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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  • @HaleyJaneComic Ummmm. Riiiiight. I suggest you grab a book and educated your self. I’m guessing you the percentage…
  • I painted "Highly-educated Jeff "Comic Book Guy" Albertson" after reading @KateUpton's latest tweets with intellige…
  • I'm patiently anticipating the #Killmonger book by. @bryanedwardhill & @juaneferreyra. I know folks see me ranting…
  • 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…
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    What people are saying on Amazon (sample)

    • I finished this powerful, tender but also deeply disturbing memoir yesterday and I'm still thinking about it. At first I was astounded to see that Tyler Westover, the brother who was so instrumental in his sister's liberation, had written a review here that was somewhat critical of the book, questioning the accuracy of some of his sister's memories, and clearly wanting to defend his family's fundamental decency. But then I wasn't surprised at all given that the author herself does the same thing throughout the book, even acknowledging in a postscript the challenges inherent in trying to accurately recall events that occurred years in the past. No one doubts that three people can witness the same event and twenty years later give differing accounts of it. Notably, her brother takes no issue with the most horrifying aspects of the childhood that his sister exposes. There are laws against that sort of thing for a reason. It's disturbing to say the least that their brother "Shaun" is still at large when, even if the author's memory is only ten percent accurate, he should be behind bars.
    • I read this book as the May selection for the PBS/NYT "Now Read This" book club. I applaud Dr. Westover's courage and determination to live her life in her own terms, and those who have helped encourage and support her alone by the way. I am furious with her family, especially her mother. I support the constitutional right to religious freedom, but I do take exception when that belief infringes on the rights of others (such as the Westover children's right to an (actual) education) or harms them in any way (such as the physical, mental and emotional abuse the kids suffered within the family). There is an argument that can be made that many of the family's issues stem from illnesses and lingering effects of injuries that were never treated or healed properly due to their disbelief in modern medicine, but I can't believe Dr. Whatever's mother could be such a commanding presence as a midwife, and be done deeply affected by the lives of strangers she brought into the world, and yet be sidelined so easily when it came to her own daughter's wellbeing. I don't understand how a woman can get more lathered up about funeral thank you cards than the fact that her daughter was being abused.
    • 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.
    • After reading just a couple chapters of Educated, my first thought was that it is similar to Glass Castle, a book I loved. Upon reading further, I realized there were some similarities, but Educated is actually quite different.I found this book so interesting that at times, it read like a novel. There were also a few times where I thought the book dragged and the author repeated herself.I'm glad Tara was able to see there was a whole other world out there than the one she was living. She seemed to recognize from an early age that most families didn't live like hers. As a young child, she really received very little teaching--very little other than how to help her dad with his scrapping business and how to help her mother as a midwife and and homeopathic specialist. It is clear she has innate intelligence, as she is able to teach herself what was needed to pass the ACT with a score high enough to be accepted to BYU. Upon attending BYU, it was clear she knew very little about how to live as a traditional American. She had never heard of the holocaust. She didn't know how to dress to attend lectures.I would have liked Tara to have included a little more information about her relationship with the men in her life outside of the family. The only real experience with men prior to college were with one of her employers and her repressive father and abusive brother. I think it would be interesting if she had described how these relationships affected those with the men she dated throughout her college experience, but most of this is glossed over.All in all though, this is an interesting and well-written story. I would recommend it for all fans of The Glass Castle, as well as those who are simply fascinated with stories of people who live non-traditional American lifestyles.
    • 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