guilty of such. Be it an unamed illness in him or manical faith, a label changes nothing when behavior is enabled and beyond anyone’s control. Yes, any sane person would be horrified by the things she and her siblings were forced to do, things even strong grown men would be hardpressed to take on, and why does she see it through? Because parents are in control, there is no other option, and later to protect others. It does dawn on her that her life is hardscrabble and brutal, and as quoted above, when one of her brothers seeks a different way of life and escapes (which is a mean feat) she finds her own way out.

Being out is a loaded thing too. Chosing anything other than the life her father has mapped out for his children is to be excommunicated! It’s siblings having to chose sides, it’s relying solely on oneself. Tara is one hell of a strong woman, and the madness of it is her parents, in all their outrageous expectations and teachings still are a part of the reason she turned out the way she did. What a thing to chew on! We become, either in spite of or because of, don’t we. We discard what’s been forced upon us, embrace it, or ulter it until the fit is right. Even the most horrific of things we have survived are a part of our evolution, so to speak.

Tara loves her parents, there is no doubt but that doesn’t mean she can’t see their flaws. It’s a miracle anyone survived her father and his ideas, and her mother- because she allowed it, she took part in it. The dizzying moments come when things do turn out, when her parents have success or share a scrap of tenderness, that’s the confusion for her. Surely, if they are right about this than maybe she is the bad one?

I can’t even begin to do justice to this memoir, it’s so hard to review them anyway as you feel like you have someone’s life in your hands, such an over-exaggeration I know, but really, this is a raw account of Tara Westover’s heartbreaking and inspiring struggle to free herself. Do not be fooled by the cover, it isn’t just about education nor off the grid survivalists and religion. I couldn’t put it down, and spent so much time collecting flies with my mouth gaping open in shock. There is a lingering sadness inside of me, even for her brother whom wronged Tara in so many ways, and that is how it is for her.I could write paragraphs about everything I felt and thought along the journey of this memoir, but the best I can do is tell others to read it!  I hope there is another book one day, she is someone you long to check in on, that you’re rooting for. I don’t think I could have found my way as she found hers, it takes courage and something more that so many of us are missing. It’s so much easier to play possum and just accept the devil you know, but I kept hearing ‘pull yourself up by your bootstraps’ and ‘rely on yourself’. She sure did!

Yes, a must read for 2018!

Publication Date: February 20, 2018

Random House
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This book was a fascinating look into a unique family dynamic. The author grew through the unfolding of the story which was an insightful progression. Even in later years as she fell back into old roles she owned as a child she was still able to acknowledge the slip. This story will make you reevaluate your own issues with your family and rewritten histories (it did for me!) and was overall a great story. I felt the ending was more about self-therapy and a plea to 'give her own side' to her family but I don't begrudge her that chance. Would have loved to have seen more about her thesis. While the story is mostly about relationships I did love to see her thoughts on education and what makes history a history and would have loved a bit more about her studies. Going to put this in my high school library as soon as it is released. 

reviewed on Goodreads.
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This author has accomplished more in the past 13 years than most could accomplish in multiple lifetimes.  She pulled herself up and out of a fanatical survivalist family where she received no education for her first 16 years.   At 16 she studied for the ACTs and was accepted and enrolled at BYU and eventually received her PhD in 2014 in Cambridge.  Based on what she endured and overcame it is challenging for me to rank and review this book. Her spirt and achievements are a 100 (out of a 5 point scale)!  The writing is good and mostly engaging but I did find it dragging during the middle third of the book. Her story was eye-opening to the horrors some children endure who are raised by severally mentally ill parents.   Overall I encourage people to read this book.  We owe it to these children to learn their trials and tribulations and to learn from their terror.  We need to be aware so if we ever encounter it we can help.  And, if you ever doubt you can accomplish something, read this book and think again - you can.

