by Tara Westover

The daughter of survivalists, who is kept out of school, educates herself enough to leave home for university.

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  • Peter Lunsford, a lonely, book-loving, self-educated and self-destructive salesman, has an abrupt and radical chang…
  • @tjseher @Blaney Book learning is the beginning of knowledge. Wisdom is knowing what to do with that knowledge. I'v…
  • I painted "Highly-educated Jeff "Comic Book Guy" Albertson" after reading @KateUpton's latest tweets with intellige…
  • @HaleyJaneComic Ummmm. Riiiiight. I suggest you grab a book and educated your self. I’m guessing you the percentage…
  • I'm patiently anticipating the #Killmonger book by. @bryanedwardhill & @juaneferreyra. I know folks see me ranting…
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    What people are saying on Amazon (sample)

    • I highly recommend this book about a girl whose childhood began on a beautiful mountain in a narrow world created by her father’s anti-establishment mindset of fear, insanity, and control and ended when she decided to venture out into the wider world and research the facts for herself. Will she come home? Can she come home? Or will home be more damaging to her spirit than the broader dangerous world her father fears? I will try not to give spoilers, but most of the information in this review was provided by the book’s author in interviews. It’s not the bare facts which are so fascinating, but the story itself and how it plays out. If you’ve ever been gaslighted, scapegoated or lied about by your own family, you will find in Tara Westover a true kindred spirit.The title of this book might give the impression it’s merely about going to school. While the author’s lack of primary education is offset by her future ability to earn a doctorate at Cambridge, her education about society and the world outside her family is just as important as her rise academically.You might say Tara Westover’s education started while she was very young. Her life began on an Idaho mountain with survivalist parents. A father who distrusts the government and runs an ever-spreading scrap yard. A mother who is practically coerced by her husband to become a midwife. Born the youngest in a family of seven, her mother must’ve burned out on homeschooling by the time Tara came along because she didn’t get much book learning. Her first level of education included prepping with her family for the time of desolation, dodging her father’s careless flung scrap metal while she does child labor in his junkyard and accompanying her mother to home births. Tara’s early survivalist education includes learning how to survive her parents’ ignorant choices and a bullying older brother—all of which are much greater threats than her father’s perceived threats of the government taking over their lives.Her parents rarely leave the mountain. They are home-birthers, home-schoolers, anti-vaxers, anti-establishment and anti-medical care. In a nutshell, her father seems nutso—more like a deranged lunatic with a massive stockpile of weapons than a father.Tara’s mother appears to be her husband’s enabler as she meekly follows suit and rationalizes his unhealthy choices even when they threaten her safety and the health of her children. As a matter of fact, for a woman who eventually created a lucrative business by claiming to be a healer by designing her own line of essential oils, her mother’s only safety instinct seems to be to protect the family secrets.As Tara watched the insanity and chaos of her parents’ poor choices, she had one example of life beyond the mountain. One older brother left home and went to college. He encouraged her to do the same. This book is about her quest to get out from under her father’s control—first physically, then emotionally and eventually spiritually. This process didn’t happen overnight. As anyone who has grown up under a narcissistic parent and knows what it’s like to be bullied and gaslighted will find it easy to relate to Tara’s journey.This memoir is the story of a girl who was thirsty for knowledge, got a sip of real truth and refused to drink the kool-aid any longer. It’s the story if being scapegoated and gaslighted until she questions her sanity. It’s sad, but this book is also about the loss of siblings who would prefer to vote the family line than treat their sister as a friend. It’s also a story of triumph about the girl who escaped the box she was expected to stay in and become the one who got away from all the drama and insanity of her family of origin.It’s incredible that Tara Westover succeeded in getting a doctorate from Cambridge, but even more amazing is her social education and how she eventually transformed like Pygmalion and was able to self-differentiate from her parents and choose the life she desired for herself.This book is an exciting read. I read it around the clock within two days. It’s also complicated enough to provoke intellectual discourse about what it means to be faithful to oneself and how loyalty to family plays out against self-worth and self-knowledge.This memoir is the fourth book I’ve reviewed about a woman raised in a fundamentalist Mormon family. The first three were all brought up in polygamous households, but Tara only had two parents who kept their family in the local ward despite her father’s concerns about the Illuminati infiltrating the mainstream Mormon church. This family looks Mormon from the outside, but a more sinister agenda lies under the surface. She makes it clear this is NOT a book about Mormons but rather the head-spinning tale of a dysfunctional family. She reminds us that most Mormons send their children to public school and go to the doctor when it seems necessary. The fundamentalist vibes which are all there, under a cloak of self-righteousness, could be manifested within any denomination or cult.The only thing that made this book uncomfortable for me to read was the descriptions of the terrible injuries this family continually sustained due to the father’s stupidity. I constantly cringed at these stories much like I would while watching a show about life-threatening emergencies. Even worse, her father truly believed all these near death injuries were ordained by his arbitrary version of God. It was all I could do to keep from screaming. Such vivid descriptions were necessary though for the reader to understand what Tara had to endure.It’s not much of a spoiler to say Tara is eventually going to go no contact with some of her family members. She has told this in interviews. What is impressive about Tara is that she shows no bitterness. She loves her parents and family but has chosen to separate from them as a boundary for her sanity. Or did they shun her first? As in most narcissistic family survivor stories, it’s often hard to tell.This memoir is a true survival story about surviving a survivalist mindset. This book is the tale of narcissistic, emotional and spiritual abuse and one girl’s victory in becoming herself despite being vilified and gaslighted. My favorite quote from the book sums up Tara’s journey,“I am not the child my father raised, but he is the father who raised her.” -Tara WestoverTara’s story is a victory of education, but even more, it’s a triumph of her courage to rise up beyond the mountain—the only home she ever had to find her authentic home within herself. Bravo Tara Westover! You are an amazing survivor! Thank you for documenting your often painful journey so the rest of us can know that although our stories may vary, we are not alone.
