Educated Educated question

Do you think it is true?
Kimberly Kimberly Jul 21, 2018 12:11PM
Recently finished this book and it is fabulous. However, I did a Google search on this book and an article popped up where her parents had complained that she was not truthful. It listed her parents names as Val and LaRee Westover. I went to Facebook and LaRee has a page. Portion of it is public and there was a picture of Val. He has no scars at all. I don’t see how someone could’ve been burned as badly on their face as she said he was in the book and not have scarring. If you look at the friends list on this Facebook page, she has friends with Tyler and Richard and their wives. And from Tyler‘s page you can see he is friends with Tara, so I do feel that it is not a different families page. I am started to think the book was heavily fabricated.

Although it is possible that Tara Westover exaggerated the severity of some of the injuries (perhaps because she was young and frightened at the time they happened), I am surprised and disappointed at the tone of some of the comments here implying that she is some sort of fraud. She is a credible witness! She provides many details and a coherent account of really awful times she came through. And by calling her a fraud, readers add to her lifetime of being misunderstood and not accepted.

With respect to her lack of formal education before age 17, it is important to remember that she was taught to read (in order to read religious texts) and someone who can read and is highly intelligent will find material to read. She also describes how her singing and participation in a local theater group opened up broader horizons. And the fact that she had older brothers who found a way into college was a key point. They helped her make the transition. In addition, she was honest about how her early times at BYU were very, very difficult.

Another reason I believe her is that I know that there are cruel, ignorant, and even mentally ill parents out there and there are rural "survivalists" hoarding supplies and accumulating guns. Did we believe Jeannette Walls in The Glass Castle which in many ways was even harder to accept (parents with means choosing to be homeless)? I think we did.

Further, anyone who watches the interviews with Tara on line will detect that she seems somewhat nervous, fragile, and lacking in self-assurance. This is because she grew up in a Dickens novel as a ragamuffin and escaped to be a fine educated lady! She is still trying to figure out how to go forward in life.

The bottom line is that I did believe the gist of her story (if not every detail) and I think it is important to believe her because she has overcome huge obstacles to become extremely literate and successful. The Gates Cambridge Scholarship is a HUGE achievement, like winning the Olympics for a young academic. And the selection involves not just being an expert in your field, but having a broad perspective, being logical, and articulate.

Sorry for the long post... but I just had to get those points out there...

I believe the story Tara told in her memoir. I also believe there are two sides to every story, and I believe her parents are lying. They may remember events differently in some cases, but her father clearly suffers from untreated mental illness and her mother lives in fear. Her behavior throughout Tara's story proves that she in unwilling to challenge the abuse and gaslighting, and in some cases she even spurs the false narrative to protect herself, sacrificing her own children. It's extremely sad, but not at all unexpected.

On the picture of Val, LaRee has a comment that it was taken a year and a half after the accident. He does not look maimed. Possibilities include it's an old picture, it's photoshopped, it's not actually him, or he wasn't as badly injured as the book said. LaRee also has a comment stating "you read 'something' in the book but not the real story."

Valaree (Sharp) seems to be Audrey, as she is mentioned as LaRee's daughter on the butterfly expressions website. Megan Cox Westover is probably Shawn's wife, because there are tons of pictures of a little boy with an oxygen tube on her Facebook. To be frank, it looks like they are living in squalor, or at least were. Their medically fragile child is shown climbing cinderblock "steps", leaning against Shawn's(?) oily shirt, and drinking out of a garden hose.

As for why she kept going home for more abuse, I agree that it's deeply frustrating, but it's unfortunately extremely common with children of narcissistic/abusive parents. We're wired to please our parents for survival, and it doesn't usually turn off at adulthood.

On the whole, I believe Tara. I'll be disappointed if it turns out she exaggerated the injury to make the story more dramatic. She talks about a lasting facial deformity and a hand deformity when he visits her at BYU. But we have a saying in trauma circles, "the black sheep tells the truth". I believe the crux of the book is true.

