Educated by Tara Westover

It’s strange how you give the people you love so much power over you.

Tara Westover’s memoir Educated is above everything else, a tale of hope and courage. This memoir accounts her whole life, right back to as far as she can remember. Tara was raised in a Mormon survivalist home in rural Idaho. Her family, specifically her father, has non-mainstream and rather radical views on the government, healthcare and education. Most of her siblings were never registered at birth, had no medical records as they had never seen a doctor and never stepped foot inside a classroom. As such, her world view was entirely shaped by her father. That was until she escaped in the pursuit of an education.

One thread on this memoir follows her education – or lack thereof. Her natural curiosity from a young age was discouraged time and time again but ultimately triumphed. It was her education that transformed her life. The other thread follows Tara’s very personal, emotional and psychological struggles that were deeply rooted in her families cultural and religious beliefs. It’s her journey to overcome these struggles to gain agency and become her own person.

For me this was incredibly difficult to read due to the many traumatic events described in this memoir. I felt angry, I felt disgusted and I felt helpless as I learned of Tara’s childhood and teenage years. I can appreciate that the surprise factor of reading the traumatic events adds to the power of the words makes the reader overwhelmingly empathetic towards Tara. However, I definitely think that this book should have a trigger warning for physical and emotional abuse, as well as deteriorating mental states. To sum it up, it was incredibly difficult to read but impossible to put down.

It’s important to talk about Tara as a narrator because she is a rather unreliable one. I found myself questioning if her writing was well established – which I’m sure was a main premise of the memoir. However, I’ve came to realise that all memoirs have differing degrees on embellishments, so I think it’s only valid to have a little scepticism. Throughout the book, Tara includes footnotes which point out the contradictions in her memory which I really appreciated. After all, memories are entirely subjective. Since she clarified between her own perspective and the perspective or memories of her other family members, I believe her story was told as truthfully as possible, which is all you can really ask!

I was eager to get to the end of this book and read the scene of forgiveness, acceptance and redemption. Retrospectively, that was a very naïve outlook. Real life does not offer a happily-ever-after ending like they do in the fairy-tale. A tiny part of me hoped that even after the rollercoaster of traumatic events her family put her through, they would come together again and live in peace and harmony. I guess a tiny piece of me still does, because Tara’s story isn’t over.

*You may have noticed that I have not given this a rating. I really struggled with the idea of giving this memoir a 1-5 score based on how much I liked it. Because if I’m being honesty, I didn’t enjoy reading some parts of the story. This is not a piece of fiction; it is someone’s life. It is not my place to rate how much I enjoyed someone else’s life story as everyone’s journey is different and different things are valued differently by each individual. *

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