For readers of North of Normal and Wild , a stunning new memoir about family, loss and the struggle for a better future
Tara Westover was seventeen when she first set foot in a classroom. Instead of traditional lessons, she grew up learning how to stew herbs into medicine, scavenging in the family scrap yard and helping her family prepare for the apocalypse. She had...more
"Good message, although some supporting information isn't fully accurate -Tyler W.
ByAmazon Customeron…moreI just googled that. It's a review on Amazon.
"Good message, although some supporting information isn't fully accurate -Tyler W.
ByAmazon Customeron February 26, 2018
Format: Hardcover|Verified Purchase
First, let me identify myself. I am Tyler Westover, brother number three in this book. Reading through other comments, it is clear that the book has become very controversial. A natural tendency when we encounter someone that we disagree strongly with is to attempt to dehumanize those individuals into foul monsters. We see this behavior regularly in politics as well as in arguments over land and other natural resources. My purpose in writing this review is not to try to prove either side wrong; rather, it is to “humanize” the people on both sides, while also providing a partial perspective that people on both sides of the argument may be able to agree with. Several concerns prevent this from being a full perspective.
I will start by quoting an email that I sent to Tara on Feb. 21, 2016. I still mostly feel the same way. Here are excerpts from the note that I sent:
“Overall, I like the book and wish that we could all understand it. It not only contains important messages, but the writing style and descriptions are captivating. … I could add a number of details on Part 1: Idaho. For your earlier memories, I was old enough to have access to more information, and I could clarify. I am not sure that I would recommend changing your text much, though, because my additions would also add complications. Usually in reports of scientific and engineering projects we follow what is known as the "80/20 rule," which is that reports focus on key messages and points and deliberately leave out seemingly contradictory or excessively complicated information for general audiences. The fact is that practically no-one can understand all of the details in a complicated situation, and focusing on the underlying themes is generally best unless the audience has specific need to try to grasp the details. I think that you did well following the 80/20 rule. If you like I could send clarifying notes that you could include in an appendix or as publication notes. As you mention, we have different memories and different perceptions of the same events, and I recognize that if you try to include my version, it will likely interfere with your clean narrative.”
Some elements in the book have been misinterpreted from the way that Tara likely intended, and I think that some things Tara misunderstood herself. Because education is a primary theme of the book, I will offer a different perspective on that topic here. In writing this alternate perspective, I do not intend to convey that Tara’s interpretation of events is wholly in error. Our parents are extremists, and they and other members of our family have done terrible things that have hurt Tara. There is no doubt there was abuse, neglect, and other awful choices. Those events are described in Tara’s book, and I will not add new comments about those events here. I was removed quite far from the family when most of those events took place, and for the most part they are not entirely clear in my mind. As indicated above, I intend to restrict my narrative here to my personal experiences or actual events for which I have clear accounts that I expect will generate little disagreement from other individuals who were involved.
As Tara describes, our father is very suspicious of the government. At one point, he told us, his children, that he was concerned someone from the government could come to our home and gun shots could be fired. Nothing he ever said, however, led me to believe that this concern was connected with our homeschool. Instead, he referenced Charlton Hesston’s sentiment that the only way the government would get his guns would be from his “cold dead hands.” To expand a little further, our father also said that he did not think that the government would send local law enforcement or even federal agents to take guns away from law-abiding U.S. citizens. He considered it more likely that such a task would have to be fulfilled by troops from the United Nations. It should also be noted that the guns in question did not include high capacity, semi-automatic rifles, such as have been used in mass shootings or are designed for intense combat. I have never seen our father with such a weapon, and as far as I know, he has never owned one.
Regarding higher education, many readers of the book have concluded that Tara attended formal higher education against apparently insurmountable odds. Perhaps it is not that surprising after all. Of the seven children in our family, six of them attended formal higher education classes (Luke is the only one who has not, and as described in Tara’s book, classroom education is not really his thing). In addition, both our mother “Faye” and our father “Gene” attended at least one year of university classes each. Our mother frequently encouraged me from a young age to prepare to attend university classes by the time I was sixteen. On the other hand, our father has expressed great dissatisfaction with the hubris associated with university education as well as its bias toward liberal thinking.
Observing people around me, it seemed that university degrees actually helped very few people in our community. Most individuals that I knew of returned to work on their family’s farm after getting a degree. Those that did not return, I really didn’t know about. Without being able to perceive a direct benefit from a university degree, I did not initially consider higher education very seriously. Our father was actually the person who first gave me a specific purpose to get a university degree. He told me that if I got an engineering degree, then I could provide engineering stamps for building and bridge designs for the family construction business. Our dad mostly created his own designs for sheds and other custom structures that his business built, but sometimes he had to have his designs stamped by a professional engineer. If I became a professional engineer, not only could I stamp our designs, but I could probably also be more flexible in the design to save additional costs in fabrication materials. The idea captured my interest, but I was concerned about being able to finish an engineering degree. At the time, I was about sixteen, and four years of classes in a university seemed like a very long time. Neither of my parents had actually graduated. I considered that the only way to make sure that I could graduate would be to win a four-year full-tuition scholarship; at length, that is what I determined to do. Tara was correct that my father often fought me to go to work rather than study.