Yes, I do think it's all true. Why? Because I relate to a lot of it, and I know others who went through different, yet similar types of experiences (cult-like family systems, no school, no medical care, crazy beliefs, etc). There are a lot more of these stories out there than you think, but she has the guts to go through it all and share it, and she has the ability to write it well. She also did exceptionally well, although I know others out there succeeding in ways you would find equally unbelievable. Fro example, it's actually quite common for people to not to go to school until university and not only do well, but better than schooled children (not sure if that's an endorsement of homeschooling as much as an indictment of public school). I've seen this both as a student and a prof. I was only "home schooled" (didn't go to school) for about 50% of the time before uni, but I have a PhD now. The second disbelief is how she pays. She didn't go into the boring details of graduate school funding, but yes, she would have been able to do it. Most people are unaware of how that system work. As for no to little medical care: yes, that can have negative long-term consequences, but you'd be surprised what you can live through. That part is luck, and then getting things corrected if you can as an adult. In her case, she was lucky and later sought medical care. Her brothers didn't heal right, but they lived. Again, because this is just life for so many of us in North America, I'm amazed at how many people are having trouble believing these aspects of her story. It sounds pretty familiar to lots of people. And yes, it's not ideal or good, it just is. Even I, after coming to terms with this stuff so long ago was struck with the fact about her birth certificate: I too only got one at age 9. I didn't realize until I read it that that is kind of weird.

A Million Little Pieces. Can’t help but wonder if this will be the same.... Teach yourself Trig and get almost straight As as a freshman at BYU, yet not knowing who Shakespeare is, the difference between continents and countries, how babies are conceived, how slavery ensued, what the Holocaust was. This story would hold the same amount of intrigue if only speaking to the familial, physical, emotional, psychological and social hardships she endured, absent the sensationalist elements of her excelling in college to a degree so unlikely it’s almost insulting to read of. I hate to be a pessimist, but really. Call me jaded by the outcomes of Oprah’s book club. One positive, she’s a decent writer.

I thought Tara herself very deftly explored the nature of truth and how different people experience exactly the same event and recount it entirely differently. She does not claim to have the perfect truth, she claims to have her truth. I thought that element of the story was interesting and has been under-explored in discussions around the book.

Kimberly wrote: "Recently finished this book and it is fabulous. However, I did a Google search on this book and an article popped up where her parents had complained that she was not truthful. It listed her parent..."

I don't know what the family's attorney would say other than don't take Tara Westover's account at face value. That said, her brother (can't remember the name but it was the one she considered a particular ally) had a blog up at one point. He disputed many of her claims about how isolated they were and what the quality of the home education they actually got was.

He has since taken that blog down but one point he made has stayed with me. While I am now as inclined to take his account with a grain of salt as I am Tara's *and* her parents' lawyer's, the undisputed fact is that 3 of those kids went on -- from the same circumstances -- to get PhDs. In light of that I think you have to wonder how singular she is and what contributed to that quest for scholarship was that she wasn't completely honest in acknowledging.

Her achievement *is* hers to be proud of. But I think there is reason to suspect her motives and, perhaps, her failure to be candid about the family's more constructive contributions to her success.

The truth is something relative to the experience of each of one. It is the truth that she wants to tell, the same way all of us have different memories about ours life.

The book is about the Tara version about her life.

