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A newer edition of ISBN 9780399590504 can be found here.

Tara Westover was 17 the first time she set foot in a classroom. Born to survivalists in the mountains of Idaho, she prepared for the end of the world by stockpiling home-canned peaches and sleeping with her "head-for-the-hills bag". In the summer she stewed herbs for her mother, a midwife and healer, and in the winter she salvaged in her father's junkyard.

Her father forbade hospitals, so Tara never saw a doctor or nurse. Gashes and concussions, even burns from explosions, were all treated at home with herbalism. The family was so isolated from mainstream society that there was no one to ensure the children received an education and no one to intervene when one of Tara's older brothers became violent.

Then, lacking any formal education, Tara began to educate herself. She taught herself enough mathematics and grammar to be admitted to Brigham Young University, where she studied history, learning for the first time about important world events like the Holocaust and the civil rights movement. Her quest for knowledge transformed her, taking her over oceans and across continents, to Harvard and to Cambridge. Only then would she wonder if she'd traveled too far, if there was still a way home.

Educated is an account of the struggle for self-invention. It is a tale of fierce family loyalty and of the grief that comes with severing the closest of ties. With the acute insight that distinguishes all great writers, Westover has crafted a universal coming-of-age story that gets to the heart of what an education is and what it offers: the perspective to see one's life through new eyes and the will to change it.

352 pages, Hardcover

First published February 20, 2018

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About the author

Tara Westover

8 books18.1k followers
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 the next decade. She received a BA 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.

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Profile Image for Will Byrnes.
1,310 reviews120k followers
March 31, 2022
On the highway below, the school bus rolls past without stopping. I am only 7, but I understand that it is this fact more than any other that makes my family different. We don't go to school. Dad worries that the government will force us to go, but it can't because it doesn't know about us. Four of my parents' seven children don't have birth certificates. We have no medical records because we were born at home and have never seen a doctor or nurse. We have no school records because we've never set foot in a classroom.
Educated is both a tale of hope and a record of horror. We know from the first page of her book that Tara Westover is a bright woman, a gifted writer with an impressive, poetic command of language. But her early life offered no clue that she would become a Cambridge PhD or a brilliant memoirist. She was the youngest of seven children born to Gene and Faye (not their real names) Westover, fundamentalist, survivalist Mormons, in rural Idaho.

Tara Westover - image from her The Times
We had a farm which belonged to my grandfather, and we had a salvage yard full of crumpled-up cars which belonged to my father. And my mother was a - she was an herbalist and a midwife. And as children, we spent a lot of hours walking on the mountain, gathering rose hips and mullein flowers that she could stew into tinctures. So in a lot of ways, it was a very beautiful childhood. - from NPR interview
The children constituted his workforce in Gene’s scrapyard. Father was the law in their household, but it was a rule informed as much by significant mental health issues as it was by his ardent religious beliefs. In a less rural, less patriarchal, less religious community, theirs could easily have been deemed an unsafe environment. The scrapyard was a particularly dangerous place.
…he just didn't have that bone in his head that said, this is dangerous; don't do this. And he had a really hard time understanding injuries even after they had happened and how severe they were. I just - I don't know what it was about the way his mind worked. He just wasn't able to do that. - from NPR interview
Ruby Ridge had occurred when Tara was five, and fed her father’s paranoia. Everyone had to have head-for-the-hills bags for when the government, Deep State, Illuminati, choose your own boogeyman, would come for them. He had a profound distrust of the medical profession, believing that doctors were agents of Satan, intent on doing harm. He saw the herbalism Faye practiced as the only true, righteous treatment for one’s ills, calling her products “god’s pharmacy.” And he practiced what he preached, for himself as well as for his children, even after suffering a devastating injury. Maybe not an ideal way to make sure your kids reach adulthood in one piece.

View from Buck Peak - image from Westover’s site

Home schooling was also less than idyllic, with mom’s attention spread not only over seven children but to her work as an herbalist and later, in addition, a midwife. Luke had a learning disability, frustrating mom, who really had hoped to educate them all. Dad undermined this, dragging the kids out to do chores and learn practical skills. Eventually mom gave up. Education consisted of Faye dropping them at the Carnegie Library in town, where they could read whatever they wanted. Dad rustled the boys at 7am, but Tyler, who had an affinity for math, would often remain inside, studying, until dad dragged him out.
…there was not a lot of school taking place. We had books, and occasionally we would be kind of sent to read them. But for example, I was the youngest child, and I never took an exam, or I never wrote an essay for my mother that she read or nothing like kind of getting everyone together and having anything like a lecture. So it was a lot more kind of if you wanted to read a book, you could, but you certainly weren't going to be made to do that. - from NPR interview
Successful schooling or not, Tara acquired a desire for and love of learning. Tyler, a black sheep, not only loved books but music, as well. This was a major tonic for Tara, who was smitten with the classical and choral music her brother would play on his boom box. Not only did she find a love for music, but she discovered that she has a gift for singing. Being a part (often the star) of the town musical productions gave her greater contact with peers outside her family than she had ever had before. It formed one pillar of her desire to go to school, to college, to study music. (I included a link in EXTRA STUFF to a music video in which she sings lead, so you can hear for yourself.)

At age seventeen, Tara Westover attended her first school class, at BYU, clueless about much of what was common knowledge for everyone else, resulting in her asking a question in class about a word everyone, I mean everyone, knows. Oopsy.

Her intellectual broadening and education forms one powerful thread in her story. How her natural curiosity emerged, was nurtured, discouraged, and ultimately triumphed. The other thread consists of the personal, emotional, psychological, religious, and cultural challenges she had to overcome to become her own person.

The world in which Westover was raised was one in which a powerful patriarchy, fed by a fundamentalist religious beliefs, applied its considerable pressure to push her into what was considered the proper role for a young woman, namely homemaker, mother, probably following in her mother’s dual careers as herbalist and midwife. And what about what was the right course for Tara? There was some wiggle room. Once dad sees her perform on stage, he is smitten, and softens to her musical leanings. Male siblings had been allowed to go to college. But every step outside the expectations, the rules, came at a cost. Do something different and lose a piece of connection to your family. And family was extremely important, particularly for a person whose entire life had been defined by family, much more so than for pretty much anyone who might read her book.

Westover as a wee Idaho spud - image from the NY Post

A piece of this proscribed existence was a tolerance for aberrant behavior. Father was domineering, and was feckless about physical danger, even as it applied to his children. And distrustful of the medical establishment. His solution for infected tonsils was to have Tara stand outside with her mouth open to allow in the sun’s healing rays. Severe injuries, including Tara having her leg punctured by razor-like scrap-metal, a brother suffering severe burns on one leg, and even dad himself suffering catastrophic third-degree burns in a junkyard explosion, were to be treated by home-brew tinctures. He was also extremely moody, a characteristic that carried forward in some of the family genes.

Tara’s ten-years-older brother, Shawn, was a piece of work. She felt close to him at times. He could be kind and understanding in a way that moved her. He even saved her life in a runaway horse incident. But he had a reputation as a bar brawler, as a person eager to fight. Sometimes his rages turned on his own family. And it was not just rage, sparked by trivialities, but cruelty, to the point of sadism. Tara was one of the objects of his madness. Dare oppose him and he would twist her arm to the point of spraining, drag her by her hair, force her face into unspeakable places and demand apologies for imagined offenses. Possibly even worse than this was her family’s denial about it, even when it occurred right in front of them. It is this denial that was hardest to bear. If your own parents will betray you, will not look out for you, in the face of such blatant attacks, then what is the value of the thing you hold most dear in the world?
All abuse, no matter what kind of abuse it is, foremost, an assault on the mind. Because if you’re going to abuse someone I think you have to invade their reality, in order to distort it, and you have to convince them of two things. You have to convince them that what you’re doing isn’t that bad. Which means you have to normalize it. You have to justify it, rationalize it. And the other thing you have to convince them of is that they deserve it. - from C-span interview
Her brother, aliased as “Shawn” in the book, was a master manipulator, who, for years, succeeded magnificently in persuading Tara that what she had just experienced had never really happened.

One frustrating aspect of the book is Tara’s dispiriting, but also grating ability to doubt herself, to allow others in her life, bullies, to persuade her she does not think what she is thinking, that she does not feel what she is feeling that she did not see what she has seen. She was living in a gaslit world in which multiple individuals, people who supposedly loved her, were telling her that what she had seen was an illusion, and that bad things that other people did were somehow her fault. Honey, wake the hell up. How many time ya gonna let these awful people get away with this crap? That gets old well before the end. I was very much reminded of victims of domestic abuse, who convince themselves that they must have done something to cause, to deserve the violence they suffer. One can only hope that she has been able to vanquish this self-blaming propensity completely by now. Years of therapy have surely helped.

Tara at Cambridge - image from Salt Lake City Tribune

She struggles with the yin and yang of her upbringing and finding her true self. Her father was extreme, but also loving. Her abusive brother had a very kind side to him. Her mother was supportive, but was also a betrayer. Her parents wanted what they truly thought was best for her, but ultimately attempted to extinguish the true Tara. The dichotomy in the book is gripping. At times it reads like How Green Was My Valley, an upbringing that was idyllic, rich with history and lore, both community and family, and featuring a strong bond to the land. Their home was at the foot of Buck Peak, which sported an almost magical feature that looked like an Indian Princess, and was the source of legends. At others, it is like a horror novel, a testament to the power of reality-bending, indoctrination, and maybe even Stockholm Syndrome. How she survived feeling like the alien she was in BYU and later Cambridge, is amazing, and a testament to her inner strength and intellectual gifts. Westover caught a few breaks over the course of her life, teachers, one at BYU, another at Cambridge, who spot the diamond in her rough, and help her in her educational quest. Reading of this support, I had the same weepy joyful feeling as when Hagrid informs a very young lad, “Yer a wizard, Harry.”

