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…
  • 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…
  • @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)

    • This is an absolutely terrible story, depressing to the end. However, it is compelling, to the point that I stayed up late to finish it. I really can't say whether I would recommend this book or not. At some point I hated every single person in it, including, at times, Tara. The cycle of abuse and ignorance is just so frustrating. Tara's pathological resistance to any sort of help or kindness is somewhat understandable, but still made me want to scream! Reading the book almost felt abusive in a way, although certainly not on the level of abuse inflicted by Shawn or her parents.The writing quality is all over the place; some parts are masterful and others are creaky and distracting. Tara describes things as "crisp" at an exponential rate. By the last few chapters, everything is "crisp," from bed linens to entire towns. I'm fascinated that this got past her editors. It's such an ugly word to begin with, and then to be hit with it repeatedly, I just don't see how no one noticed (or worse, noticed and decided to keep them all!).There are major conceptual inconsistencies in this work. Some parts of Tara's story are described in nearly obsessive detail, while pivotal moments are glossed over. She spends pages and pages on her "whore" complex, terrified to even hold a boy's hand, and then the next thing we hear, she's shacking up with her boyfriend all over Europe and the Middle East, without the slightest acknowledgement of what a huge turnabout this is. She ruminates at length over her amateur (though probably correct) diagnosis of her father as bipolar, but barely touches on her own mental health crisis, just describing it as "falling apart" and binge-watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer. If we're going to make armchair diagnoses, I'm calling PTSD for Tara at the very least, and probably some Bipolar II or GAD as well. While in general, people don't owe the public an explanation of their mental state, if you're going to write a very raw and very specific memoir, you can't just skip that part and expect no one to notice.There's also a strange distance in her relationships with anyone who *didn't* abuse her. I suppose this is typical of an abuse survivor, but it's unsettling nonetheless. Tara seems unable to explicitly acknowledge the kindness and sensitivity with which so many "outside" people treated her. They're there, she describes their actions, but there's a void where I would expect to read gratefulness or even fondness. In particular, the dance teacher who discreetly accommodated her need for a modest costume, the ward bishop who tried so hard and so many times to help her, and the roommate who quietly taught Tara how to act normal -- they're all mentioned, and I suppose that is meant to be thanks enough, but it almost seems like she resents their generosity. I'm also confused about her omission of Luke in the credits. What did he do wrong? She seemed to be on good terms with him when is last briefly mentioned, but apparently only siblings with PhDs make it to the Acknowledgements.This is a powerful and affecting story; it really couldn't *not* be. However, I wonder what it would be like if Tara had waited another 10-20 years to write it. She's no doubt an intelligent (and, yes, educated) woman, but there's a dearth of maturity and sensitivity in this story that is not surprising, given what her family put her through, yet it taints the story all the same.I'm very torn on this book. I did not find it inspiring and will not read it again, but I'm not going to say it's bad or that no one should read it all. It's just grueling and stressful. Maybe don't read it if you're already having a tough time in your own life. I finished it a week ago and took some time to let it settle in my mind before writing a review, but I'm still on the fence. Maybe I should've waited another 10-20 years to review it.
    • In the interest of full disclosure, I'm the "Drew" from this book, and although Tara and I are no longer together I’ve met all of the key figures in this book on many occasions. Although I don’t have as intimate a knowledge of growing up in the Westover family as a sibling would, I observed first hand everything Tara describes in the third part of the book and heard many stories about earlier events, not just from Tara, but from siblings, cousins, and her parents themselves. I find the claims of factual inaccuracy that have come up among these reviews to be strange for two reason. First, in a post-James Frey (“A Million Little Pieces”) world, publishers are incredibly careful with memoirs and “Educated” was extensively fact checked before publication. Second, no one claiming factual inaccuracy can do more than make vague claims that the book is full of lies. While every Westover sibling, as well as their neighbors and friends, will have different perspectives and different memories, it is very difficult to dispute the core facts of this book. “Educated” is about abuse, and the way in which both abusers and their enablers distort reality for the victims. It’s about the importance of gaining your own understanding of the world so you’re not dependent on the narratives imposed on you by others. I’ve heard Tara’s parents attack schools and universities, doctors and modern medicine, but more importantly, I’ve seen her parents work tirelessly to create a world where Shawn’s abuse was minimized or denied outright. I’ve seen them try to create a world where Tara was insane or possessed in order to protect a violent and unstable brother. I was with her in Cambridge when Shawn was calling with death threats, then saw her mother completely trivialize the experience. For Tara’s parents, allegiance to the family is paramount, and allegiance to the family requires you to accept her father’s view of the world, where violence is acceptable and asking for change is a crime.
    • I was enthralled and moved by this powerful memoir. The author grew up in a survivalist family in Idaho, the youngest child. She was not homeschooled---instead, she simply didn't go to school at all, due to her father's mistrust of public schools. Her family didn't believe in modern medicine. Instead, her mother was an herbalist and midwife. Her father owned a junkyard. Her childhood is affected over and over by serious injuries of family members, injuries which are not treated.As Tara gets into her preteen and teen years, one older brother in particular starts tormenting her, and the tormenting rises to the level of hugely severe abuse. In part in response to this, she decides to go to college, and by pretty much sheer force of will, does well enough on the ACT to get into Brigham Young University. From there, she starts a storied college career and eventually gets a doctorate from Cambridge. However, each time she is drawn back to the her family, her brother's abuse continues, and the family denial turns more and more severe. The memoir becomes a story of her internal struggle---to believe her own version of her life and to have the strength to break away from her past.I've struggled with some issues of my own in remembering the past differently than others, and I well know the feeling that the author has over and over. One line, "reality becomes fluid", hit me very hard. When you know something happened a certain way, but others can't accept that reality and attempt to change the past by denying it---Tara Westover is able to write about this so powerfully I was crying at points.I hope this book gets wide readership. It's an amazing glimpse into a way of life that most of us will never know, and an inspiring story of one woman's ability to change her future.
    • As a cousin of the family, I have many memories playing in the scrap yard as a kid. Playing with glass, wires, and every sharp object known to man. Dispite all the little injuries, I loved it, however, Safety wasn't a high priority at that time. So my kids will never be given that opportunity. I was also very jealous that at school time we got to hang out in others rooms to do what we were up for until (the real work) came a calling. Blow torches and small fires always won the day.
    • 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.