Book review: ‘Educated’ by Tara Westover

How much of ourselves can we give to the people we love without losing ourselves?

EMMA LEDBETTER, Evergreen news editor

There isn’t much I can write about “Educated” that would do it any justice.

This memoir is written by Tara Westover, a young woman who grew up in a devout Mormon household in the mountains of Idaho. Her father runs a scrap yard and her mother is a midwife and herbalist.

Any money the family made is used to prepare for the End of Days — canning fruit, buying weapons, storing gasoline, you name it. Whenever the end of the world comes (perhaps right now?) Westover’s father will be prepared to care for his entire family for years. 

The catch is, her father doesn’t trust modern medicine (which he calls “The Medical Establishment”) or the government. His children don’t have birth certificates and any ailments (including severe burns and head injuries) are treated at home. To top it all off, the Westovers homeschool their seven children, which amounts to no formal education.

I’d like to believe that the plot and characters are just well-crafted fiction, but I know better than that. Westover relied on her journal entries and her own memories, as well as those of her brothers to write the memoir. 

At first, the events of the book just seemed strange. It is so different from my own experiences — going to public schools, having regular checkups and not seeing my parents actively prepare for the end of the world. I don’t know if I could have imagined a reality more different than my own. 

Somehow, it got weirder. Westover uses pseudonyms for her parents and most of her siblings, and rightfully so, because they do some pretty awful things. 

She recalls her brother physically and verbally abusing her for dressing immodestly, her mother turning a blind eye to the beatings and her sister siding with the rest of the family. 

I was physically uncomfortable and even enraged at some of the details. No one should ever have to live in a home where they are treated so poorly. 

Through all of these setbacks, Westover was able to study for the ACT and got accepted to Brigham Young University. She later studied for a master’s degree at Cambridge, all while dealing with near-constant abuse from nearly every member of her family. 

Her work addresses the question, how much of ourselves can we give to the people we love without losing ourselves?

Without a doubt, this is one of the best books I’ve read in a long time. It made me feel a range of emotions, the descriptions were vivid and I was left pondering a lot about my own life. I can easily give this book five stars. 

Read it. Just trust me.