When setting out to write the book, Westover had no clue how to go about it, well, this sort of a book, anyway. She had already written a doctoral thesis. But she did have stacks of journals she’d been keeping since she was ten. In figuring out how to get from wish to realization, one important resource was listening to the New Yorker fiction podcast, with its focus on short stories. And she took in plenty of books on writing. It is certainly clear that, just as she had the wherewithal to go from no-school to doctorate at Cambridge, she has shown an ability to figure out how to write a moving, compelling memoir. Educated is a triumph, a remarkable work, beautifully told, of the journey from an isolated, fundamentalist, survivalist childhood, through the trials of becoming, to adulthood as an erudite and accomplished survivor. It is a powerful look at the ties, benefits, and perils of families. Ultimately, Educated is a rewarding odyssey you do not want to miss.

Review first posted – 3/23/18

Published – 2/20/18

November 29, 2018 - Educated is named as one of The 10 Best Books of 2018

December 2019 - Educated is named winner of the 2018 Goodreads Choice Award for memoirs, beating out Michelle Obamas's blockbuster hit, Becoming. From a GR interview with Westover
Goodreads: Congratulations on your win! What does the award and all the support from Goodreads readers mean to you?

Tara Westover: I’m really, really excited about it. It’s great when the highbrow powers that be, the literary giants, say, "Oh, you wrote a good book," but it does mean something extra when it’s readers, when it’s people interacting with the book in a personal way, not just because they like the language or not because they think it’s doing something bold with the form, but because they had an experience with it. That means something a little bit different and a little bit extra. A readers’ award is a really exciting one.

=============================EXTRA STUFF

Links to the author’s personal, Twitter and FB pages

Although the internet yielded no vids of Tara singing lead in her town’s production of Annie in the wayback, here is one of grown-up Tara singing lead vocal on The Hills of Aran with John Meed

----- C-Span - interviewed by Susannah Cahalan – video – 1 hour – If you can manage only one of these, this is the one to see
-----CBS This Morning - video – 6:41
-----Penguin promotional video – 7:01
-----Channel 4 News - 8:46
-----NPR - with Dave Davies – the link includes text of the interview. There is a link on the page to the full audio interview – 38:18 - This is the source for several quotes used in the review, and is definitely worth a look and/or listen
-----GoodReads interview

A sample of the audiobook, read by Julia Whelan, , on Soundcloud

A brief interview with Westover and Whelan re the making of the audiobook - on Signature

-----NY Times - 2/2/2022 - I Am Not Proof of the American Dream - a powerful essay by the author on the need for help to get an education - MUST READ STUFF
Profile Image for Bill Gates.
Author 10 books514k followers
December 3, 2018
I’ve always prided myself on my ability to teach myself things. Whenever I don’t know a lot about something, I’ll read a textbook or watch an online course until I do.

I thought I was pretty good at teaching myself—until I read Tara Westover’s memoir Educated. Her ability to learn on her own blows mine right out of the water. I was thrilled to sit down with her recently to talk about the book.

Tara was raised in a Mormon survivalist home in rural Idaho. Her dad had very non-mainstream views about the government. He believed doomsday was coming, and that the family should interact with the health and education systems as little as possible. As a result, she didn’t step foot in a classroom until she was 17, and major medical crises went untreated (her mother suffered a brain injury in a car accident and never fully recovered).

Because Tara and her six siblings worked at their father’s junkyard from a young age, none of them received any kind of proper homeschooling. She had to teach herself algebra and trigonometry and self-studied for the ACT, which she did well enough on to gain admission to Brigham Young University. Eventually, she earned her doctorate in intellectual history from Cambridge University. (Full disclosure: she was a Gates Scholar, which I didn’t even know until I reached that part of the book.)

Educated is an amazing story, and I get why it’s spent so much time on the top of the New York Times bestseller list. It reminded me in some ways of the Netflix documentary Wild, Wild Country , which I recently watched. Both explore people who remove themselves from society because they have these beliefs and knowledge that they think make them more enlightened. Their belief systems benefit from their separateness, and you’re forced to be either in or out.

But unlike Wild, Wild Country—which revels in the strangeness of its subjects—Educated doesn’t feel voyeuristic. Tara is never cruel, even when she’s writing about some of her father’s most fringe beliefs. It’s clear that her whole family, including her mom and dad, is energetic and talented. Whatever their ideas are, they pursue them.

Of the seven Westover siblings, three of them—including Tara—left home, and all three have earned Ph.D.s. Three doctorates in one family would be remarkable even for a more “conventional” household. I think there must’ve been something about their childhood that gave them a degree of toughness and helped them persevere. Her dad taught the kids that they could teach themselves anything, and Tara’s success is a testament to that.

I found it fascinating how it took studying philosophy and history in school for Tara to trust her own perception of the world. Because she never went to school, her worldview was entirely shaped by her dad. He believed in conspiracy theories, and so she did, too. It wasn’t until she went to BYU that she realized there were other perspectives on things her dad had presented as fact. For example, she had never heard of the Holocaust until her art history professor mentioned it. She had to research the subject to form her own opinion that was separate from her dad’s.

Her experience is an extreme version of something everyone goes through with their parents. At some point in your childhood, you go from thinking they know everything to seeing them as adults with limitations. I’m sad that Tara is estranged from a lot of her family because of this process, but the path she’s taken and the life she’s built for herself are truly inspiring.

When you meet her, you don’t have any impression of all the turmoil she’s gone through. She’s so articulate about the traumas of her childhood, including the physical abuse she suffered at the hands of one brother. I was impressed by how she talks so candidly about how naïve she once was—most of us find it difficult to talk about our own ignorance.

I was especially interested to hear her take on polarization in America. Although it’s not a political book, Educated touches on a number of the divides in our country: red states versus blue states, rural versus urban, college-educated versus not. Since she’s spent her whole life moving between these worlds, I asked Tara what she thought. She told me she was disappointed in what she called the “breaking of charity”—an idea that comes from the Salem witch trials and refers to the moment when two members of the same group break apart and become different tribes.

“I worry that education is becoming a stick that some people use to beat other people into submission or becoming something that people feel arrogant about,” she said. “I think education is really just a process of self-discovery—of developing a sense of self and what you think. I think of [it] as this great mechanism of connecting and equalizing.”

Tara’s process of self-discovery is beautifully captured in Educated. It’s the kind of book that I think everyone will enjoy, no matter what genre you usually pick up. She’s a talented writer, and I suspect this book isn’t the last we’ll hear from her. I can’t wait to see what she does next.
Profile Image for Debra .
2,425 reviews35.2k followers
March 22, 2018
"It's strange how you give the people you love so much power over you"

I am in the minority on this one, but this did not blow me away. I wanted to read this after seeing so many high ratings. I was expecting to love this book but ended up feeling meh about it. I actually wanted to hurry the book up in parts and other times found it to be a little repetitive. There were other times I wanted her to go into more detail or explain things more. One thing I had an issue with is that her family is described as survivalists who educated their children at home - many of which do not even have a birth certificate - but then they had many modern conveniences. Her father has a junkyard and a huge distrust of the government. Her Mother becomes a midwife at her husband's urging and makes tinctures and uses herbs to cure those in her family and in their community. I do realize that the family acquired the telephone due to her Mother's job as a mid-wife but then I wondered how they paid for everything. .

Tara grows up free or wild. She didn’t bathe that often, didn’t wash her hands after using the restroom, and is unaware of world history, and is quite comfortable living around bad odors and smells. She is abused by an older brother and no one seems to notice, intervene, or even care. They seem to be a reckless group - example: multiple car accidents, etc.

I had a hard time believing some of the information presented. Case in point the first car accident in the book, Tara's father offered to pay for the damaged tractor. Where did they get the money? Just how much does farm equipment cost? It's not cheap, I know that. Even if the farm equipment purchased is used it still must be pricey. Plus, the damage to their car would mean they would need to purchase another. Then the family has another car accident. More money, lots of injuries, possible need for another vehicle, etc. I am not saying that none of this happened, but I had a lot of questions about how things were paid for

Plus, this family seemed to be very accident prone, falling from surfaces, fires, head injuries. Was this because they were raised without any rules and became reckless, or did bad things just happen to them?

Tara does want a better life for herself. She does educate herself at home, so she can pass the test to get into College. College isn't cheap, nor are book, nor is housing or food. Again, I wondered how she paid for all of this. Plus, once she got to college, she didn't seem to mind that her roommates were upset with the smell in their home. Dirty dishes, not bathing, not having clean clothes. I get if this is the norm, in the home she grew up in but when faced with other's displeasure, I would think a smart girl like her would have taken the hint that being clean and living in a clean environment is the norm, not how she was raised. Plus, at home a young man even pointed out to her that her home smelled as did she.

There was a part of this book that I did enjoy. Tara's thirst for knowledge and teaching herself and gaining entrance to college without a formal education. I appreciated her struggles and having to learn how to "learn". She went on to achieve a lot in her life and it is impressive and commendable. Tara definitely was an under dog and I did root for her. She definitely changed her life and sought for better for herself. Even without a lot of support from her family, she found strength and kept going. This is what shined for me in this book with otherwise left me with questions. Who doesn't want to root for her? I did. Having said that, there were just too many questions raised why reading this. I don't care if someone is a survivalist, I would think one would still want their children to be safe and free of harm. The turning the blind eye to abuse was despicable. The family also had a lot of modern conveniences which did not gel with my idea of what a survivalist family would own or not own. But I am no expert on survivalist families. Her father clearly had some mental health issues and they contributed to his beliefs and possibly to their way of life. Yes, she suffered abuse. Yes, she grew up in a home with an untreated mentally ill parent, yes, it is all very sad but it was still not enough to make me enjoy the book.

What worked for me in this book was Tara's drive for a better life. How with very little support from her family, she went out on her own and obtained an education. I appreciated her drive and determination. Her book is well written and I realize this is her account of how she remembers things from her perspective. I just was left with questions hence the 3 star rating.