I just finished the book last night and started looking for more infos without the fear of being spoiled. And then I see that as usually, quite some people expect things to be fully black or white, no grey. So they start a debate about whether the content of the book is true (even partially) or not and pick up some potential incoherencies to discredit everything.
It is quite probable that both sides (Tara and her supports Vs the parents and their supports) honestly think their version is the truth, because that's the way they lived the events, with their own culture and education telling them what is right and wrong.
Tara was obviously raised in a family where women have little to say about anything, they are expected to grow up to be the perfect wife: give births to tons of children and have a life as a perfect housewife, without need to see how life is outside their home. So obviously when Shawn/Travis claims that Tara is not being abused, their father will listen to him, because it is easier but also because he thinks that it is Shawn's duty to make sure his little sis will be a good girl and a good wife. And her mother will shut up, because that's her duty as a wife, she is not supposed to give her opinion, even if it is to help/save her own children. Quite some people from mediterranean countries both North and South, still behave like that, even if for most of them, there is no physical abuse. And probably in other parts of the World, but I'll talk about what I know only.
The fact that she keeps going back and suffers a lot from cutting family ties is also quite common and not at all senseless: she was raised with the idea, the dogma, that family is all that matters, and that she should revere her parents like they are gods. Even when family is completely dysfunctional, people still will say "yes, but it is my family and I love them". Love and hate are not that different sometimes and I think she just kept hoping that one day, everything would be different and that she could at last have a normal relationship with them. She ended up giving up on that hope, but not without fighting.
Yes, the book title is about education and how being educated can change your life. But the central story for me is not how a home schooled girl ended up in Cambridge and Harvard. It is about how a girl being physically and psychologically abused by her brother and her parents by not being supported on that very aspect still manages to have a "normal" life afterwards. I use the " " because her need to write a book about it, and all the struggles she's had during her Cambridge/Harvard years, when she found out what a normal life is for a western girl, makes me think that those scars will never disappear. I see this book as a kind of revenge against her family, presenting her side of the story, which is probably not 100% accurate, but who could present the cold hard facts only when having suffered so much, mostly when she realized he childhood was stolen by having to work in a junkyard with a careless delusional father and having to endure her brother's taste for power and violence.
The sad part is that there are probably thousands of Tara's in the World who do not have the chance to have a mind brilliant enough to escape that and who probably reproduce the same scheme on their own children. And when I see some comments here, I think patriarchal family structure is still extremely popular, even in some parts of USA. An for sure the American president would be the first to call Tara's book as "fake news" and probably most people discarding this great book as a pile of BS are his supporters...

There are many red flags, most listed above. It reminds me that the book "Tatooist of Aushwitz" was similarly proven "fictional" in many parts. And the book "The Silent Patient" is also buried under much of its storyline by people who note no one with the "author's" viewpoint could ever have passed muster to be certified as therapist in any reputable place of learning, certification. Yet all three books we are talking about have been on best seller lists for long long time. It just shows how gullible people can be drawn in. Like with our politics for the last year or so. We just like to believe all the atrocious things we read, or hear, Like wanting to drive slow so we can see the horrible results across the highway of a bad wreck.

Yes I think it is true, according to Tara's memory. If you look into statistics on retaining details years after events, you'll find memory is extremely failible, which would account for why there are variations in details from siblings. Those details are irrelevant though, the general themes of neglect, abuse, mental health and education are what hold this novel together and are no doubt close to the truth.

It was the part about her riding the horse which bolted that made me doubt the veracity of the story. If she was such an experienced rider, that rode unbroken horses, then why did she cling to the saddle horn and wait for her brother to rescue her? How did he come up beside her on a narrow mountain trail and how did he turn the horse in circles to slow it down on the side of a mountain? (Apart from the fact that chasing a bolting horse is something you only see in movies because galloping up behind on another horse only makes the one in front run faster.) I call BS on this part of the story.

Guys, this is a memoir, that means it was very carefully fact checked(you can find the details of that online). There are rules for publishing, someone can’t just write whatever they want and call it a biography or memoir and if you noticed at the end of the book the author has some notes about a few details that are disputed among her siblings as to how they took place. Logically speaking, why would someone note that her sister was actually taken to the doctor once so she is truthful to the facts but lies about such an important event as having her father badly burned?
Also, we all know we can upload a photo from 1995 in 2019 and no one would know. Her dad was burned around 2006 if I’m correct and that photo has been uploaded in 2009 when Tara confronted her parents about her brother. Is it that incredible that in the context of her parents behavior her mum put up that photo taken before the accident and then lied in the comments?

