The Memoir, Educated by Tara Westover covers the arc of her life. You may ask yourself what kind of memoir that ends as the author comes into her thirties be worth the read? perhaps it is that she was raised by parents that birthed her at home, never saw a doctor, attended a school, and worked in the family junk yard until she was seventeen. She was “Homeschooled.” He survivalist father did not believe in public schools. They were Government brainwashing. Doctors were part of the Illuminati. Tara Westover writes that she was “educated in the rhythms of the mountain” she grew up near. The mountain was a peak in Idaho, Buck Peak, that held “the impression of a woman’s body on the mountains face… her father called her the “Indian Princess” It was this place that formed her being and the world she would know built upon the stories her father told. What happens when a family breaks from society? It is the stuff of fiction novels. Her family, Father, mother, brothers and sisters – they were in this together – preparing for the Days of Abomination. However, this story was not fiction, it was her reality.
This story begins with a memory, she was seven years old. She tells us at seven she did not exist. She didn’t know it at the time, but according to the government, she actually didn’t exist. She had no birth certificate or social security number, no piece of paper or database to prove she did exist. So in reality, according to Idaho and the U.S. Government, there was no seven year-old Tara Westover. The same was true of four of the seven children in the home. When Tara needs to get a birth certificate, a delayed certificate, at 9 or 10 her parents are not actually sure of her birthdate. Later when she needs a passport, she is unable to have one issued as she cannot confirm her birthdate and the government cannot issue without some verification she is really Tara or that a Tara was ever born.
“I understood that it was this fact, more than any other, that made my family different: we didn’t go to school.”
This amazing memoir will make you angry at times. It is hard to read some of the lengths her parents took to maintain their off the grid lifestyle. They made a living working a junk yard scraping metal and later her mother would become a mid-wife, unlicensed of course. Her older brothers that had gone to school for a few years, would leave the home and go off to make a living. One would actually go to College. This brother convinced Tara, the youngest in the family, that all she needed to do was pass the ACT test with a 26 and she could go. She would just have to teach herself how to with the ACT work book. And so she does.
She passes the ACT and at 17 she walks into a classroom for the first time in her life attending Brigham Young University and within 10 years of first stepping into that classroom
attains her PhD in intellectual history and political thought from Cambridge University. From age 7 and into her late 20’s we carried on an unvarnished tour of how a person can overcome all of the trauma and in some ways because of it. How she overcame her father protecting her from the “Brainwashing” world, the “Feds” who were certainly going to invade their homestead and kill them all, and Doctors who would fill them with poison and despite all her fathers truths, Tara Westover succeeded. She Succeeded due to a fierceness and toughness built into her out of necessity.
It can be brutal, this memoir, it is told in a quick pace of writing and she is a heck of a story-teller. Tara Westover holds you even when at times you may want to put it down. However you don’t, because you know the author has made it through to tell the tale. She has overcome the circumstances at the cost of all she knew and held dear as a child. She lost her family, home and the Indian Princess, the Peak her father taught her how to survive on, but never how to cope or live outside the Indian Princess’ shadow, nor how to find her way back if she left. And this too is part of the story of Educated – A brilliant Memoir.
I would like to thank Random House Publishing Group – Random House and Tara Westover for the opportunity to read this work through NetGalley in exchange for my honest opinion.