Again, in the minority with this one. Most love this book. It just wasn't for me.

I received a copy of this book from Random House Publishing group and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

See more of my reviews at www.openbookpost.com
Profile Image for Marialyce (on our way to Venice).
2,038 reviews709 followers
March 2, 2018
2 stars and I know, I am an outlier.

I have been born with a gene called the "doubting Thomas" gene. It has made me very leery of trusting and believing a lot of things and unfortunately this gene kicked in big time in this story billed as a memoir.

While I do believe that the things described by Tara Westover might have happened, I also have to think that this was a book of childhood memories. Sometimes, as children, we distort the truth, and sometimes grown to adulthood we only remember fragments of what happened and when confronted by others realize our memory was somewhat faulty.

There are actually quite a few things I just could not wrap my hands around in this story. For one, being a former teacher and having had the pleasure of teaching many gifted and brilliant students, I just could not see what, with the quantum lapses in Tara's education, how she could possibly have made it into both a fairly prestigious college and then onto the highest level of university in England. Learning builds upon itself and being a former math teacher, I can say that if one only
had the rudimentary knowledge of the four simple math functions, that going onto higher level math would be virtually impossible. Was it possible that her early education being home schooled was not as lacking as she described it to be?

The next issue I had was that of the number of injuries incurred by she and her brothers and her mother just snapping her fingers, using essential oils and other agents and then recovery occurred. Granted, I am not a medical professional, but the incidents described in one or two particular cases was life threatening and yet these techniques done by the mother worked? I know I still blame it on my doubting Thomas gene. I do also have a belief in both holistic and regular medicine being a partnership in the healing process.

Next up for me, was Tara's ability to obtain somehow the finances to attend college and then to travel overseas to England and back. Yes, I do know that she was awarded scholarships but what about the incidentals, travel, food not provided in school. Did she live like a hermit and never leave the confines of the school she was attending? From her writing, we know that is not true.

Lastly, if indeed these things were happening, where were the people who should have noticed the abuse? Where were the friends, the church goers, the people who did business with the father? Would they have not noticed untoward things happening to the Westover children. Would not at least one of them have come forward? Why are some of them coming forward now to defend this family?

So, sorry to say, I am going against the grain of many of my fellow much respected readers and reviewers, and saying that I just could not buy into what was being set forward in this book. I am not an advocate for her parents, nor do I think that things never did happen. Perhaps to me, this book just has not explained the circumstances well enough for the doubting Thomas in me to believe.

Thankful to my Traveling Sisters who read this book along with me. We all seemed to share the same ideas on this one and I am glad as always to have my thoughts and feeling able to be expressed to such a wonderful group of avid readers.

Also thank you to netgalley, the author and the publisher for providing me with an ARC of this book.
Profile Image for Angela M .
1,308 reviews2,191 followers
February 19, 2018
Difficult to read. Impossible to put down. A powerful, powerful book that you shouldn’t miss. I can’t just leave it at that because Tara Westover’s story deserves more than those few words. I don’t often read memoirs, but when I do I want them to be told by extraordinary people who have a meaningful story to tell and that would be faint praise for this book. It sounds odd to say how beautifully written this is because we are not spared of the ugly details of what this family was about, but yet it is beautifully written. I had to remind myself at times that I wasn’t reading a gritty novel, that Tara and her family were real as I got more than just a glimpse of a life that was hard for me to even imagine.

A religious fanatic father, hoarding food and guns and bullets and keeping his family off the radar, not filing for birth certificates, not getting medical attention when they needed it, avoiding the government, the feds at all cost , keeping his children out of school, the paranoia, the preparation for the “Days of Abomination” - this is what we find in this place on a mountain in Idaho. There are horrible accidents and he won’t get medical help for his family. Her mother’s healing herbs and tinctures are used to treat the slightest scrape to the most horrible head injury or burns from gasoline to an explosion. If some thing bad happens it because that’s the will of the Lord. Her mother seems at times more sympathetic to her children, but she is complicit by her subservience to her husband. I don’t even know how to describe it other than gut wrenching to see the effects on this family of neglect in the name of religious beliefs and in reality mental illness. It isn’t just her father but the brutality by one of her brother’s which is more than awful and creates rifts between family members,

That she was bold enough and somehow found the will to rise above it all while she is torn with the sense of duty, of loyalty to her family, the ingrained beliefs, still loving her family is miraculous. Going to college was the first time she’d been in a classroom, not knowing what the Holocaust was, learning about slavery, the depression, WWII, the civil rights movement. She doesn’t just get a college education but ultimately a PhD from Cambridge, a Harvard fellowship. She struggles for years to discover who she was, who she could be - a scholar, a writer, an independent woman. This is a stunning, awe inspiring story that will haunt the reader long after the book ends.

Thank you to Tara Westover for sharing yourself with us. I received an advanced copy of this book from Random House through NetGalley. Thanks to my friend Diane for bringing this book to my attention. Without her review I might have missed this.
Profile Image for Emily May.
1,993 reviews298k followers
August 22, 2020
Westover is clearly a decent writer, but I felt underwhelmed by this book. Some things didn't seem to add up. Such as how an uneducated mountain wildgirl clicked her heels together, magicked up thousands of dollars (yeah, yeah, scholarships don't cover everything, you know), and went on to some of the world's most prestigious higher education centres. Intelligence is not the main thing required to attend Harvard or Cambridge; being able to pass exams and perform the system's dance is. Someone without formal education should have no idea how to do that.

Also-- are some people magically cured by herbs and finger-clicking here or did I miss some medical intervention along the way?

But I think, overall, I was just a little disappointed because everyone seemed to find the survivalist aspect so dramatic and awful. I've read a few books about isolated communities that go off the grid and enforce their own laws and, I have to say, Westover's experience felt pretty tame. Her family were survivalists who spent months canning peaches and hunting for scrap, but is this really that odd? I heard all these promises of "wilderness" and "mountain survivalists", but they have a phone and TV. I would say this family is more "eccentric" than "survivalist".

Where the book does succeed is as a portrait of physical and emotional abuse. I think this was the most important part of the book and it's been glossed over in favour of people's delight at learning about weirdos running around wild in the mountains. (I'm not judging; I came for that too.) I also found it really interesting and sad when the author suggested that her father's paranoid delusions might have been undiagnosed bipolar disorder.

It's a quick read with crowd-pleasing writing, I'll give it that. But it's hard to not feel like something is amiss, and certain events were probably exaggerated. Or, alternatively, Westover's "survivalist" family were sitting on a few on-the-grid dollars that conveniently popped up when equipment needed repairs and people needed to go to college. It's also possible that the writing just lacked clarity.

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Profile Image for Cindy.
407 reviews116k followers
January 21, 2019
So good. So good. SO GOOD. Ok, I'll try to elaborate. Tara Westover's memoir is incredibly engrossing not just because of the rollercoaster of traumatic events that occur throughout her life, but also because of her ability to weave humanity and complicated familial relationships in her portrayal of events. While it's easy to take these events and market it like a thriller novel, it's that sense of reflection and poignancy in her carefully crafted words that is the book’s strongest asset. As awful as her family is, she tries to make them as multifaceted as possible by describing both the horrific treatment she dealt with alongside the tender moments that have made it hard for her to let go. I have always been either apathetic or critical about our education system, but I loved Westover’s insights that her education has afforded her to expand her worldview and transform her into her own individual. I would recommend this book to anyone who comes from a dysfunctional family as proof that you don’t have to be trapped in your circumstances and can seek a better life for yourself.

A common critique is questioning how much of her memoir is embellished. My gut reaction is to take offense, as these dismissals have implications of not believing a victim of abuse and gaslighting her like her family did. But I know that all memoirs have degrees of embellishments, and it’s fair to have healthy skepticism. However, she peppers several footnotes throughout her memoir that point out contradictions in her memory based on different accounts of her siblings. This indicates that she is aware of how memories can be subjective, and the fact that she even clarified where her own perspectives differed and included different accounts showed that her priority was telling her story as truthfully as she can. That’s all you can really ask of someone bearing their life story. I believe the book and trauma she went through are completely valid, and her efforts in both staying true to her experiences while sharing different accounts reassure me in that validity.
Profile Image for Emily (Books with Emily Fox).
554 reviews60.5k followers
January 29, 2019
I had a really tough time reading this book.

The physical and emotional abuse made me want to put it down and forget about it. The manipulation, the abuse she went through left me speechless. While not unique, family issues are still so taboo. Brainwashing your own self into thinking it's your fault, that it wasn't that bad or that you imagined it will hit way too close for comfort for a lot of people.

The author's writing was beautiful and her courage to get an education and stand up to her family was inspiring.

Do recommend if you can stomach it.
Profile Image for Matthew.
1,219 reviews8,992 followers
May 1, 2019
Every second of this book is enthralling!




The tales in here are true. The stories are mind-blowing. The events are not from a time long ago - they happened in the past 20 years! You will have to keep reminding yourself of that because the mindset and ideas discussed sound antiquated, but they are alive and kicking . . . and that is just crazy!

One thing that brought this story close to home is that at the time a lot of the events in this book we're taking place, I was living in Yellowstone National Park and frequently travelled to or through Idaho Falls, Pocatello, Salt Lake City and all points in between. This means I could have been mere miles away from the events in this book while they were taking place! Again, this seems impossible to me and I had to keep reminding myself that this was happening in my neck of the woods! And, because of this, my mind was repeatedly blown.

I suppose I should mention what might be a trigger warning for some. Most of the men and some of the women in this book are described doing crazy and abusive things. I swear that every few minutes I had to stop, collect my thoughts, and say, "Wow!" While none of us were there to witness this and the author even says there are many who will deny the events and say that her version of the events are driven by the devil himself, they are shocking and will get your mind churning! I feel her frustration and so many times I wanted to reach into the pages and tell her, "It doesn't have to be like this!"

Also, another trigger warning, if you work for OSHA or help maintain OSHA workplace safety standards, you are going to probably throw this book across the room or at least slam it in disgust a few times.

