• Publication date: 22 Feb 2018
• Publisher: Cornerstone Digital
With thanks to the publisher via NetGalley for my pre-publication ARC
Picked as . . .
BBC News Online‘s Books to Look Ahead in 2018
Mail on Sunday‘s Best of 2018 Cultural Highlights
New York Times‘s Must-Know Literary Events in 2018
Stylist‘s One to Watch in 2018
Daily Express‘s Must-Have New Reads
The Pool‘s Books We’re Looking Forward to in 2018
S Magazine‘s Best Upcoming Books of 2018
Vogue‘s What to Read This Fall
‘An astonishing and uplifting story about the transformative power of education’ Mail on Sunday
My Thoughts & Review
Educated is one of the most disturbing, compelling and gripping memoirs I’ve read in a long time. This is going to be one of THE books of the year.
I read it almost in a state of slack-jawed open-mouthed shock!
Tara Westover lives at the foot of a mountain called Buck’s Peak In Wormwood Idaho.
She lives with her parents and siblings in an isolated backwoods rural area. The family are Mormon, which is secondary to the story almost because this is not a religious book as such.
Her father suffers from a bi-polar disorder which in his case manifests itself as acute paranoia, suspicion, depression, mania, interpreting and using the teachings of his faith for his own agenda. He is a controlling, abusive husband and parent who is obsessed with the illuminati and believes the world is about to end. The family live off the grid. He uses the money obtained from his scrap business on the property to stockpile food, weapons, fuel and precious metals to prepare for the end of days. The births of the children have not been registered and he believes that modern medicine is the work of Satan.
With this in mind his wife, Tara’s mother, becomes a skilled herbalist, mixing up salves and potions to treat any of the family’s ailments. Later on she becomes an unqualified midwife, attending the birthings of women in the surrounding areas and learning her ‘trade’ even though she finds it nerve-wracking and exhausting.
Tara’s father uses his children in the scrap business as work hands from an early age, showing no concern for their welfare and making them operate dangerous machinery and climb to great heights, believing that whatever happens to them is ‘God’s will’. When a few of them have serious injuries they’re not taken to hospital, but treated by the mother’s home made homeopathic medicines and salves. Some are left with permanent disability as a result.
The children aren’t sent to school, officials told they are being ‘home-schooled’ but their education is non-existent.
Tara’s older brother is an abusive nasty bully who makes her life absolute hell, frequently attacking her and even breaking bones but the parents turn a blind eye to it.
Slowly one by one, the children break away, some of them manage to attend college by their own endeavour to study and learn.
Tara eventually leaves herself, facing enormous difficulties but managing to overcome them until eventually going on to attain the highest qualifications and a place at Cambridge university.
This book is about that journey and although Tara is often drawn back to the family, almost at the cost of her own sanity, through her own intellect, Herculean efforts and capacity to learn she is eventually able to forge an independent and meaningful life of her own.
Through college classes she learns that there is a name for her father’s illness and she writes:
I understood that disease is not a choice. This knowledge might have made me sympathetic to my father, but it didn’t. I felt only anger.We were the ones who’d paid for it, I thought. Mother. Luke. Shawn. We had been bruised and gashed and concussed, had our legs set on fire and our heads cut open. We had lived in a state of alert, a kind of constant terror , our brains flooding with cortisol because we knew that any of those things might happen at any moment. Because Dad always put faith before safety. Because he believed himself right, and he kept on believing himself right— after the first car crash, after the second, after the bin, the fire, the pallet. And it was us who paid.
Awesome, haunting, shocking, compelling, heartbreaking. This book has to be one of this year’s top reads. It will stay with me for a long time.
About The Author
Tara Westover is an American author living in the UK. 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, and after that first taste, she pursued learning for a decade. She graduated magna cum laude from Brigham Young University in 2008 and was subsequently awarded 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.