Tournament of Books discussion

note: This topic has been closed to new comments.
143 views

Comments Showing 1-17 of 17 (17 new)    post a comment »
dateDown arrow    newest »

message 1: by [deleted user] (new)

This thread is for open discussion of Educated: A Memoir, by Tara Westover.

NOTE: As usual in our group, book threads may contain spoilers.

So, let's talk about it...


message 2: by [deleted user] (last edited Mar 31, 2018 01:06PM) (new)

I haven't read any of the three NF books yet, but I will in the next couple of weeks. Please, go ahead and start the conversation.


message 3: by Janet (new)

Janet (justjanet) | 641 comments The most implausible event in this book was that Tara Westover went from barely being able to read as a pre-teen (because she had never attended school regularly) to being offered a scholarship to Cambridge where she earned a PHD. At the same time she was coping with living in a very abusive and dangerous environment. If you can suspend your disbelief, this is a good story.


message 4: by Peebee (new)

Peebee | 68 comments I agree that it seemed implausible, which frankly was part of its appeal. If she hadn’t triumphed in the end, it would have been really really depressing.

But what exactly is implausible about it?

I’m assuming that the publisher did a fair amount of work to verify her claims before publishing, as no one wants a James Frey disaster. And certainly her academic/professional success is easily verifiable via her professors, colleagues, and employers at this point. It’s not that she’s faking her current success — she couldn’t get away with that.

So either she’s really successful, but her childhood wasn’t as traumatic as she represents it....or it happened essentially as she remembers and recounts it. If she had some help from a ghostwriter or editor to make her presentation more polished, that doesn’t take away from her truth, and is something that many first-time authors do — in fact, I would imagine it’s expected to a certain extent.

Granted, if her childhood wasn’t as traumatic as she remembered it, that part is probably not as verifiable, given her father’s extreme distrust of anyone outside the family and their level of isolation. But there are certainly people in the community aware of some of the events, some who worked for the family business, and those who were part of the circle of the family members who escaped.

I do believe that there are people out there as monstrous as her father, and wives who are enablers and who preserve their marriages at the expense of their children. Untreated mental illness can do a tremendous amount of damage to those caught up in its wake. However, the human tendency would be to suppress the memories and minimize the impact, rather than exaggerate it.

Given that the people I know who have suffered the most trauma also tend to be the most resilient, once she made it out (which most would not and thus we’d never hear about them) then it stands to reason that succeeding on an intellectual and social level would feel much easier in some ways than enduring more physical and psychological abuse.

While my original inclination was to be skeptical, once I started thinking through why that was, her story became more believable to me, since I couldn’t figure out how she would have possibly gotten away with it. And while it might be understandable that she wanted revenge for what she’s suffered, that didn’t really shine through for me. I thought she went to fairly great lengths to understand and forgive them.

So, I dunno. I’m back to it’s just an incredible story.


message 5: by [deleted user] (last edited Apr 08, 2018 08:13AM) (new)

I just finished listening to the audio version. If I were not moderating the NF tournament, I would have DNF'd it. It's an interesting story, fairly well written, though frequently repetitive and occasionally contradictory. Like too many books of the past few years, it would have benefited from a ruthless edit. If Educated was sold as fiction, I'd give it two stars for too much melodrama and too many implausible events. As a memoir, I don't know what to make of it, so I'm not going to rate it at all.

I couldn't buy in to many of Westover's claims, particularly those about her education. She went from struggling with basic arithmetic to mastering trigonometry and calculus in a matter of months and getting a near perfect score on the ACT? She had virtually no education, but was admitted to BYU and then was recruited for graduate programs at Cambridge and Harvard? She is one of three autodidacts in a family that shuns education? Every bit of knowledge she was exposed to was instantly absorbed and sparked flashes of insight about her parents, religion, mental illness, and social justice? As a child, Westover learned only fundamentalist Mormon dogma and was indoctrinated to distrust anyone outside her immediate family, by whom she was neglected and abused, yet she easily formed relationships and had little fear about moving abroad on her own? None of that rings true.

Maybe everything Westover wrote in her memoir is accurate and nothing is exaggerated. I'm dubious, but it's an incredible story.


message 6: by Janet (new)

Janet (justjanet) | 641 comments Bingo!


Nadine in California (nadinekc) | 576 comments Janet wrote: "Bingo!"

The most recent New York Times Book Review podcast has an interview with Westover.


message 8: by [deleted user] (new)

Nadine wrote: "The most recent New York Times Book Review podcast has an interview with Westover."

Thanks for the heads up! I'll give that a listen.


Jenny (Reading Envy) (readingenvy) | 624 comments Tina wrote: "I just finished listening to the audio version. If I were not moderating the NF tournament, I would have DNF'd it. It's an interesting story, fairly well written, though frequently repetitive and o..."