This book is amazing and I highly recommend it - I am driven to follow this up by hunting down interviews with the author.
Profile Image for Charlotte May.
720 reviews1,116 followers
May 10, 2021
Update: Honestly the hate I’ve received for this review has blown my mind.

“you’re an idiot. And a bit of a dick. Grow up.”

“Maybe the fact you struggled with mathematics for 16 years mean you struggle to appreciate quality storytelling.”

Fucking hell. It’s my opinion. My review. You don’t agree that is absolutely within your rights but don’t start tearing me apart, because I will not argue with you. I’ll just delete your dick comments.


DNF on page 234

I feel like I’m not reading the same book as everyone else?
It’s boring. This happened, and then this happened and then the same thing happens again.
Also I know this is supposed to be a memoir but am I honestly supposed to believe her mother survived a brain injury with not a jot of medical care? How she conveniently managed to scrimp enough money for the next semester of college borders on the unbelievable. Her brother is an asshole and I really don’t want to see how that unfolds. She teaches herself trigonometry. Honestly how? I studied maths in the school system for 16 years and still struggled with it. How does someone with absolutely no prior experience with it just teach herself maths at college level?! I know some people pick it up quicker than others but really?! She even gets 100% on an algebra test at college.

Maybe I’m being overly harsh, but I’m just not having a good time - good on her for standing up for herself, but this is too wordy, definitely exaggerated and there are way too many other books in the world.
Profile Image for Miranda Reads.
1,589 reviews157k followers
April 9, 2021

“You can love someone and still choose to say goodbye to them,” she says now. “You can miss a person every day, and still be glad that they are no longer in your life.”
Tara Westover lived her life like everyday was her last - literally. Her dad was a doomsday prepper.

She spent her childhood stockpiling supplies, scrapping with her brothers and deeply in penance for her "sins".

Hospitals were forbidden, schools were forbidden, everything was treated with a homeopathic cure and a long prayer.
My life was narrated for me by others. Their voices were forceful, emphatic, absolute. It had never occurred to me that my voice might be as strong as theirs.
She told again and again that she was worth nothing and shouldn't seek out a life.

But...being told something and believing it are two different things.
We are all of us more complicated than the roles we are assigned in the stories other people tell/
When she was seventeen, Tara went to school for the first time. It was an adjustment - to put it mildly - from her quiet, almost subservient role at home.

But the longer she stayed away from home, the more she realized what exactly she was missing...and what she would have to leave behind to seek it.
Curiosity is a luxury for the financially secure.
Just... holy sh*t.

Overwhelming... but in an addictive way.

Like can't-put-down-its-crack level of addicting

I read this one in a single day - and it was worth the late night and early mornings.

There's something just so wholly compelling and riveting about her voice.

The way she constantly questions and sought out something else - often without truly being aware of what that something else was.

The sickly feeling that crept up upon me when her parents and siblings tried to sway her back.

It was just amazing. Highly, highly recommended.

YouTube | Blog | Instagram | Twitter | Facebook | Snapchat @miranda_reads
Profile Image for emma.
1,869 reviews54.6k followers
February 25, 2023
To be honest, I don’t even know why I’m bothering to review this.

There is no scenario in which I am a more trusted source than Obama, Oprah, the New York Times Book Review, and the Goodreads Choice Awards combined, and if they’ve all already told you to read this (which they have) then I don’t know why my recommendation would push this whole thing over the edge for you.

If I am a more trusted source than all of those, then I just don’t know what to tell you. Besides the fact that I’m concerned for us both.

But here we are, so. Introducing: My thoughts. My thoughts are: that this is a very good book.

Truly groundbreaking stuff, I know.

But really - it’s worth the hype. And this is coming from the girl who’s one-starred so many popular books she has an “unpopular opinions” shelf with hundreds of books on it.

Can the New York Times Book Review say that?

Maybe I should be the more trusted source.

Anyway. This is not only beautifully written (and it is beautifully written), it’s stunningly recollected too. The emotional intelligence of the author is so vivid in every page. There is so much empathy here.

This is already an incredible, gorgeous story, with a profound and impactful arc, but the talent of the author is what really makes it masterful.

Bottom line: This is good sh*t.

(You don’t get that kind of blurb from Oprah.)


oprah was right.

review to come / 4.5 stars

tbr review

all it takes to convince me to read a book is 500,000 ratings with a 4.48 average + a Goodreads award + tons of nominations + the New York Times, Barack Obama, Oprah, and every major publication naming it one of the best of the year.

Profile Image for Jennifer ~ TarHeelReader.
2,184 reviews30.5k followers
February 22, 2018
5 brilliant stars to Educated! 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟

I grew up in a home of readers with a teacher mom and a dad who questioned my effort when I made an A-minus on my report card. When I began reading Educated, I was floored that Tara and her siblings were not in school, and they were not homeschooled either. How could this happen in modern times with compulsory schooling put in place long ago?

Tara made it clear from the start that her family’s Mormon faith did not cause her father’s substantial paranoia; however, he used his faith to feed it. This family not only did not have insurance, they did not believe in accessing traditional medical care. Horrific accidents and illnesses abounded due to the father’s and one sibling’s risk-taking, and no one went to the doctor.

While the family was clearly having difficulty grappling with many things, I was struck by the love and devotion between them, even with the strained family dynamics. It was both fascinating and heartbreaking to watch those dynamics shift even more as Tara’s aspirations developed and were achieved.

Strength. Grit. Perseverance. Tara’s tenacity resulted in her leaving the farm at Buck’s Peak and enrolling in college, after never attending a day of school. Her words were upfront, bold, but never complaining or looking for pity.

Overall, I found Educated to be one of the most engaging, powerful, and inspiring memoirs I have read.

Thank you to Tara Westover, Random House, and Netgalley for this reading experience I will treasure. Educated is now available!
Profile Image for Yun.
521 reviews21.8k followers
March 30, 2022
Here's the thing: when I read a memoir, I'm looking for something real, something that encapsulates enough of the truth as to be authentic. But the events in this book are pretty unbelievable.

Tara had never gone to school before applying for college. Her mom tried to homeschool her, but gave up early on. Without ever having studied or developed the discipline for learning, Tara teaches herself a variety of subjects well enough to ace the ACT and get into a good university. This all happens while she's simultaneously working for her dad at a junkyard, getting injured herself and watching others be grievously injured too, and being physically and emotionally abused by her brother.

I believe people can do a lot if they put their mind to it, but this is pretty far-fetched. It's natural to embellish the truth in order to tell a good story, but I have to wonder how much of it was really true and how much was the embellishment. Sure, there is a small possibility that everything happened exactly as described. But it's so remote that I have trouble suspending my disbeliefs. If this was fiction, I'd be okay with it. But since it's billed as nonfiction, I'm kind of skeptical.

But for me, the most frustrating thing about this memoir is reading about Tara justifying her brother's abuse towards her, and her parents' choice to turn the blind eye to what was going on. She's constantly rethinking what happened, with each subsequent version being more and more watered down until she no longer remembers if her brother even hurt her in the first place. She follows these people like a puppy, begging for their love and attention, even as they continue to mistreat and threaten her.

Am I the only one who thinks that's just bananas? She's essentially using the book as a form of therapy to justify the behavior of people who abused her. I'm sorry, but I just can't get on board with that. It was exhausting to read, and it's not clear she made any real progress on getting past this. Even at the end, she seems ready to forgive her parents if they ever say the word.

The writing style is philosophical and ruminating, with overly ornate language at times. There are so many passages in which she's overthinking things, but without gaining any of the key insight she really needs.

It's ironic this book is called "Educated," when it never makes clear if and what exactly she has learned through all of this.
Profile Image for Elyse Walters.
4,010 reviews610 followers
October 24, 2019
Tara Westover’s book “Educated” is a distressing & discomforting - alarming & startling exposure of her Mormon fundamentalist family.

“Educated” is a memoir of nonfiction - but names and identifying details have been changed. Aaron, Audrey, Benjamin, Erin, Faye, Gene, Vanessa, Judy, Peter, Sadie, Shannon, Shawn, Susan, Robert, and Robin are pseudonyms.
Tara tells us in her authors notes:
“This is not about Mormonism. Neither is it about any other form of religious belief. In it there are many types of people, some believers, some not; some kind, some not. The author disputes any correlation, positive or negative, between the two”.
Yet....as I read this novel - I not only felt angry - sickened at times - but really conflicted too. I had duel thoughts from the beginning of this novel to the end. I ‘did’ think - in part this book was about Mormonism ( let’s call a spade a spade).
Tara and her siblings had backpacks filled with supplies to defend themselves ready to “head-for-the-hills” ....ready to run ( away from the government).
Her dad, Gene, feared that the government might one day try to intervene their lifestyle. They were living off the grid. The kids had no formal education, or medical care when sick or injured. Instead of going to the hospital when needed - their mother, midwife/herbalist cared for them with alternative remedies.
The government might have even brought in social workers to evaluate the health their family. Abuse? YES! This family stayed hidden. Abuse in many forms was hidden.

Tara’s memoir-impart- also details ( summarizes) the transitions and challenges entering the academic world -Brigham Young University- Harvard- Cambridge ( PhD in History). Her educational journey was interesting — some of it maddening to me also ....
not faulting anyone - but it was painful for me to discover just how ‘much’ about the world - life changing world events a 7 year old knew - at age 17 she ‘didn’t’ know - yet somehow was studying at a University. I questioned ‘how was this even possible’? Amazing. Tara had great support from a church entering college...which was wonderful.

