Book: Educated: A Memoir
Author: Tara Westover
Who should read this book: Anyone that enjoys a good memoir, anyone that read The Glass Castle and liked it.
First let me start by saying I love a good memoir. Taking a deep look into someone else’s life is fascinating. I’m a very compare and contrast type person, so people in memoirs are always compared to my own life, and since I grew up in a pretty normal household, there is generally a huge contrast between the author and I.
Normally people don’t get around to writing their memoirs until later in life. A lot of the memoirs I read, the author is growing up in the 50’s to 70’s. Which is why Educated was the most interesting memoir I’ve read to date. Tara Westover was born in 1986, she’s 1 year older than me. When she was a child, working in a junkyard and wishing she could go to school, I was in school. I was one of those kids she pictured sitting in a classroom.
I can’t imagine not going to school as a kid, school was my favourite part of the day. So reading about Tara Westover, trying to teach herself trigonometry in her basement after working in the junkyard all day sounds wild in my head. When I was a kid we would sit around the dinner table and my parents would ask my sister and I ‘how was school today?’. We would tell them all the things we learned, they were happy for us and we were happy to learn. Tara Westover never had that conversation with her parents.
Tara writes beautifully. In a memoir a lot of the setting or background of a story is lost but Westover did a wonderful job of giving me the full picture. Every horrible story of her or one of her siblings getting injured is so detailed, it’s easy to picture it clearly in my head. There were moments while reading this book where I forgot I was reading a nonfiction book. I couldn’t put this book down. The progression of Tara’s life, from junkyard rat to Cambridge scholar is unfathomable. How did this neglected girl get to Cambridge? How did she go from no school to Ph.D? It’s a fascinating rags to riches style story. The whole time you’re reading ,you are cheering for her, hoping her story will change. Willing her to have the courage to say no to her family and become who she is really meant to be.
Tara grows up in a very religious and strict household. Her parents, especially her dad, believe the world is going to end, that judgement day will come, soon. He is extremely paranoid and anti-government. Which is why he won’t let his 7 children go to school or go to see a doctor. He owns a junkyard and the kids, no matter their age, work in the yard all day with him. Free labour. The injuries are constant, some of them severe, but they don’t go to a hospital, they go to their mother who is a midwife and an herbalist. She patches them up every time. Her parents believe that God has given Tara’s mother the healing gift and that doctors will just poison you. Not to mention they don’t have a lot of money and hospitals aren’t cheap. Tara is the youngest, so she watches some of her siblings resist the plans their parents have for them, and some of her siblings follow along.
Shawn, an older sibling, and her mother, both suffer serious head injuries during her childhood and it causes them both lasting damage. Shawn turns even more violent than he already was, and her mother gets a little more convinced she has magical healing powers. I think Shawn’s terrible treatment of Tara is part of what forces her to make the decision to leave the house for good. When she decides to go to college, it’s so she can get away from Shawn and her dad. When she tells her father she’s going to university, he says she is “whoring after man’s knowledge.”
I highly recommend this book. It’s a beautiful story of a girl fighting her way out the mould her parents cast around her. Not only does she break free, she becomes one of the best writers I’ve ever encountered.