    • I didn't set out to read this memoir at one sitting, ordering just the standard sample to be sent to my tablet...but after reading just that small sample, I immediately clicked on the "give me the whole chalupa button" so I could continue reading this absorbing & introspective memoir...the author never cuts herself any slack, just writing truthfully about how unprepared she was having endured the abuse from her family which had dominated her entire life before education brought her into adapting into the modern life the rest of us experience.Jarring at times when the reality of her experiences can overwhelm one when reading this memoir, but by never resorting to asking for mercy regarding her actions & life, you get the true sense of her being trapped by being raised in a mean spirited world that featured deprivation as its main commodity, reflecting into her coarsely made aspects of life. Between a domineering father, a beaten down mother and an abusive brother, she really had no chance of ending up in the life that she successfully fought for against the tides of family ties, religion, & society that had bound her into a life of servitude & misogyny. Her escape from it is almost anti-climatic in a matter of fact way, the abuse of everyday life for her was in itself the drama that holds the reader in suspense... Just as Mary Karr's "The Liar's Club" lets you see the inside of abuse young females sometimes are exposed to and have to take because of familial bonds and their lack of physical power. This alone leaves one wondering what happened afterwards. And like" The Liar's Club", it has the air of disbelief this couldn't actually be happening, or better yet, OMG, this actually happened! Its good to see someone make it thru this trap of abuse & misogyny, but at the same time, Ms. Westover lets you also see the potential traps that lie ahead as she escapes into a world she has no basis of experience in which to maybe to be told in the future in another book with a different POV...for that matter, like Karr's "Cherry"or "Lit"...I will definitely look forward to see what Ms. Westover writes next, this book will be re-read several times in the future, each time I am sure I will find more aspects of being a male that I might be best to correct...or better yet, maybe to nurture. My wife and her daughter, my stepdaughter, say I am doing fine as a male head of household, but it takes memoirs like this to give me the insight & desire into making myself into a better person so I can be thought of in a positive manner and to be loved because I did the right things for the entire family; me, my wife, my stepdaughter & stepson...its thru the pain women like Ms Westover & Ms Karr have suffered & now write about, that one sees how much better any man can become just by trying. I would never want my extended family to think of me in the ways Ms. Westover writes about her male familial people, I would want for myself to be thought of as a good man who held up his end of the bargain of family. Its by understanding the faults of men like Ms. Westover's stepdad and brother held onto in their world that I can then find my way into just by being a better man to my it and see if it works in this same manner for
    • I am in awe of Tara Westover. After finishing the book I watched some of her book tour interviews. I am simply amazed at this brilliant, poised, well-spoken woman. That she could raise herself from her unorthodox, fraught beginnings into a profoundly intelligent, wise, and emotionally balanced person seems miraculous, but it wasn’t a miracle. She did it all by herself.It’s not that there was no love to ground her. She and her six siblings and parents loved each other. She was raised in rugged Idaho in the shadow of Buck’s Peak, good bedrock from which to form an identity. Her parents followed the Mormon religion, but they practiced a version far from the mainstream. (The author clearly states that this is not a book about Mormonism.) Led by the father, Gene, the family pursued a survivalist ideology (hording supplies and gasoline to prepare for the “Days of Abomination”) and was deeply distrustful of all educational, medical, and government entities. Gene persuaded Tara’s mother, Faye (in spite of her his wife’s initial timidity) to become a midwife and herbal healer, schooled only by another midwife. This would ensure that family and future descendants would have no need of the medical establishment.Gene was probably mentally ill—possibly bipolar or paranoid, but fully functioning and charismatic. He was blind to risk and often put his children into dangerous situations. In fact, members of the family experienced multiple, very serious accidents and injuries. His wife was an enabler, aiding, abetting, and justifying his recklessness and doing her best to heal the family’s traumatic injuries and burns.Tara’s older brothers spent time in public schools before Gene became more radial and pulled them out. The parents claim that they home-schooled their children, but Tara’s education consisted