At times I felt frustrated ‘besides’ some greatly disturbing horrific frightening descriptions during Tara’s childhood.
Tara’s academic accomplishments were extraordinary—but I couldn’t find her voice. She seemed - fragile - and often so uncertain of herself.
This book is very well written - ( gloomy -perplexing - and wearisome at times from repetitive trips back home to seek validation from her family)- but it seemed her education brought her almost as much pain as it did inner fulfillment. Because Tara disputes any difference between negative and positive —admirable in ways —I had a hard time getting an experience of ‘HER’. I admit it’s my own frustration. This young girl had a childhood I could never fully comprehend- or know what scars remain...but the fact stands — she's living proof that amazing change is possible. Tara calls that “an education”. Alright ....I agree....but I’m still sad and feel incomplete. ( it’s my problem - not hers).

There have been comparisons to this book and “The Glass Castle”. I understand that — but in reality they are presented very differently. Not only does Jeannette Walls not change any names in her book — she had just freedom to go on National television with her homeless mother. She didn’t need to hide or change identifying details. Tara Westover felt the need to keep names hidden. ( less freedom between the author and her readers for full- self expression). I understand- but a little less satisfying.

I DO SEE THIS BOOK’S IMPORTANCE....a story about an American family living by their own rules - ignoring others who don’t follow their beliefs.
WE SEE TARA WESTOVER’S SKILLFUL LYRICISM in this book....very impressive— one of the most inspiring aspects to me. With her achievements, education, and talent, we got a well-written fascinating SAD STORY.

I will think about Tara - worry & wonder about her in years to come. It killed me that Tara continued time and time again to seek validation - I’m not sure it’s over.
She kept going home to a place where her own brother tried to kill her —
She almost begged her mother to see her time and time again too— it was soooo painful to me that her mother rejected her ——but just as painful that Tara kept needing their approval. All so sad. I UNDERSTAND....yet I can’t see who she is through her own behavior.

Tara has an inspiring academic education— a relationship with 3 of her siblings but trying to regain a relationship with her parents - her violent brother - and even one of her sisters she was once very close to was like trying to get blood from a turnip....it just wasn’t possible. It made for very frustrating reading.

Why did Tara keep trying to fill her heart with the family that rejected her several times? And were abusive? And can a book education take that pain away? These are questions that lingered with me.

Tara had a sweet - warm- soft voice on NPR. Her interviewer called her dad a ‘character’. She agreed. All light and fluffy.
Tara share About MANY HAPPY CHILDHOOD MEMORIES on NPR. I was a little confused listening to her. Was she happy or angry? She seemed so happy about her childhood. Huh? Yet for years she suffered abuse which she tells us in her book.
She said the junkyard was playful and exotic, but was dangerous....but also fun.
She said the Mountain where she grew up was magical and beautiful.....but they were closed off from the rest of the world.

Duality....duality...duality ...... is a word that Tara used over and over again on NPR. Tara see’s two sides to her entire life. I felt a little “duality” in this story myself. I still feel Tara herself is hidden from this story.
Can’t put my finger on it. But one thing does hit home — we can’t meet the rest of her family like we were able to of Jeannette Walls. So - this is clearly TARA’S memoir....and I’ll respect it at that.

This is a valuable powerful read but I’m guessing there might be more to this story one day.

Thank You Netgalley, Random House, and Tara Westover ( congrats to you on your book - may you continue to find inner peace and happiness)

4.4 Stars
Profile Image for PorshaJo.
467 reviews672 followers
March 5, 2018
This one first came to my attention via a GR review. I thought wow, I need to read this now. The wonderful Traveling Sisters group set it up as a slow read and I was in. Grabbed a copy from NetGalley and was ready to go. BUT.....and a big BUT......I didn't like this one, I had to force myself to finish. Had it not been for the group read, I'm sure I would have DNF'd this one.

So I'm probably in the minority in not liking this one. It was more of a 'having a hard time believing the story' kinda thing. Tara details her life growing up in the mountains. She paints a picture of this wild child who doesn't bathe, or wash her hands after using the toilet (her grandmother had a fit about this), is quite ignorant, but yet...she self teaches herself to get into a prestigious college. She talks about her childhood and her parents seems so bad - no schooling, must work and earn money, her father seems to be a religious zealot who harbors a fear of the govt, her mother creates tinctures that cure people from near death. It just became a bit much and I was having a hard time believing it all. Multiple car accidents, severe burns, head trauma, and all cured with herbs. But then she wants to go to school, so she does...college, gets a PhD. Where did she get the money? They didn't seem to have much money. Yet, being in the 'mountain' rustic home, they had a phone, tv, internet. I dunno, it was just getting to be a bit much for me to believe. She ended up having multiple siblings teach themselves, go to college, and get advanced degrees. Really?

A memoir is defined as an autobiography or a written account of one's memory of certain events. Maybe this is how she remembers everything, maybe it really all happened this way. I really don't know. But it all just did not add up for me. I had so many questions about everything. I have a family member who remembers his childhood different from how I remember HIS childhood. So it happens. I'll just say thanks to NetGalley for an advanced copy of the read and this in no way influenced my review.
Profile Image for Darwin8u.
1,599 reviews8,730 followers
November 4, 2018
"Not knowing for certain, but refusing to give way to those who claim certainty, was a privilege I had never allowed myself. My life was narrated for me by others. Their voices were forceful, emphatic, absolute. It had never occurred to me that my voice might be as strong as theirs."
- Tara Westover, Educated: A Memoir


This book feels like it was written by a sister, a cousin, a niece. Tara Westover grew up a few mountains over from my dad's Heglar ranch. I don't know her. Don't know her family. She grew up about 70-80+ miles South East as the crow flies, but realistically, it was a 1.5 hours drive difference, and a whole planet of Mormonism over.

I didn't grow up in Idaho. I was born there and returned there yearly. But this book is filled with the geography, culture, behaviors, mountains, religion, schools, and extremes I understand. She is writing from a similar, and often shared space. I didn't just read this book, I felt it on every page. Her prose was amazing. The memoir danced at parts, while a couple pages later, I would be sent up for air. I often found myself having to talk through parts of the book with my wife while reading. It flowed. Some books seem to remove friction while you read. My wife abandoned work for a day to read it. It consumed us.

This book reads like a modern-day, Horatio Alger + The Education of Henry Adams: An Autobiography. However, it isn't just a book about how a girl with little formal education from a small town in Idaho makes it to Cambridge. It is also a tale of escape, and a historiography. Westover is using her own life to do a popular memory study on herself. She is looking at how she viewed her religion, her background, her parents, and her education. She explores how those memories and narratives change and reorient based upon proximity to her family, her father. These narratives especially begin to reorient as she becomes "educated."

I bought a copy and before I even read it, I gave it to my father to read (He grew up in Heglar, ID). Then I bought another couple and yesterday and today my wife and I raced to finish our respective copies. We bored our kids talking about it over two dinners. We both finished it within minutes of each other tonight.

Tara Westover's memoir hit me hard because of the struggle she has owning her own narrative. Through many vectors I related to her (we both graduated from BYU with Honors, were both were from Idaho, educated Mormons, and both have preppers in the family). My family, while sharing similar land, a similar start, and a similar undergraduate education, however, are not Tara's. And that is what made this memoir so compelling. It was like reading a Dickens novel, but one that was set in your neighborhood. It was moving, sad, and tremendous. In the end, I was attracted by how close the story felt, but I was also VERY grateful her story wasn't THAT close.
Profile Image for Liz.
2,146 reviews2,765 followers
February 10, 2018
I grew up with my nose perpetually in a book. So, the idea of not being able to go to school, of being deprived of an education, hit me really hard. It was hard for me to grasp that things I take for granted, like knowing what the Holocaust was or who MLK, Jr. was, were black holes to Tara.

Tara Westover is the child of a religious fanatic, someone who sees the government as pure evil. And by government, he means schools, hospitals, vaccines, seat belts, car insurance, etc. Everything we think of as civilization. His family awaits the Days of Abomination. There is a similarity here to The Glass Castle. Once again, we see how a mentally unbalanced father holds sway over an entire family. He thinks he speaks for God. Tara struggles with the knowledge that for her to go to school will mean a total separation from her father because he will never acknowledge that his ideas are not the correct ones.

Parts of this book are cringeworthy. I found myself shaking my head that folks would allow severe suffering rather than a trip to the hospital or the use of real medicine. I’ll warn you that some of these sections are not for the faint of heart. The descriptions are sickening.

I know little to nothing about the Mormon faith. Certainly, the faith of this family is not the true Mormon faith. But you get glimpses enough to also realize that there is a strong anti-woman bias in the faith and that women are definitely second class citizens. Broodmares more than humans on a par with men.

This book doesn’t sugarcoat things. It’s not an education makes everything better kind of story. Tara continues throughout the book to struggle to find her way, to stand up for her beliefs. Hell, to find her own beliefs.

This is an amazing book. It makes you realize how easy your life is. And how strong folks like Tara are to be able to rise above their beginnings and be able to fight back against the attempts of family to hold them down.

I’m willing to bet this book makes it onto a lot of best of 2018 lists. It will certainly be on mine. Highly recommend!

My thanks to netgalley and Random House for an advance copy of this book.

Profile Image for Tatiana.
1,406 reviews11.7k followers
April 6, 2018
I don't want to disregard Tara Westover's life experiences or not believe her, so I am going have to settle on one of two options:

1) either she is not a very good writer;

2) or her memories are often faulty and/or selective, with an emphasis on the macabre and tragic, which is understandable I guess.

Much of Tara's misfortunes and fortunes seem to make no sense, or not explained well in the context of her life story. There are multiple miraculous recoveries from numerous life-threatening untreated injuries, a lot of magical money appearing out of nowhere to pay for things Tara needed, a bunch benevolent men throwing opportunities and scholarships at her. Either Tara was a very naturally gifted student or an extremely hard-working student, it's hard to tell. No case was made for either of these possibilities, if I accept that she had received NO structured education. (Does BYU have such low standards BTW?)

The survivalist angle was entirely overblown by publicity around this book. If anything, Tara's family was careless and sloppy, with their main oddity being not believing in modern medicine. Canning peaches is not survivalism as far as I know. And it's quite hard to claim to be closed off from the world if you have TV, phone, internet and take dance classes in town.

