Educated is one of those memoirs that is able to bridge the gap into nonfiction for people who typically only read fiction. As for other memoirs, the personal nature of the story is what makes it more accessible to those who don’t normally delve into nonfiction. Westover’s memoir in particular, however, is so unbelievable in its extremity that it often actually reads like fiction.
That is why there has been so much buzz about this title in the book blogging world – it really crosses the lines between genres in a way that makes it universally appealing. It’s sort of the ultimate redemption story. I listened to the audiobook version and found it a very powerful delivery, though a few times I found myself mouth-agape in my car, in disbelief at what I was listening to. Find out more of my thoughts on the memoir in my full review.
Educated by Tara Westover
Publication Date: February 20th 2018
Publisher: Random House
Length In Hardcover: 334 pages
Goodreads Rating: 4.49
An unforgettable memoir in which a young girl, kept out of school, leaves her survivalist family and goes on to earn a PhD from Cambridge University
Educated is an account of the struggle for self-invention. It is a tale of fierce family loyalty and of the grief that comes with severing the closest of 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.Learning about Westover’s upbringing. As horrifying as reading about parts of Westover’s childhood was, it built the foundation through which the incredible nature of her transformation becomes apparent. To call Westover’s life as a child and teenager in Buck’s Peak spartan would be an understatement. She was kept away by her fundamentalist and survivalist parents from an actual education, proper medical care, and a normal social life, and even forced to work in dangerous conditions for her father while still a child. The negligence of her parents in her upbringing and their lack of concern for the mental and physical well-being of their children is difficult but necessary to read about.
Seeing her transformation. Westover’s detachment from her family and her road to a healthier life for herself don’t happen from one day to the next. From a trickle of realization that starts with her elder brother leaving the family to attend college, Westover slowly recognizes that the lifestyle she’s being subjected to by her parents isn’t normal. Her road to believing in her own capabilities and figuring out how to pursue an education for herself is fraught to say the least. I kept feeling so frustrated at all the setbacks she experienced and all the times in which her family were able to draw her back into their orbit. It was equally rewarding, however, to see Westover slowly meld into normality, figuring out how to study properly or letting go over her fear of male attention.
Very well-written. The quality of the writing in this memoir is of the same caliber as that of a seasoned nonfiction author. Somehow, with no access to formal (or informal) education until her late teenage years, Westover incredibly not only graduated magna cum laude from BHU, not only obtained a PHD from Cambridge, but also taught herself how to be a gifted author. I read an interview in which she described listening to the New Yorker’s Fiction podcast to figure out what great writing was all about. Well, I can say it’s worked. Westover’s descriptive powers are beautiful whether she’s writing about the mountain on which she grew up, the hallowed walls of Cambridge, or her emotions. Her writing is truly inspiring and, while listening to the audiobook of Educated, I was hanging from every word.
Frustrating level of compassion. This may have been my single greatest frustration with this memoir, and in some ways I don’t think it’s justified because I don’t really have a right to judge Westover for her reactions to an upbringing I can barely imagine. I found myself almost annoyed over and over, however, at how forgiving and understanding Westover was towards those in her family who hurt her (time and time again). It was also moving, don’t get me wrong, to see her show so much compassion where it was least deserved. However, it was troubling to see Westover still trying to reconnect with her family towards the end of the memoir.
An incredible story of resilience and excellence in the face of nearly insurmountable odds, that will make you think about the meaning of family, the importance of education, and the strength of the human spirit.
Tara Westover is an American author. Born in Idaho to a father opposed to public education, she never attended school. She spent her days working in her father’s junkyard or stewing herbs for her mother, a self-taught herbalist and midwife. She was seventeen the first time she set foot in a classroom. After that first encounter with education, she pursued learning for a decade, graduating magna cum laude from Brigham Young University in 2008 and subsequently winning a Gates Cambridge Scholarship. She earned an MPhil from Trinity College, Cambridge in 2009, and in 2010 was a visiting fellow at Harvard University. She returned to Cambridge, where she was awarded a PhD in history in 2014. Educated is her first book.
Have you read Educated? What did you think? If not would you be interested in reading it? Let me know in the comments.
You can also read my other recent Just Read reviews, including for the biography of Leonardo da Vinci by Walter Isaacson, historical mystery Call Of The Curlew by Elizabeth Brooks, true crime title A False Report by T. Christian Miller and Ken Armstrong, contemporary fiction novel The Wangs Vs. The World by Jade Chang and historical fiction title The Immortalists By Chloe Benjamin.
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