Angela lol didn't you read Amityville Horror. That was a memior ...more
Sep 15, 2021 08:46PM

I saw the photo you’re talking about and wondered the same. One possibility is that the photo was actually taken before the explosion.

It is so unnerving to read that some readers think that Tara has embellished her story. Exactly the same thing that her parents did to her. If you believe that her parents say that she is not telling the truth, then you are blaming the victim and not the abusers.

Loved the book but I also saw Her dad’s pic on Facebook and he is not even slightly disfigured. This makes me question how much of the book is completely true. I don’t see why she would make that up. Extremely interesting person and obviously she couldn’t make it all up but the non-disfigured dad pic shows there is a big fictional element to the story.

Parts of it certainly seemed unbelievable to me. The injuries to Tara and her brother that seemed to heal without treatment had me questioning, as you are, whether these things could really have happened.

I stumbled upon this thread as I was reminiscing about my time as a missionary in Preston. I've met Val and Laree, been in their home and worked alongside Val in church assignments. They are special, by the standards of the world, and many comments about homeschooling, alternative medicine and not relying on doctors are true. From what I've seen they are also good people that have tried to give their children the very best they had to offer. I do remember Val having scars on his hands, and him often working in his workshop - and selling salvaged metal, but I don't recognize the comments about them being abusive. I remember visiting with them and Val speaking about Tara being off a college and to me he seemed proud of her.
Like most stories and experiences I am sure there are many sides to the story, I just thought I would throw my two cents in.

I have questioned whether items have been embellished, but, as a whole, I believe it is true. It's important to always question...

I definitely believe her story. The kinds of things that happened and the details would be hard to make up if it didnt actually happen to you. I do think some parts were exaggerated, because, books always are. It helps to sell the book. I think the basis of the story is real. I was sickened that she kept going back home, knowing what would happen, but I also understand that she was loyal to her family. She didn't know it was a choice not to be.

I buy Tara's story. Why cover up the ugly side of her family life with half-truths? Truth or fiction peppered with poetic license--whatever; it's still a good story. Clinging to spots (including #1) for 75 weeks on the NYT Best Sellers Listings, supports that statement.
How appropriate that Tara Westover, the author of this memoir, was raised in a junkyard setting! Even more apt, that she, after a heart-wrenching, drawn-out struggle with her parents (especially ‘daddy dearest,’), was able to salvage herself from this life of ignorance—and subjugation under family rule. Educated, with a deserved, tenuous hold on the New York Times Bestseller Listing, is an excellent read. It’s enlightening, too, delving into Mormon beliefs and their effect on different family members. I highly recommend this book for its narration of personal conflicts and tensions that exist within the Westover family. Even the book cover deserves applause: a sharpened pencil, representing Buck’s Peak (the Westover’s home turf), with the minuscule figure of Tara deliberating an insurmountable climb toward becoming educated and discovering her true self.

I'm deeply troubled by the book.

My children have complained that their education is a waste of time, and we've fought over it to no end. Now I feel I owe them an apology. The author would have me believe that seven years spent in middle and high school could be replaced with two years of part time independent self study. That was sufficient for her to score one-and-a-half standard deviations above the state average ACT score and succeed as an undergraduate.

That's an indictment of someone, and I don't know who.

The book undoubtedly has elements of truth to it, but it's obviously sensationalized. It's plainly obvious the narrative was written in such a way as to be a best seller and win critical praise--what better way to do this than to write a story loosely based on your revisionist reality, where the only people who can dispute any of the claims you make are precisely those the intelligentsia is primed to think are completely crazy.

The truth is out there somewhere and doubtless a story worth telling. But I suspect we'll never see the version independent of the influence of her Cambridge professors and the narrative they desperately wanted to be true.