Too much of this story smells like BS, and I am not talking about the abuse, I have no reason to doubt that. It's the details that are a complete mess. The gaslighting Tara had experienced at the hands of her family was the most compelling part of her story actually.
Profile Image for Justin Tate.
Author 7 books970 followers
August 8, 2018
A monumental memoir that should be required reading for all. The description doesn't do it justice. It's not about getting a PhD, it's about growing up in a family that doesn't believe in school, thinks doctors are a part of a sociologist conspiracy, and that any day the government will shoot them dead--if the end of times don't come first. The experiences Tara describes are horrific, yet oddly relatable--even if your family is nothing like hers (and let's hope it isn't). By the end, she has to come to terms with balancing family bonds and having the strength to see past their warped sense of reality.

There's really no words to describe it, but I'd start with moving, inspiring, shocking and un-put-downable. Stop wasting your time reading this review and start reading the book! IT'S SO GOOD!!!
Profile Image for Ali Abdaal.
Author 1 book34.7k followers
June 13, 2021
Masterpiece. Starts off slowly but definitely worth it.
Profile Image for Maureen.
634 reviews
March 20, 2018
Does anyone else smell that? Me smells a James Frey A Million Little Pieces by James Frey (James Frey, A Million Little Pieces) rat here. This is what I hate about memoirs. An author can fill page upon page with a load of made up BS and we are meant to fall for it hook, line and sinker. I have made this argument before, even though a memoir is based upon the recollection of the author, it should still be FACTUAL!

Let's begin at the beginning. I almost stopped reading this book at page 3. I read the alliterative phrase 'chirping crickets' three times on ONE page. I lived not far from where Tara Westover grew up and we had these:



NOT these:



There is no lovely cricket chirping sound with the first because they are not a cricket. They are actually a katydid. Ok, enough science.

Westover is apparently



all rolled into one. Jackie Chan because no one alive other than him has suffered the number of life-threatening injuries and survived to tell about - oh wait, except for Tara Westover. Confucius because of her astounding insight and prophetic sayings, and John Stuart Mill because Westover has got the philosophy of feminism down like no other philosopher since Mill. (At least that unsightly knot on Mill's forehead would jive with what Westover should look like if she had been through as many physical catastrophes as she claims).

Westover is ready to give these singers a run for their money since she sings like a goddess after never opening her mouth before. WATCH OUT:



Tara Westover will be receiving her Grammy, Tony, Emmy and Oscar before she is 40, I am sure.

That is if she is not too busy adding colloquialisms to the vocabulary for the rest of us. Hey, Tara, EVERYONE calls a blinding, windy winter storm a WHITE OUT. They didn't make that up in Idaho.

Westover is the greatest thesis writer, the greatest dissertation writer, the greatest student Cambridge has ever seen. All while being a complete idiot.

She goes from having no description

(Sorry I couldn't resist taking a jab at the end of days BS in this book)

to having enough description to fly to ROME and back and forth to the US countless times! That must have been one HELL of a PELL grant.

Westover says "...I'd been surprised to discover echoes of Mormon theology in the great philosophers of the nineteenth century." Shouldn't that be the other way around - that Joseph Smith ripped off philosophers not that they thought he was so profound as to steal from him?

Her father would have been dead, dead, dead if he had suffered burns to the degree that she claims. He would have contracted an infection or pneumonia and would not have survived. And since the bottom of his face was gone as she purports, how was he able to hold a phone up to his shoulder? If his hands were so disfigured, how was he able to write, drive or BUILD AN EXTENSION on their house?!

I could fill this review with inconsistency after inconsistency, but I am sick of this book. I am sick of hearing about it. I am sick of having read it.


Some will ask why I read this whole book if I hated it so much. And the answer is that if I was going to be savage about this book, and I was, I wanted to read the whole thing.

SOOOOOO, this savage spent the entirety of this book doing this:

P.S. Hey Random House Publishing, I will be sending you my deats for a refund for this POS book. You can bet that all the made up shite in this book is going to come out sooner or later. Did you learn NOTHING from James Frey?

Profile Image for Orsodimondo.
2,195 reviews1,816 followers
November 30, 2022
(E possibilmente, liberaci pure dalla madre)

”The Texas Chainsaw Massacre – Non aprite quella porta”. Make: 1974, regia di Tobe Hooper. Remake: 2003, regia di Marcus Nispel.

È un esordio, e quindi parte delle mie osservazioni critiche a seguire potrebbero essere scusate dal debutto.
Lo sono meno, ai miei occhi, perché di questo libro s’è voluto fare l’ennesima next big thing, è stato molto spinto, promosso, e discusso.
Inquietante, dal mio punto di vista, la quantità di fotografie che si trovano di questa giovane scrittrice nata nel 1986: ho sempre l’impressione che in questi casi si usi la fotogenia di chi scrive per vendere di più, e magari coprire qualche magagna.

”The Hills Have Eyes – Le colline hanno gli occhi”. Make: 1977, regia di Wes Craven. Remake: 2006, regia di Alexandre Aja.

Un altro problema per me immenso, smisurato, è che il libro è sempre promosso a pieni voti per il suo contenuto, per la sua storia, e non per il modo di raccontarla. Ancora una volta la trama ha eclissato lo stile, il cosa annulla il come.

”Winter’s Bone – Un gelido inverno”, regia di Debra Granik. 2010.

La storia credo sia ormai abbastanza risaputa: famiglia numerosa (curioso come chi scrive commenti vari il numero dei Westover junior, per chi sono cinque, per chi sei – invece sono sette, e questo si aggancia a quanto dirò tra poco) e famiglia disfunzionale – un incrocio tra “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre - Non aprite quella porta” più “Le colline hanno gli occhi” e dall’altra parte “Winter’s Bone – Un gelido inverno”.
Se non che, nel caso dei Westover la violenza è diretta all’interno della famiglia stessa, ben più che all’esterno (anche se in casa circolano perfino armi antiaeree, e i vicini di casa portati come esempio di resistenza sono membri del White Power, Fratellanza Ariana).
I figli non vengono registrati all’anagrafe, niente certificato di nascita, vengono convinti o forzati a mollare la scuola, o non frequentarla del tutto, a stare alla larga da medici e ospedali. Il tutto giustificato da una religione (mormone) che non sta in piedi neppure un istante: quale dio richiederebbe e/o approverebbe simili livelli di bestialità umana?!
Poi, il tutto si giustifica invece col bipolarismo paterno.
La più piccola di casa, Tara, è un magnifico esempio di resilienza, fiore nella concimaia che si redime e salva andando al college (approda addirittura a Cambridge e Harvard), studiando, educandosi, imparando.
Un magnifico messaggio di speranza, che è bello raccogliere e far proprio.

Una parte della famiglia Westover (quella vera).

Ma all’ombra di questo splendido assunto si nasconde una scrittura senza sorprese, né bella né brutta, accessibile e piana, che per fortuna si tiene lontana dalle frasi memorabili e/o a effetto, ma affastella più che incidere.
Soprattutto si nasconde un libro notevolmente disarticolato, oserei dire sgangherato.
Senza ritmo.
E senza una qualche struttura, magari anche ondivaga o contorta. Accelerazioni improvvise sono seguite da brusche frenate, scatti e salti anticipano passi indietro.
Non parlo solo dei salti temporali, a quelli siamo abituati, quelli vanno più che bene: a me sembra che la giovane Westover avesse o molta fretta di sfogarsi, o cognizione di una fine da raggiungere in qualsiasi modo.
Affronta ogni argomento, dalla descrizione della montagna alle violenze domestiche, con lo stesso identico tono, finendo, ovviamente, col piallare ogni cosa.
Ho avuto spesso la sensazione di quegli scarabocchi che si schizzano mentre siamo al telefono o in riunione, e quindi, quando la nostra attenzione è altrove, e la mano gira e rigira, incide, rimane sullo stesso punto, e alla fine vattelapesca cosa volevamo disegnare, è solo un garbuglio di linee.
Ho avuto spesso la sensazione di quei film dove uno viene pestato e ne esce con la gamba sinistra zoppicante e un brutto livido sullo stesso braccio – nella scena seguente, però, zoppica dalla destra, e il livido è sulla guancia invece che sul braccio.

Il giardino di casa Westover. Back or front yard?

Il primo esempio che mi viene in mente è la vicenda materna: dopo il primo incidente d’auto, subisce un’emorragia cerebrale, vive al buio con occhi diventati come quelli di un panda, ha emicranie, non prende medicine, solo erbe, dato l'impedimento religioso, si ha la netta sensazione che sia un processo irreversibile, molto probabilmente destinata a morte prematura… E invece non si sa dove, né come, né quando la madre torna in piena efficienza (fino al punto di poter subire un secondo incidente d’auto). E così avanti per tutto il libro.
È stato notato da più parti che il livello di credibilità di quanto raccontato da Westover non soddisfa appieno.


378 pagine che a me sono sembrate 3.780. Se non addirittura 37.800.

Ma siccome il benedetto messaggio, o contenuto, è di quelli belli belli – ma siccome nella confusione qualche momento buono ci scappa, io tre stelle con qualche esitazione alla fine gliele do.
Anche se ora, per giusto bilanciamento, la tentazione è andare a mettere la quinta a Elena Greco. E altrettante a Lila. Le mie amiche geniali.

Profile Image for Maxwell.
1,173 reviews8,389 followers
February 1, 2019
Everything about this book amazed me. I will not stop thinking about this book for a very, very long time. I don't think I can even do this proper justice in a review other than telling everyone to go out and READ THIS BOOK! Easiest 5 stars ever. Loved it.
Profile Image for Dr. Appu Sasidharan (Dasfill).
1,271 reviews2,445 followers
December 4, 2022
“My life was narrated for me by others. Their voices were forceful, emphatic, absolute. It had never occurred to me that my voice might be as strong as theirs.”