Thank you to NetGalley and Random House Publishing Group for providing me with an early release of this book.
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A good memoir is like good fiction: the reader enters into the life of the author, feeling the emotions and experiencing the events. Educated by Tara Westover joins the club of great memoirs like The Glass Castle and Liar’s Club with a story of a girl who is part of a highly dysfunctional family but pushes through her doubts, her love and her distrust of herself to become her own person. Westover supplies visceral descriptions of her feelings during events so that the reader enters completely into the moment. Her descriptions makes the reader love her mountain, hate the smells and chaos of her home, fear the dangers of the scrapheaps and yearn for the towers of Cambridge. That it was possible for her to overcome her mis-education to earn her PhD is awe inspiring. Recommended for all book discussion groups.
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Alternately Reminiscent of Jeannette walls and David sedaris in equal doses, Tara westover slyly crafts the tale of her childhood. She describes a home with doomsday preppers and homeopaths that leads you down a rabbit hole to another reality. A true Cinderella story is revealed as westover takes us from Idaho to Cambridge to Rome and beyond. A veritable treat!
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I requested this memoir at the recommendation of a very bookish friend. Unfortunately, this one did not work for me. While I appreciate everything Tara Westover experienced, I found I did not enjoy reading about her life and, ultimately, did not finish this one.
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Love, love, love this memoir.  An honest and page-turning account of what can happen when knowledge supersedes blind faith, including breaking abusive and manipulative family ties, standing up for the truth, and creating a fulfilling life outside the bonds of her nuclear family.
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Wow.  Thank you NetGalley for the opportunity to read this book.  Reminiscent of the Glass Castle, this is a page turner.  How the author survived her hell and came out alive is the true miracle.  Definitely recommending this one!
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This book took me a little while to really get into, despite it being incredibly interesting. This is an account of the author's life within an extremely cloistered and religious household. Although the family is Mormon and live in a mostly Mormon community, due to the father's paranoia and delusions of government conspiracies, the family is more separated from the outside world than most of the community and the youngest 4 children do not even attend public school. As a teenager the author, Tara, decides that she wants an education so she studies for the college entrance exams until she can pass and applies for school. When she makes it to college she realizes how very cut off from the outside world she really has been. She doesn't know how school and studying really work and she is unfamiliar with the most basic historical events (which leads to some embarrassment).  Her personal grooming and other habits set her apart from the other students and leads to some conflict with roommates until she learns society's general expectations for keeping up common spaces & hygiene. In spite of all of the extra challenges Tara faces in navigating a totally foreign world, she thrives on school and is soon encouraged to pursue further education overseas and eventually a masters degree. The more educated she becomes, the more she is removed from her family and their now over-the-top dogma. Family conflicts ensue and Tara has to choose between her family and her independence. Very well written and engaging.
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Tara Westover was raised in Idaho, the daughter of fundamentalist Mormon parents, in the wake of the tragic events at Ruby Ridge. Her father decreed that anything to do with the government was sinful, and kept Tara and her siblings from school and from access to medical care. Her mother, an herbalist and midwife, chose to be helpless to protect her children from his rages and turned a blind eye to the physical and emotional abuse one of Tara's brothers visited on Tara and her siblings. 

As becomes increasingly clear in this riveting memoir, Tara's father and brother both suffer(ed) from undiagnosed mental illness, but because Tara truly didn't have exposure to anything else in her formative years, it was just her normal.

Another of her brothers, who did have some education and a bigger world view, recognizes Tara's undeniable intelligence, and encourages her to teach herself enough to take and pass the ACT. She is 16 years old when she does and her ticket out is secured--she is offered a scholarship to Brigham Young University. Her time there is not easy; a child who has never set foot in a classroom, whose only historical perspective is what was fed to her by parents who shunned all versions of the world and history but their own, has an enormous row to hoe. That she finds her roommates, who are fellow Mormons, to be uncomfortably worldly is testament to the rigorous and unforgiving standards under which she was raised. Tara's determination to work out a way to succeed despite setbacks of nearly Biblical proportions is tangible, and the reader can do naught but root for her.

Despite leaving home, despite years of higher education at BYU, Oxford, Cambridge, and Harvard, Tara remains emotionally tethered to her own history, influenced by the judgmental battering she takes from her father and brother, and unconvinced of her worthiness to live the life she now has without feeling like an imposter. 

Education has the emotional percussion of Jeannette Walls' The Glass Castle Mary Karr's The Liar's Club. Highly, highly recommended. 

I received a free download of this book from Random House, through NetGalley. Publication date is February 2018.
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This book. 

This book put a lot in perspective for me. I was not educated at home, nor did I grow up in a religious background. I have judged those that come from a place that Westover did, not understanding how they grew up, and why they feel the way they do about things. How can they be so ignorant?

I know now. It's not ignorance. It's just not knowing. It's being uneducated in the ways of the world. In the ways things happened in history. It's trusting faith before everything, and using that faith to shape your world view. 

I specifically quoted a passage while reading this book (paraphrased) that says "... the past shifted... the memory was immediately changed, blemished, turned to rot. The past became as ghastly as the present." That really struck me, because I, like Tara, have let my present color my past. An evil man was always evil, but that's not really true. It's how I feel now, knowing what I know now. 


This book.
Has changed me.

Thank You, Netgalley and Random House Publishing Group for the ARC of this wonderful novel.
I cannot recommend this novel enough.
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Absolutely stunning!  Self-educated and reaching heights she'd never dreamed of, Tara Westover still has to come to grips with the baggage her past has left her with.  From the mental illness of her father, the damaged older broter, to the strict Mormon upbringing, all left a mark on Tara that isn't easily erased.  Without ever sounding self-pitying or maudlin, Tara chronicles her upbringing and her metamorphosis into adulthood. Highly recommended.
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