I think you should hold tightly to that feeling of shenanigans in case it plays out. This is how I felt upon completing Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Promote Peace ... One School at a Time, and we all know how that played out. (I mean come on, Mother Theresa?) I called shenanigans and was so right....


message 10: by Lola (last edited Apr 08, 2018 03:03PM) (new)

Lola | 118 comments Tina wrote: "I just finished listening to the audio version. If I were not moderating the NF tournament, I would have DNF'd it. It's an interesting story, fairly well written, though frequently repetitive and o..."...*getting a near perfect score on the ACT?*

Her score was far from near perfect-36 is perfect. She took it twice-her second score was a 28 which was the one that got her into BYU.

Also, from Janet's comment above, "The most implausible event in this book was that Tara Westover went from barely being able to read as a pre-teen (because she had never attended school regularly)"- she actually learned to read much earlier than that. Her older brother Tony taught her to read when she was four. He got out of the family situation, went to university, and now works in the family essential oil business. I did go down a rabbit hole researching (actually a few rabbit holes, lol) her family. Her family's essential oil business is a very successful one today. https://butterflyexpress.net

Her brother Tyler, who encouraged her to take the ACT and apply to college, went on to graduate school at Purdue. She also had the influence of her maternal grandmother who was very vocal in her disapproval of how the kids were being raised and tried to exert some influence in their upbringing. I also think the fact that various teachers took a strong interest in TW, encouraging and guiding her, had a huge impact in her educational endeavors and successes.

Here is an article from 2008 about her receiving a Gates Scholarship: https://news.byu.edu/news/third-byu-s...

I bought this book hook, line and sinker. If there are shenanigans afoot, Jenny, you can tell me I told you so later ;)

The multiple near-deadly physical injuries and subsequent miraculous recoveries of various family members without medical intervention did give me some pause. I do think that some of her brother "Shawn's" behaviors were perhaps attributable to traumatic head injury.

I listened to the NPR interview when the book first came out and would have liked to have seen what Terry Gross would have done with the opportunity (she was off that week). The interviewer described TW's father as "a character", and I think the interview left an impression of him being more fanciful than harmful. I'm looking forward to listening the NYT podcast.

Tina, I get being unable to rate it. While did give this one 5 enthusiastic stars, I couldn't rate Hunger. I'm still not quite sure what to make of that one.


message 11: by [deleted user] (last edited Apr 08, 2018 04:06PM) (new)

I thought 30 was a perfect ACT score, so I stand corrected about thinking 28 was near the top.

I'm not one to do research on a book I'm reading for pleasure. IMO, it's the author's job to give me all the info I need. I don't doubt Westover's or her family members' accomplishments. Their degrees and business success are documented. I wonder about her earlier life, the stuff that is a matter of perception and could be misrepresented and/or exaggerated. The parts don't add up to the whole for me.


message 12: by Ace (new)

Ace (aceonroam) This book is available on NetGalley as a Read Now.


message 13: by Jan (new)

Jan (janrowell) | 1081 comments Just finished listening to this and enjoyed it quite a bit, although it was challenging to stay with the descriptions of abuse. I felt like the ending dragged on too long and seemed like she was being proactively defensive against the attacks on her veracity that she must have known would come from her family and community once the book was published. I don't feel qualified to judge the veracity, but I will say nothing in here gave me a clear intuitive feeling that I was being lied to--which happened at one point in The Glass Castle and also in several online experiences.

Did her father seem bipolar to you? He was definitely paranoid, and I think he and Sean (sp?) both had traumatic brain injury symptoms, but it was hard to separate the paranoia of the subculture from mental illness & TBI, and if he was bipolar, I'm not sure we ever saw the other pole.

I'm also reading Joyce Carol Oates' A Book of American Martyrs, which takes us deep inside the mind of a religious creep who murders an abortion provider. I am going to need some serious brain candy pretty soon here, folks!


message 14: by [deleted user] (last edited Apr 30, 2018 10:14PM) (new)

Educated is the May read of the PBS News Hour/New York Times Book Club. https://www.pbs.org/newshour/arts/the...


message 15: by Peggy (new)

Peggy | 181 comments Just finished this and hoo-boy I am conflicted but gave it 4 stars for what a compelling read it was. I buy the whole, the some of the parts give me pause. Mainly all the car accidents and junkyard injuries this family suffers--how are any of them still alive? I was certain one or more would die at some point. So, yeah, that seems somewhat questionable.

But I'm a sucker for education will set you free stories and so that kept me invested. If it turns out to be largely proved false or whatever, well, I will reckon with that when/if it happens.


message 16: by [deleted user] (new)

Here is the link to the discussion of Educated: https://themorningnews.org/article/th...


message 17: by [deleted user] (new)

Link to discussion of the second half of Educated: https://themorningnews.org/article/th...


back to top
This topic has been frozen by the moderator. No new comments can be posted.