The above sentences have the entire essence of this book. This is Tara Westover's story, a home-schooled woman who struggled against all the hardships and got admission to the universities like Harvard and Cambridge. This book shows us the actual value of education and how it can change a person's life. This is a must-read book if you love reading memoirs.
Profile Image for Reading_ Tamishly.
4,463 reviews2,407 followers
February 10, 2023
***Expect anything but get ready to get surprised***

🤦Oh God...what did I just read?! 💔

It's a perfect 5 🌟 read for me. Once I started reading the first few pages, I just couldn't stop reading it. Strange for me to say but when non-fiction tends to read this fictional good I am ready to read non-fiction anytime everywhere.

Yes, this book seems like a fiction because we are not aware of the fact that such situations exist in real. If it was not for this book, I would have been so blind to such important issues which happen in families struggling with poverty, illiteracy, misguided religious beliefs, family violence and undiagnosed serious mental health conditions.

Before I picked up this memoir, I used to believe that it is just about a girl who strived to get education and got successful in achieving that.

But I say it is much, much more than that.

This book is horrifying at times the way some events were really dark, violent and gruesome.
I was on the edge of my seat until I read the back cover of the book.

I understand when the author described how she experienced utter helplessness, getting pulled in opposite directions whether to let go of the family ties or to buckle under everything because it's her family.
The hardest is when it's your own family that hurts you and you are left feeling all alone in the entire world.
I could relate to this book at so many different levels. I am so glad I picked up this book!
Profile Image for Ahmad Sharabiani.
9,564 reviews35 followers
November 19, 2021
Educated, Tara Westover

Tara Westover was 17 the first time she set foot in a classroom. Born to survivalists in the mountains of Idaho, she prepared for the end of the world by stockpiling home-canned peaches and sleeping with her "head-for-the-hills bag".

In the summer she stewed herbs for her mother, a midwife and healer, and in the winter she salvaged in her father's junkyard. Her father forbade hospitals, so Tara never saw a doctor or nurse. Gashes and concussions, even burns from explosions, were all treated at home with herbalism.

The family was so isolated from mainstream society that there was no one to ensure the children received an education and no one to intervene when one of Tara's older brothers became violent. Then, lacking any formal education, Tara began to educate herself.

She taught herself enough mathematics and grammar to be admitted to Brigham Young University, where she studied history, learning for the first time about important world events like the Holocaust and the civil rights movement.

Her quest for knowledge transformed her, taking her over oceans and across continents, to Harvard and to Cambridge. Only then would she wonder if she'd traveled too far, if there was still a way home.

Educated is an account of the struggle for self-invention. It is a tale of fierce family loyalty and of the grief that comes with severing the closest of ties.

With the acute insight that distinguishes all great writers, Westover has crafted a universal coming-of-age story that gets to the heart of what an education is and what it offers: the perspective to see one's life through new eyes and the will to change it.

تاریخ نخستین خوانش: روز بیست و هفتم ماه ژانویه سال2019میلادی

عنوان: دختر تحصیلکرده، یک سرگذشت؛ نویسنده: تارا وستور؛ مترجم هوشمند دهقان؛ تهران نیلوفر‏‫، سال1397؛ در448ص؛ شابک9789644487767؛ موضوع: سرگذشت تارا وستوور، خانواده؛ از نویسندگان ایالات متحده آمریکا - سده21م

تارا وستور در ماه سپتامبر سال1986میلادی به دنیا آمد؛ او در شهر «آیداهو» از ایالت‌های غربی «آمریکا» زندگی می‌کرد؛ محل زندگی او سرزمین کوه‌ها، جنگل‌ها، و دره‌ های ژرف بود؛ «تارا وستور» زندگیش در سرزمین دوران کودکی‌ خویش را، این‌ چنین توصیف می‌کنند: «من با ضرباهنگ کوهستان بار آمدم، ریتمی که در آن دگرگونی‌ها هیچگاه بنیادی نبود؛ تغییرات کوهستان همیشه دوره‌ ای بود؛ هر صبحگاه، خورشید همیشگی طلوع می‌کرد، از این سوی دره به آنسو می‌غلتید و در پشت کوه پنهان می‌شد؛ برف‌هایی که در زمستان می‌بارید در بهاران آب میشد»؛

او در خانه به دنیا آمد؛ تا نه سالگی شناسنامه نداشت؛ و پیش از هفده سالگی به کلاس درس پا نگذاشت؛ در منزل، نزد مادر درسی خواند، ولی بیشتر اوقاتش صرف کار در حیاط قراضه‌ های پدر، و جا کردن آذوقه در شیشه‌ های مربا شد؛ این همه بدان خاطر بود، که پدر و مادرش در زمرهٔ «مورمون‌»هایی بودند، که خود را برای آخرالزمان آماده می‌ساختند، و نسبت به آموزش دولتی، امور طبی، و بیمارستان، و پلیس فدرال، بدگمان بودند؛ «تارا» در کنار کوه «باک» و در دنیای کوچکی میبالد، که عقاید بیمارگونهٔ پدر، سخت بر آن سایه افکنده است؛ رفته رفته، اما ذهن «تارا»، دست به خودکاوی می‌زند، و عطش دانش، در او بیدار می‌شود، و خانه و خانواده را، به هوای تحصیل ترک می‌گوید…؛ «تارا» سر از جایی درمی‌آورد، که به خواب هم نمی‌دید؛ این کتاب ماجرای همین سرگذشت دلنشین، و پرفراز و فرود است؛ کتابی که بلافاصله ایشان را، شهره ساخت، و به گفته ی بسیاری، از جمله ویراستاران «آمازون»، «نیویورک‌ تایمز»، «باراک اوباما»، «بیل گیتس» و…؛ در ردیف بهترین آثار سال2018میلادی قرار دارد

نقل از متن کتاب: (حساب بانکی‌ام مدام آب می‌رفت؛ ترس برم داشته بود، که مبادا نتوانم واحدهایم را پاس کنم، ولی یک ماه مانده به پایان نیمسال، بعد از پرداخت شهریه، اجاره خانه، و خرید خوراکی و کتاب، کم کم این فکر به سرم زد، که حتی اگر واحدهایم را پاس کنم، به خاطر یک دلیل مشخص به دانشگاه باز نخواهم گشت: نمی‌توانستم از پس مخارجش بربیایم؛ در اینترنت شرایط احراز بورس تحصیلی را پیدا کردم؛ معافیت از شهریه، مستلزم آوردن معدل تقریبا کامل بود؛ هنوز یک ماه تا پایان نیمسال فرصت داشتم، با وجود این می‌دانستم بورسیه شدن، به طرز مضحکی، دور از دسترس است؛ تاریخ آمریکا داشت برایم آسان‌تر می‌شد، منتها فقط به این معنا که دیگر تمام امتحانات ماهانه‌ ام را خراب نمی‌کردم؛ عملکردم در درس تئوری موسیقی خوب بود ولی در انگلیسی دست و پا می‌زدم؛ معلم زبانم گفت که در نوشتن استعداد دارم، ولی زبان نگارشم به طرز نامانوسی رسمی، و قلمبه سلمبه است؛ به او نگفتم نوشتن و خواندن را، از طریق خوا��دن کتاب مقدس مورمون، و خطابه‌ های «جوزف اسمیت» و «بریگم یانگ» آموخته‌ ام؛ گرچه مصیبت اصلیم درس تمدن غرب بود؛ درس گفتارهایش برایم ثقیل بود، شاید بدین خاطر که تا اواخر ژانویه فکر می‌کردم اروپا یک کشور است، و نه یک قاره، و در نتیجه بیشتر حرف‌های استاد برایم نامفهوم بود؛ تازه بعد از سئوالی که در مورد هولوکاست پرسیده بودم، دیگر جرات نداشتم برای روشن شدن ذهنم سئوال کنم؛ با این وصف، به خاطر وجود ونسا، تمدن غرب، کلاس مورد علاقه‌ ام بود؛ از او خوشم می‌آمد، چون شیوه ی «مورمون» بودنش مثل خودم بود: لباس یقه اسکی و گشاد می‌پوشید، و به من گفته بود هیچ‌وقت کوکاکولا نمی‌نوشد، و یک‌شنبه‌ها تکالیفش را انجام نمی‌دهد؛ در دانشگاه ونسا تنها کسی بود که مثل کافرها به نظر نمی‌رسید!)؛ پایان نقل

تاریخ بهنگام رسانی 08/10/1399هجری خورشیدی؛ 27/08/1400هجری خورشیدی؛ ا. شربیانی
Profile Image for jessica.
2,555 reviews35.6k followers
March 26, 2019
‘my life was narrated for me by others. their voices were forceful, emphatic, absolute. it had never occurred to me that my voice might be as strong as theirs.’

i would generally consider myself to be a reserved person. i dont tend to actively share my thoughts, feelings, beliefs, or opinions. personal things like that, i usually to keep to myself. but after reading this book, it would be a shame to not express, in some form, how important i think education is.

this story, this harrowing yet powerful story, only supports how i feel about the necessity for accessible formal education, as well as the importance to have a desire to educate oneself. taras experiences only prove the immense power of education - how education allows us to be able to consciously examine the world and judge/act accordingly, how striving to learn opens doors to possibilities we can scarcely imagine, and how educating ourselves ultimately gives us the strength of having our own voice.

and so, i have no reservations for saying that i am of the strong opinion that this raw and contemplative story is one every person should read.

*note: i have been told that i can be a negative nancy from time to time. whilst reading this, there were several aspects of taras story that didnt quite add up to me. i believe every reader should have a healthy ounce of skepticism within them, and mine was causing little red flags to pop up here and there. i appreciate the authors candidness about the unreliability of childhood memories. so although i took the extreme nature of the books content with a grain of salt, it did not detract from the overall message of this book - the importance of education - and so i rated based on that.

4.5 stars
Profile Image for Debbie.
455 reviews2,899 followers
April 4, 2018
5 OMG How did she end up alive and educated? stars

[News flash: I see that this review is WAY too long! I’m such a blabbermouth! Feel free to skip sections. I went way overboard. Geez….]

