I've spoken previously about my love of The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls. I even had the immense honor of being able to interview her for Book Riot last year, shortly after the release of the film adaptation of her book. For years now, I've had a soft spot for that "Young girl neglected by her family makes good" trope. So the moment I first read a blurb for Educated by Tara Westover, I knew it'd be a love for the ages.
I listened to this on audiobook, and while I concerned my husband by flat out screeeeeaaming at my iPhone, the frustration I felt was entirely worth it. Westover's story is a classic one of triumph over adversity. However, unlike so many of those types of memoirs, you can feel her working through her childhood as she writes. Educated is a catharsis, for both the author and the reader. At moments, I felt a fist tightening around my heart that, at the end, was released into a feeling of hope for the strength of of the human spirit... something Westover has in spades.
This is, thus far, one of my top three books of 2018. While it may require a few glasses of Riesling to read it without breaking out in stress hives, Tara Westover's book deserves your attention.
Tara Westover was seventeen the first time she set foot in a classroom. Born to survivalists in the mountains of Idaho, she prepared for the end of the world by stockpiling home-canned peaches and sleeping with her “head-for-the-hills” bag. In the summer she stewed herbs for her mother, a midwife and healer, and in the winter she salvaged metal in her father’s junkyard.
Her father distrusted the medical establishment, so Tara never saw a doctor or nurse. Gashes and concussions, even burns from explosions, were all treated at home with herbalism. The family was so isolated from mainstream society that there was no one to ensure the children received an education, and no one to intervene when an older brother became violent.
When another brother got himself into college and came back with news of the world beyond the mountain, Tara decided to try a new kind of life. She taught herself enough mathematics, grammar, and science to take the ACT and was admitted to Brigham Young University. There, she studied psychology, politics, philosophy, and history, learning for the first time about pivotal world events like the Holocaust and the Civil Rights Movement. Her quest for knowledge transformed her, taking her over oceans and across continents, to Harvard and to Cambridge University. Only then would she wonder if she’d traveled too far, if there was still a way home.
Educated is an account of the struggle for self-invention. It is a tale of fierce family loyalty, and of the grief that comes from severing one’s closest ties. With the acute insight that distinguishes all great writers, Westover has crafted a universal coming-of-age story that gets to the heart of what an education is and what it offers: the perspective to see one’s life through new eyes, and the will to change it.