I don't believe everything is true. Have you read Tyler's review of the book. He was trying to be fair. I have read some reviews that doubt it is true because Val is not scared. But from what I've read he did seek medical help and it wasn't doing him the good he needed. Him not being scared is due to LeRae's abilities to find and use what his body needed to heal. She was blessed to find things that helped it heal (Young Living owner had a similar experience and the oils helped him heal and not scar.) I KNOW that LaRae has said many times in her podcasts that there is a time when you need Doctors. AND I don't believe their education was horrible and that the parents did not support them going on and getting college educations. Of course, not everyone in those times did support and encourage college degrees. They frequently saw when it didn't help. Now the dysfunction with the out of control sibling is another story.

U 25x33
JaneBV I think that there are many brilliant self-educated people today. She learned to read well enough to read the Bible and was motivated to keep reading. ...more
Aug 11, 2021 11:58AM · flag

Educated was an interesting memoir that depicted an upbringing that I never would have thought someone living in America could have. Westover’s life was full of so many hardships including abuse, lack of a proper education, and no support from family, but she still managed to write a bestselling memoir, attend some of the best universities in the world, and earn a PhD. The debate over whether the events portrayed in the memoir are actually true have only been propelled by the claims of her parents and the recent publishing of her mother LaRee Westover’s book Educating. Some people claim that Tara’s version of the story is exaggerated, and that she could not have ended up so successful after such a rough childhood. But I believe her account, because even if they had been exaggerated, a fraction of the suffering that she talked about would still have proved to be a traumatic experience. It is always better to believe the story of someone who has claimed to have gone through something rather than go against them. It likely took a lot of effort and courage for Tara to relive many of the moments she wrote about, and I think her story is inspiring and shows so many people, including myself, how privileged we are to have a good upbringing and education.

I too, have my doubts. While some of the story seems credible, other parts read like a fantastical nonfiction adventure. I viewed photos of Shawn and there doesn’t seem to be a mark on his forehead where he supposedly had a hole so deep that his brains were showing. It also seems to me that Westover goes to great lengths to defend herself from her family’s accusations of distorting the truth about their life. I guess that if she indeed did lie, the truth will be revealed eventually...

Yes, it is true. Her parents are embarrassed, and they have a livelihood that has probably been affected by this story coming out. I do believe that childhood perception can be different than how her parents viewed events and how they interpreted them. Adult perception can be very wrong as well. It can be important to believe trauma over perception. Whether a person has been blessed/privileged enough to live life without having experienced those kinds of circumstances or having someone else close to them experience those circumstances, the empathy and compassion is important even if what real is in the middle somewhere.

I have read Educated, and am recently discussing it in an online book club. There are parts in the book where Tara admits to possibly not being correct. The whole Luke being inflamed from the gasoline is a creation where Tara literally is speaking, thinking, and feeling for members of her family, when she was not even present. She says in the book, she imagine this is how it happened. To me that is "fiction" so, I choose to take her accounts of extreme incidents, "with a grain of salt." In the book she says her brother, mother and father helped her learn algebra and trigonometry, yet she refused to acknowledge her home schooling, and their parts in helping her at her graduation, and in interviews. My one question I keep asking is this... once Tara was an adult, away from her home and the abuse of her brother Shawn, gone through counseling and is writing this book, why at some point did she NOT report the abuse to authorities or Children Services to at least get them to investigate to protect Shawn's wife, children and others from his violence? An abuser never stops abusing, they just find new victims. I am NOT blaming the victim here (Tara) I am just wondering why she didn't involve authorities and Children Services. We all know you do NOT need proof to report. This is the late 1990's early 2000s, suspicious abuse should be reported and let the authorities take it from there.

I grew up in a community not far from Clifton and I know some people who sell the Butterfly Expressions products. The depiction of her family being immersed in essential oil treatments is not far fetched. Also, suspicion of government, medicine, and worldly Mormons is not surprising. It's kind of a mentality in rugged rural towns.

Kimberly wrote: "Recently finished this book and it is fabulous. However, I did a Google search on this book and an article popped up where her parents had complained that she was not truthful. It listed her parent..."