Tara did a lot more than ride a pogo stick to get from a junkyard in Idaho to a Ph.D. in Cambridge.
Meanwhile, I’m bouncing on mine, going high and far to escape her whacked-out father and super-scary psycho brother. Plus, face it, I bring out the pogo stick when it’s a fantastic read and believe me, this qualifies. Holy moly what a tough and bizarro life this amazing woman has had, and oh what a writer!

She looks normal, whatever that means.
I was so jazzed after reading this book, I went online and watched every interview with Tara that I could find (and there are many; I’ve added a few at the end of this review). I just had to see and hear this woman, this woman who had a strange, horrendous, and dangerous childhood and lived to tell about it—and so eloquently. She’s only in her 20s—so young to be so successful. From the interviews, I see that she happens to be articulate, quick-witted, and confident, and she totally passes for normal, whatever that is. On the outside, you don’t see the scars, the scars that have to exist on her psyche after the hellacious childhood she endured.

Spare me the scenery, I want the juice!
I didn’t love this book for the first half hour or so of reading; I thought I was in deep do-do. Again, it’s that damn description—which just isn’t my style. The book opens with Tara describing the beauteous mountain that she grew up on. It was perfectly written; a creative writing teacher would have been damn proud of her. But I was screaming inside, “This is a memoir! Tell your story!! Give me some juice! Tell me what happened and how you feel. Save the mountain business for a poem, will you please?” Ha, the mountain was affecting me too—I didn’t like it because it was this giant barricade blocking me from feeling anything about this writer or her story.

Luckily, the mountain talk stopped and then I got pulled in real fast. And as I got into the story and forgave her for her brief stint with DD (description disorder, which some writers are afflicted with), I have to admit I sort of liked that she described the mountain and her love for it. The mountain gave her some feeling of safety and peace, and its beauty stayed with her as she trekked to places far away to get her education.

Refraining from spilling all the beans.
I could sit here and write a Cliffs Notes version of her life, just because I’m so excited to share it, but I’ll try to put a sock in it (one of the two that were knocked off my feet by the power of this story) because you really need to experience this book all for yourself.

Dad buried gas and guns.
Tara is the youngest of seven kids, all raised in the mountains of Idaho by a madman father who was a religious fanatic and believed the end of the world was coming. He buried gas and guns so that they could survive after the end came. He thought the government, schools, and medicine were all bull—and dangerous. It was all about God’s will and Satan’s grip. He was charismatic and forceful.

Although Tara doesn’t think of it as a cult, it sure seemed like a family cult to me, with her dad as the far-out leader. He brainwashed all of them. She says she’ll always have to stop and question whether what he said was true.

They are Mormons, but the type of religion is beside the point. Dad is an extremist, that’s all we need to know. Tara says right up front that the book is not about Mormons. I absolutely hate religious rantings, but luckily no one is pushing the religion; Tara is just telling us what it was like around her house. Tara doesn’t talk about her religious beliefs today; I’m mildly curious. At the time, she believed everything he said.

The state didn’t know Tara existed.
Tara doesn’t have a birth certificate and doesn’t know her birthday--just an approximation. How weird would that be? She was born at home and her father didn’t register her existence because he didn’t want the government to make her go to school. When she is seven, she says:

“…When I am nine, I will be issued a Delayed Certificate of Birth, but at this moment, according to the state of Idaho and the federal government, I do not exist.”

Burns and gashes and raccoon eyes.
I will say that this memoir reads like fiction. It’s hard to believe that it’s not. Expect to bite your lip and grimace and scream inside as you read detailed descriptions of MANY accidents that happened to Tara and her family members. Burns and gashes and raccoon eyes and brains hitting concrete. Some people say that she probably misremembered or exaggerated, but I say you don’t make up seeing your brother’s brain peeking out of his skull. How did they all stay alive?

Psycho bro.
And then there’s the mental and physical torture that her psycho brother Shawn inflicted on Tara and others. Oh, he’s a cutie all right. He broke her fingers, put her head in the toilet—normal stuff like that. If there was ever a need for a therapist….

Doesn’t every kid risk their life working in a junkyard?
Tara doesn’t play the victim. And she doesn’t hate her family—which at first seems hard to believe. But she says her life seemed normal to her: she had nothing to compare it to, for one. All kids must help their fathers work; her dad just happened to own a junkyard with dangerous equipment. How could she know that other families didn’t get injured all the time? How did she know that other families went to hospitals instead of using herbs to cure everything? (Her mom is an accomplished herbalist.)

And she knew her parents loved her and meant well. Dad couldn’t help it that he was crazy. He did the best he could. So despite growing up in this intense, isolated family with a mad father, an abusive brother, horrific accidents, and a fear of the apocalypse, she doesn’t think she had a terrible childhood-- and she has many good memories. Wow.

Isn’t Europe a country?
Her formal education began when she was 17 when, after studying on her own for the ACT exams, she got into Brigham Young University. Before this, she had never stepped foot in a classroom. She had never heard of the Holocaust or the civil rights movement. She thought Europe was a country. She didn’t think to read her textbooks; she thought she was supposed to just look at the pictures. Despite this, she ended up at Cambridge. She says getting an education is not about making money, but about making a person.

Hell-bent on getting educated.
I identify with her being hell-bent on getting educated and knowing she had to do it herself. My parents wouldn’t send me to college (they wanted me to be a flight attendant, but they did worry I was too short). I had an intense drive to go to college. I went to the library to find out which city had the most colleges and that was Boston, with 58 of them! When I was 18, I moved there, determined to get accepted into one that I could afford (I did.) But wait, I must stick to Tara’s story. I just wanted to say that I identified with her drive and her success in getting through college. (Ha, I wasn’t anywhere near as smart as her; I certainly didn’t end up at Cambridge University!)

Her education (for her, an awakening) included taking psych courses. She realized then that her dad was probably mentally ill, and this knowledge allowed her to forgive him. He couldn’t help being scary, controlling, and fanatical. And he didn’t purposely put her in harm’s way in the junkyard; he just didn’t have the ability to see danger.

Psych classes also helped her become super self-aware. I loved the parts in the book where she analyzes herself. One thing she talked about was gaslighting—the process of people denying your reality and making you feel crazy. For example, this happened when she tried to tell her parents what her psycho brother had done to her. Although her mom first believed her, she soon changed her tune and sided with Tara’s father, denying that such bad things happened. Tara says she started doubting her sanity—which has to be scary. She says she had a breakdown at one point. Not surprising.

Run, Tara, run!
The only frustrating thing about her book is watching her return, time and time again, to visit her family. Quick, Tara, jump on my back as we pogo-stick on out of there! NOW! Psycho, sadistic bro Shawn is just too damn scary! He cranked it up a notch every time she visited, and I was scared he would seriously mess her up—break a bigger bone, give her brain damage, throw her off the mountain, something really bad.

Part of her need to return was to win her family’s approval (and Shawn just happened to live there too, so there was no escaping him). But she also wanted to expose Shawn and to warn them about him, since he was attacking other people too.

Plus, people who live together a long time get imprinted on each other. We can’t underrate how much the existence of a history ties people together. I think the only way she would have severed ties would be if there had been sexual abuse.

The skeptics.
Some critics doubt whether her story is true, or they think it’s exaggerated. She admits that we can’t always believe our memories, that they are tricky. To try to make her story as accurate as possible, she looked back through her journals. Usually journals are full of fact, not fiction, so I believe it’s a good source for her truth. Also, a couple of her brothers have corroborated her memories.

I don’t think she made this stuff up. I’m not sure you can make this stuff up, especially the level of detail she gave for injuries and reactions to injuries. I buy her story—hook, line, and sinker.

Her interviews are factual, analytical. In fact, she’s a little stoical. She seems to have intellectualized her trauma, which is a common defense mechanism. I’m probably just full of it, but I’m thinking that if she were a storyteller who wants to wow her audience with a wild story, she’d appear more animated, less analytical. She’d want to dwell on the juice, which she doesn’t do. In the longer interviews, she discusses her philosophy on education—not the kind of stuff that makes an audience wriggle in glee. I think of her as a reporter—she reports on the madness but she also reports on the scenery (remember the mountain talk that I didn’t love at first). She isn’t interested in creating fiction.

Airing dirty laundry.
There are a few scathing 1-star reviews on Amazon by family members and friends of the family. They say that most of what Tara says isn’t true, that the family is wonderful and not so isolated, that Tara’s dad helped fund her college. Tara even says in her book that he helped her out financially. He didn’t want her to go to college, but he didn’t prevent it either.

These negative reviews say that Tara is unstable (let me say that in interviews, she does not in any way appear or sound weird). Of course they would say that. What self-respecting family wouldn’t be pissed at someone airing their dirty laundry? And again, it’s that memory thing. Put a bunch of siblings in a room and ask them about something that happened in their childhood, and they’ll all have a different memory of it. Plus there’s the truth that every sibling has a unique relationship and experience with their parents and with each other.

At this point, most of Tara’s family (parents and a few sibs) have shunned her. I’m sure that not having her family’s support is killing her; a family has such power over you. No one wants their family to shun them. Luckily, she is close to a couple of brothers. In the book, she gives them credit for helping her.

It’s not a woman, it’s a pencil!
Now for some silly cover talk. For the longest time, I thought this was an artsy cover showing the back of a woman. She has this little head with long dark hair, and she’s wearing a red skirt that’s way bigger than her head. Then, what? OMG, it’s not a woman, it’s a pencil!! Very clever! Days pass before I see that there’s a little person standing on the pencil! It’s supposed to look like a girl standing on a mountain side, like Tara and her mountain. Wow! What an enticing and cool cover.

Check out her interviews:
Here are a few of the interviews I liked. (Warning: The one in Cambridge is really long.):




Thanks to NetGalley for the advance copy.
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