The Book Report

‘Educated,’ in Review

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Tara Westover had a unique childhood. Her parents raised her and her six siblings to distrust the government, and trust only the Mormon faith. Tara and her siblings were not sent to public school, nor were they sent to doctors, as doing so would give the government more power, which they believed it did not need. 

Only four out of the seven children in the Westover family were given birth certificates and the family spent every day preparing for the end of the world. They generated an income by scrapping metal. Their mother was also a midwife for women who lived near them in Idaho.

At the beginning of the novel, “Educated,” Tara trusts her father and his views of the government. However, their living situation becomes more and more dangerous and Tara starts to wonder about a different way of life.

One of Tara’s older brothers, Tyler, had begun to study on his own in order to enroll at Brigham Young University. This intrigued Tara, mostly in the sense that she did not understand why he would go to a place her father often demonized.

As accidents happened to Tara and her family as a result of her father’s unstoppable faith, she began to think of a way to escape the controlled life her family had set up for her. She started to slowly take part in the mainstream world. She got a job at a grocery store, she enrolled in dance classes and even starred in local plays and musicals. Once she got a taste for the mainstream world, she could not go back.

Tara followed in her brother’s footsteps and took the necessary steps to enroll at BYU. She was accepted and started to obtain the education her father had so adamantly condemned. It took her a long time to fit in, but she eventually developed an intense passion for learning. Tara went on to accomplish great things in her academic career.

This came at a price, however. She was exiled from the family and found herself constantly fighting with her parents and siblings back home. She loved the new life she built, but ached for the love of her family, no matter how unsettling her upbringing was.

As I read this memoir, I found myself often in disbelief that this is Tara’s real life story. Many of the facts she shares are so incredibly disturbing, they seem fictional, but in reality, these facts were just what Tara dealt with on a day to day basis.

Before reading this book, or even reading what it was about, I expected there to be more of a moral ending about how important education is and how it can change lives. I was only partially correct. There is definitely an underlying theme throughout the memoir about the importance of education and how education can open many worlds, but Tara did not solely focus on this theme.

The memoir was a retelling of her life in a way that highlights the strength in family and the weakness that comes with it. It was uplifting at times, but mostly heartbreaking. 

The strength Tara showed throughout the memoir was incredibly inspiring. As inspiring as it was, there were definitely times were Tara broke down and those emotions were so raw and, as a reader, I was able to wholly feel them myself.

This book was one of the best I have read in a long time and would recommend it to anyone, no matter your preference in reading material. 

GoodReads reviewers granted “Educated” 4.48/ 5 stars, and Amazon reviewers gave the memoir 4.7/5 stars.

Clausing can be reached at [email protected]