Book Review: Educated

Last Saturday I finished reading Tara Westover's Educated. I love memoirs and was really looking forward to reading her book. It is very similar to The Glass Castle, however, there were some rather outstanding differences, number one being that Tara's story is so recent, coming from someone my age, that grew up at the same time that I did.

Tara tells the story of growing up in an extremist Mormon home in Idaho. Her family chose to live an "alternative" lifestyle. They believed in home remedies (Tara's parents now own a successful essential oils business), homeschooling, self-sufficiency, and lived in fear of the End Of Days (they stockpiled food and gasoline). This was mainly fueled by Tara's father, after hearing of the Ruby Ridge incident and also due to (what she later discovered) his bipolar.

This is the story of seven children, their parents, and how their faith so strongly affected their lives.

But it's not just that. As Tara's story continues she relates tales of health hazards, fingers being cut off while working at the family's business (a junkyard), severe burns, and how the option to go to a doctor was never even considered. She tells about the abuse she suffered growing up at the hands of an older sibling, about how they were told that they didn't need to wash with soap after using the bathroom, and were told that hard hats and gloves would "slow them up" while working at the junkyard. The family steered away from the government in every way (getting birth certificates, registering cars) for as long as possible.

According to Tara, this was all happening, while at the same time there was no schooling. Apparently, her parents pulled their children out of public school after the Ruby Ridge incident, and Tara, as the youngest never stepped foot in a classroom. Her parent's had a very traditional, old-fashioned view of schooling. Leave the books and learn hands on. With that mindset, combined with the conservative biblical belief that a woman's role is in the home and being mainly domestic, Tatra didn't receive much of an education (personally I think it also sounds like her parents had a lot on their plates and by the time it came to Tara they were burned out).

Tara worked hard, took tests, and got into BYU. There she heard about the Holocaust for the first time and found out that she had to actually "read" the art textbooks and not look at just the pictures.
Due to the fact that she chose to take a different path, and also that she decided to address some of the abuse that she experienced growing up, her family decided to break ties with her (first she stopped talking to them and then tried to repair the relationship and they had no interested).

This book is excellently written, easy to read, and in my opinion, fascinating.

**side note: after reading the book I read many reviews (some by siblings and a past boyfriend on Amazon), as well read around online a lot. I loved the book since I enjoy hearing people's stories. There does seem to be quite a bit of disagreement in the family about the accuracy of Tara's story since she was incredibly young when the majority of the events in the book take place, and she mentions many times in the book not knowing herself what really happened in many situations.

For my part, I thought it was sad that she DID feel the need to publish the book, and lay her family open to such scrutiny (you can easily find all of her siblings, parents, and even Google Earth the family businesses and home). Since she is so young and obviously she and many of her siblings are still working through their past, and by writing this it sounds like she has decided to cross a bridge and then burn it behind her, never to be repaired.
Reading the book I also sensed the whole time an undercurrent of defensiveness and self-preservation. Almost as if Tara was recounting her story in a rush, trying to make sure that she got "her side" out there first and defended herself. Basically, as much as I loved the book, I also felt that she did her best to fit all the anger she has towards her parents and her viewpoint into one book. Unlike The Glass Castle, this is not a story of finding a silver lining, and surviving adversary, this is a story of (justified) blame and anger.

All book reviews are just my opinion. Please always read the book for yourself and feel free to open a discussion! 


  1. Nice review Rosie. Now I don’t have to read it. I could probably write a memoir about my parents mistake as I grew up mainline. As a parent you do your best for your children. It takes till age 40 or do usually till you understand why your parents chose as they do. And you really can’t look back and understand life backwards. I do t really want to read about people choosing to raise there children differently and the children complaining. I think growing up working hard is better than growing up and being bored with life and not having guts to make a change for yourself. Is she was writing as a survivor and could put thanks in her parents efforts to raise a strong survival woman instead of your typical spoiled brat want it all given to me person many are these days I guess her parents were no to bad. The review I read just seemed like a diatribe against home education and consitvatice values. Traditional schooling and liberal values can cause damaged kids just as well . Read hard times in paradise and you see a family who wouldn’t change anything but did thinks their way .

  2. This sounds just fascinating. I'd love to read this book.

  3. Growing up with abuse of any kind is hard...and likely, one way or another, survivors will have things to "work through" maybe the rest of their lives. I am 66+ and still at times working through, trying to understand what happened...why...etc. I am certain some things I will never understand and will have to leave to GOD to figure out. But I feel obligated to do my best to help my offspring and their children too (I am working on a book to leave behind for them, at least by the time I die...and as much as possible, I am using the stories of others to tell mine). Because my past is of course, in ways, theirs as well. This "forgive and forget business" I was raised with is not correct entirely. (Funny thing, as that was mostly taught by my abuser!!) For one thing, we do not have total control over our memory...and I am not convinced even GOD wants us to forget it all either. Yea, we must forgive in our hearts...with some there is no way to ever really be able to talk to the abuser about things...especially if mental illness is involved. BUT, while we have to honor our parents as well as we can (sometimes it may mean separating and then honoring them by living an exemplary life, honoring of GOD). As for other people, I have never read any Scripture that says forgiveness means resumption of relationship. We can wish others well, from a distance. It is not healthy for them either, if we act as if nothing ever happened. How can you forgive a person really, who does not ask it, nor believe they need it? Only way I know is to forgive them before GOD and turn them over to HIM to do as HE sees fit. But that is just my experience. My abuser died in 2010...and before that I said very little to hardly anyone. Now, especially as 2 of my little grandbabies have been abused by their dad (whom our daughter is divorcing) I do feel free to speak out more. We need to do all we can to stop this curse from is ruining our culture. Thank you for sharing about this book...may read it later.


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