REVIEW: Educated, Tara Westover

Thursday, 12 April 2018

Tara Westover grew up preparing for the End of Days, watching for the sun to darken, for the moon to drip as if with blood. She spent her summers bottling peaches and her winters rotating emergency supplies, hoping that when the World of Men failed, her family would continue on, unaffected. She hadn’t been registered for a birth certificate. She had no school records because she’d never set foot in a classroom, and no medical records because her father didn’t believe in doctors or hospitals. According to the state and federal government, she didn’t exist. As she grew older, her father became more radical, and her brother, more violent. At sixteen Tara decided to educate herself. Her struggle for knowledge would take her far from her Idaho mountains, over oceans and across continents, to Harvard and to Cambridge. Only then would she wonder if she’d travelled too far. If there was still a way home.

Educated was just mind-blowing. It was a book that, no matter how hard I try, I will never have the grasp on words needed to be able to explain all the things that it has made me feel. I have always believed that one of the biggest benefits of reading is that people get to experience lives that are completely separate from their own - it goes a long way towards creating empathy, breaking down barriers and allowing people to see the world from the perspectives of other people; all things that are desperately needed in this increasingly numb, disconnected world.
This memoir told a person’s story that is as far away from mine own as it gets.
Tara Westover has lived a life that I had never considered a possibility. She was raised completely off the grid, something that I never even realised was a reality anymore, in a family whose father-dominated belief system and his rejection of the government, his obsession with the end of the days, and his warped understanding of the Mormon faith controlled every aspect of their lives. I spent hours mulling over whether her upbringing could be considered to be a cult, and why shouldn’t it? I suppose that from my cushy position in my bed in Cardiff, cults just feel so separate, so alien just in their most simple form - it is impossibly terrifying to think about the person assuming the cult leader position being their father.
And it can only make the belief system all the more pervasive, all-consuming. Tara Westover speaks extensively as to how the perspectives of her family when it comes to the female body, clothing and purity, continue to permeate throughout her years away from them and how, assumptions that they had that she has now learnt to be unfounded, still loom at the back of her mind. Distancing yourself from a cult is supposed to be near-impossible, and I suspect that difficulty only grows when the cult takes on a form so central to life as the family.
It takes Tara Westover years of tenacity, strength and perseverance for her to become the astounding person that she is today, and her’s is a powerful story unlike any I have ever read. Just go. Go now and read it - I assure you, your life will be better for it.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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