mainly of working in her father’s junk yard, sorting scrap and performing all manner of perilous, physical duties. Faye was more enthusiastic about schooling than Gene, particularly about reading. She would attempt to conduct morning classes and Gene would herd the kids into the junkyard as soon as her back was turned. There were books in the house and the children were taken to the library. The family also attended church. So the author’s early education was spotty. She herself said “Learning in our family was entirely self-directed: you could learn anything you could teach yourself, after your work was done.” Her brother Tyler to whom she dedicated the book was able to get into college and against his father’s exhortations, leave home for an education.It was Tyler’s example and support when Tara was undergoing brutal physical and mental abuse from older brother Shawn (unacknowledged by her parents) that inspired her to contemplate leaving the family home. This led her to take on the Herculean task of educating herself to get a high enough ACT test score to get into Brigham Young University. From there she describes the arduous, often uncomfortable and embarrassing path to enlightenment and a previously unthinkable level of academic success.After I finished the book, I Googled the family’s essential oils business, which is now quite financially successful. I also read her brother, Tyler’s blog, as well as several accusatory, low-rated Amazon reviews. There is some real venom directed toward Tara. Her siblings have differing memories, in part justified by the age span among the seven of them. I am troubled by comparisons to James Frey’s notorious memoir, A Million Little Pieces, which after initial success was exposed as mainly fiction. Tara speaks of being gaslighted. She is estranged from certain members of her family, an action often deemed necessary by mental health professionals to protect patients’ fragile sense of self when dealing with extremely dysfunctional families. The author is careful to acknowledge that memories vary among family members (even citing differences) and points out that hers are not infallible. She speaks of having a mental breakdown while working toward her PhD at Cambridge, soon after she cut off contact with her parents.I believe her. I sincerely hope she will continue to follow her own hard-fought course and not succumb to gaslighting and venom. I pray for her. She paid dearly for the identity for which she has so valiantly strived. I hope she has all the support she needs and finds the peace and happiness she deserves. She is an absolute inspiration to me.
    • I read this in one sitting!I grew up in a dysfunctional, abusive family of gas lighters so I’m not at all surprised by her family’s response. If you want to see the family’s distorted and vindictive responses check out all the one star reviews.Also telling...they claim she got an excellent education at home. If you search for her brother Richard you will find this interesting tidbit in his school bio (written years before the book came out) “Westover said he is probably the only ISU masters-level chemist who had to start with a beginning math course at ISU.“ Why would that be?! Hmmm, could it be that the Westivers didn’t actually homeschool their kids and never taught them met at all, requiring their son to take an entry level class st college...? Ding ding ding!Bravo Tara for telling the truth.
    • The true story of how a young woman grew up living off-the-grid, with no birth certificate or education, in a violent, mentally unstable, survivalist family, and found her own way, step by jagged step, to a Ph.D. at Cambridge University. A riveting account of growing up in a world where violence is part of every day life, and the emotional toll that takes on a child, to the incredible, potent power of education to haul oneself out.Educated is a series of absolutely gripping set pieces. There's the story of nine-year-old Tara finding her older brother Luke, his leg on fire, in the front yard, and wrapping his leg in a trash bag so it wouldn't get infected before submerging it in a garbage can to stop it from burning. And then being scolded by her mother for using plastic trash bag, which melted to the skin. And the humiliation of her first college lecture, when one of the words on a slide was unfamiliar and she asked her professor what the Holocaust was.There is also the devastating account of an entire family held hostage to the madness and violence of their father, and the brutal terrorism of one son; how each member of the family tries at different times to free themselves from this madness, and how so many of them fail, and the cost that comes with success.It's about the unimaginable toll of a lifetime of mental and physical abuse, of being denied not just education, but a sense of self; of how the people we love can try to destroy us by taking away our own history, and how hard it is---but how vital---to fight back.Brilliant book. Wouldn't be surprised if it's the best thing I read this year.