There was so much hype surrounding this book, I decided to read it too. It was even highly recommended by Bill Gates and Barrack Obama!
Here is my condensed book review on Goodreads of Educated by Tara Westover:
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It was slow start for me but I couldn’t put it down when I got to Part 3. Her childhood was horrific and unsettling to read. I had to take breaks in between to digest. Tara suffered so much physical and emotional abuse as a child. However, as she describes those events, she attributed her strength, courage, perseverance and character to them. The way she just laughed off having her head pushed down the toilet made me cringe. When everyone around her tried to get her to see how abusive and broken her family was, she would time and time again return to them and ask them for help. There were times when her family surprised everyone by encouraging her, paying for dance lessons, driving her to auditions and rehearsals, then suddenly completely turn their back on her and cutting her out of the family. Time and time again, she returned home to attempt at reconciling with her family.
Her father was described as a survivalist with extremist views of the Government, even believing the Illuminati had infiltrated them, and later as having symptoms of bipolar disorder. His belief that his faith in God was enough to save him (even when he was badly burned with charred skin, he refused to go to a hospital) made me wonder if we should really refuse help from others when offered and say “God will save me!” Doesn’t God work through other people as well? I don’t think God ever said not to accept help from others. (But then, I read that he was willing to take Peter, Shawn’s newborn son to the hospital when he was born. What changed?) Are we really to cut off communication with non-believers who don’t agree with our beliefs? Aren’t we supposed to grow in community and not isolate ourselves from others, even if they are Gentiles? Are Mormons reading a different Bible – did they miss the whole part about Jesus in the New Testament? Perhaps it was a mental illness after all, which exacerbated his narrow beliefs. As I was reading, I found myself continually thanking God for blessing me with a loving and caring family, allowing me to grow up with an education and balanced world-view, and taking me to see the doctor whenever I was sick.
It frustrated me when her family told her to forgive Shawn and take her father’s blessing in order to be accepted back into the family. God does tell us to forgive others as He forgives us; to show grace and mercy. But He doesn’t withhold His love or blessings. A part of me wanted Tara to show forgiveness and take his blessing and be welcomed back into the family (they are her family after all), and another part of me wanted her to get justice – report them, sue them, something. What actually happened was estrangement from half of her family. Her attempt at reconnecting with her mother was met with rejection because her mother refused to see her without her father. I can’t imagine how much further damage the release of this book had caused to their relationship. Tara is only in contact with three of her siblings, the ones who had also left their home in Buck’s Peak and gotten an education themselves. (From a so-called ‘uneducated’ upbringing, never stepping foot in a school, it is miraculous that, not one, but three of them were able to get a PhD.)
I was surprised to read that the family lawyer (they have a family lawyer but refused to see doctors… ok) advised readers to read the story with a grain of salt and that the Westovers would not take any legal action against Tara because they love her and don’t want to hurt her. Perhaps there is some hope for reconciliation in the future? I would like to hear the other family members’ side of the story, maybe from Tyler or Richard.
The feeling I got while reading her memoir was that everything seemed so matter-of-fact and lacked emotion. Perhaps this was because she is an academic and used to writing academic papers? Nonetheless, it was a very well-written and detailed memoir. I like the way she organised and structured the chapters as well, describing specific events as a whole and the effects they had on her life, rather than a chronological year-by-year account.
It did make me think about whether or not I should pursue further studies and apply for a PhD. I have more resources than Tara ever had and she could do it! We are even the same age! Unlike her father, mine would have been extremely proud and ecstatic if I got a PhD. My mum would definitely be more than happy. Well, we shall see… it’s not like I have any ideas about topics to research at the moment.
Have you read this book? What did you think? Let me know in the comments.
Here is a video of an interview Tara did on PBS NewsHour if you want to know more about her.
Disclaimer: I apologize if you haven’t read this book and don’t know or understand what I’m talking about, but I wrote it for those who have also read it and hopefully share similar thoughts or feelings.