Part of the application for the scholarship that I wanted (a Trustee’s scholarship at BYU) required writing an essay response to a quote by Blaise Pascal. Again it was our father who provided the best advice on how to approach the essay. He suggested that I spend a full day in the library at Utah State University to read all I could about Blaise Pascal to find the context of the quote and perhaps additional complementary quotes. I followed my father’s advice and won the scholarship. Years later as I was finishing a bachelor’s degree in engineering at BYU, Purdue University offered me a fellowship for graduate school. I was excited to go but also very hesitant. It was important to me that I marry someone who shared my religious beliefs, and that seemed much less probable in Indiana than in Utah. After much deliberation and hearing some negative stories about graduate school in far-away places, I had almost decided to turn down Purdue’s offer and stay in Utah. Before I made my final decision, though, I consulted my parents for their advice. They both recommended that I go to Purdue. I particularly remember my father’s advice. He told me not to let fear of the future cause me to miss such a great opportunity. With that reassurance, I decided to go, and after five years, I earned a Ph.D. from Purdue.
Undoubtedly, Tara’s experience talking about higher education with our parents was much different than mine. After reading a memoir, I would hope that readers have new questions about their understanding of the events and people being scrutinized rather than feeling confident that their understanding is now sufficient to render accurate judgment. Every person involved has their own paradigm and experiences.
Postscript Note: I have received some negative comments on the review above from people who think that I am trying to impose my experiences on Tara. That really is not my intention. In her book, in numerous places, Tara interprets for me and other members of my family things that we did, said, thought, and even felt. I cannot speak for the other members of my family, but in my case I think in many instances she greatly incorrectly conveyed my experiences. In the interest of a balanced viewpoint, it seems that I should at least attempt to share a part of my perspective, while still supporting her as much as I can. I do recognize this is her memoir, and she describes her experiences from her paradigm. However, it seems reasonable for me to explain my perspective and outline events that demonstrate the validity of my perspective, in my review."(less)
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 ...more
Some parts of this do seem farfetched, 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 ...more
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...more
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 ...more
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 ...more
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; ...more
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 ...more
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 ...more
“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 ...more
- 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. ...more
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 ...more
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 ...more
[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 ...more
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 ...more
Educated: A Memoir scalded the very edges of my soul. It took me through a whole gamut of my own emotions from belief to disbelief, from hesitation to doubt to wariness, and most importantly, from the weightiness of compassion and empathy to the restrictions of frustration and anger.
Tara Westover tells her story straight out through the reflections seen by her own eyes, her own jagged experiences, and in her own words. As you step inside of Tara's story you will certainly ...more
This memoir is so brutal at times and hard to read, your heart just breaks for this girl, and for some of her siblings.
Tara rises up to become extremely “educated” despite the fact that she never attended school, ...more
this is one of those “eeeeveryone is reading it” books that i always come in too late on, since i rarely read nonfiction and it takes me a while to jump onto nonfiction bandwagons. but here i am, way behind the rest of y’all on the oregon trail, probably riddled with dysentery.
or that. which is probably a good place to dive into this review, because even though its synopsis keeps stressing the word “ ...more
This is one of those books that I can't stop talking about. Literally. My dental hygienist even wrote it down because she asked me for a good book recommendation. She likes biographies. YASSSSSSSSS! I'M READING THE BEST MEMOIR EVER!!! YOU MUST BUY IT TODAY!!! (That was in between spitting and rinsing, of course.)
I love memoirs written by unusual people. Tara Westover is not only highly educated, but she is stubborn as a bulldog and pulled herself up by the steel-toed boots she wore as ...more
Tara Westover grew up under the watchful eye of a survivalist and fundamentalist family. Her parents did not believe in sending children to school for fear of being brainwashed, they did not believe in doctors, hospitals or medication. Whenever a member of the family was injured they would be treated at home with tinctures, herbs, and homemade remedies. There is a lot more to the story than this brief ...more
My little nothing opinion falls around something like this.
Tara grows up in a different kind of family. Her dad knows that the end of the world is coming and makes sure his family is always ready. He has them preparing food constantly, digs a shelter, does not believe in association with anything government (including doctors)...mom is a midwife that practices with herbal cures. The family has strong beliefs that center ...more
Harrowing, heartbreaking, and ultimately triumphant, Educated is at times difficult to read and not at all what I expected, but I couldn't tear myself away from it.
"Mother had always said we could go to school if we wanted. We just had to ask Dad, she said. Then we could go. But I didn't ask. There was something in the hard line of my father's face, in the quiet sigh of supplication he made every morning before he began family prayer, that made me think my curiosity was an obscenity, an ...more
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 ...more
Educated is an incredible story and it's written very well. It was emotional and hard to read at times, but I found myself truly captivated from beginning to end. This book actually reminded me of The Glass ...more
Ugh this is hard for me... I really am such a positive reviewer for the most part, but this book I unfortunately found disappointing.... this could be for multiple reasons, I went in with high expectations... I had read so many glowing reviews for this book I was expecting greatness.... also this is absolutely not in my preferred list of genres, but this also could’ve helped the book.... as I have very few books to compare it to.... I finished this book well over a week ago ...more