I don’t read this book through a literral interpretation, but through the lenses of themes

The theme of abuse, isolationism, and religious ferver.

I’ll give you an example. I am sure if you stop to consider where you come from, you can probably recall one family or child in your class who came from a home where maybe the parents were heavy handed with discipline, or s/he went without food sometimes. Everybody knew about it but nobody intervened for various reasons.

I think this is a well timed novel, being on the precipice of the times up and me
too movement.

I believed everything. There may have been some badly remembered details but in her mind they are truthful. I have mainly been shocked by Tyler's comments. His long discourse on how helpful his father was to him is meaningless. It actually makes his father's abuse of Tara even worse as he is trying to demonstrate the decency of his father despite the horrific abuse of Tara. Tyler then excuses himself by saying he'd left home by the time most of the abuse happened. There seems to have been a constant requirement from the family for Tara to provide proof of abuse, although I'm not sure how, whereas all of her teacher's took her at her word. I think overall the family have acted shabbily towards her, without even being aware of it.

Kimberly wrote: "Recently finished this book and it is fabulous. However, I did a Google search on this book and an article popped up where her parents had complained that she was not truthful. It listed her parent..."

I believe I saw the same photo on LaRee's FB page of a Christmas party, and she comments on it that the explosion was just one of the things she took issue with about the book.

As far as whether the drama with the family is exaggerated, consider that while Tara is FB friends with a few of her siblings, that isn't the case with all of them and it isn't the case with her mother, either. Also, Tyler backs up most of what was written in the book in the review he wrote on Amazon (you can find the text in another thread on GR), acknowledging that she was abused and only offering a few quibbles on the nature of their homeschooling and what not. is too accurate to not be true...I was not raised mormon or homeschooled....but I lived that life growing up through and through...

To the people commenting on her father's burns not being visible in a photo of him: I read a statement from THEIR (parents) lawyer acknowledging the burns. The photo must be old. The fact that the mother commented on it saying that was proof their daughter was lying doesn't sit right with me. Since their own lawyer acknowledged the injury, to me the mother's the one lying and that proves Tara's version of things. Either way it was a great book, I really enjoyed it.

This book has bothered me ever since I read it several years ago and not just because of the horrific abuse in it. It has also bothered me from a credibility standpoint such as you mentioned. When I read it, I researched her family on Facebook and her mother's page showed photos which included her father. While they were not clear enough to say definitively if her father had evidence of burn injuries, I just happened to check Facebook again and found that those photos have since been removed. However, her father, Val Westover, now has his own FB page with a 2020 photo of him that is very clear. Also, her mother has written her own book. Here's an article about that.

The likelihood that three of the children from this family would get PhD's is pretty remarkable if things were as Tara indicated in her book. Just one more of those things that causes me to question the validity of her story.

How many of us truly remember every detail from our childhood or who hasn’t filled in missing pieces with their own memory whether it’s true or not? That is how I view this book. Clearly, siblings have different memories as we do in my own family. Personally, I was captivated by her writing and her story. Even if some topics were embellished, I was provoked into thoughtfulness and completely empathized with every family member for the struggles we all have emotionally or mentally. We all want to be good parents, good daughters, good sons and that’s what I took away from this. The struggle to be that “good” person when no one is good or bad - we just are.

I haven't gotten that far yet but I am already beginning to question the veracity of the book. She excelled in education without school during childhood. First Flag.

Kimberly wrote: "Recently finished this book and it is fabulous. However, I did a Google search on this book and an article popped up where her parents had complained that she was not truthful. It listed her parent..."

On the photo of her father, Laree states “looks pretty good for a man who was blown up in an explosion”. As a nurse, this was a good book but the medical pieces didn’t add up. He would have died if the injury was as bad as she states from volume loss alone.

Kimberly wrote: "Recently finished this book and it is fabulous. However, I did a Google search on this book and an article popped up where her parents had complained that she was not truthful. It listed her parent..."
Perhaps the photo of Val was photoshopped?

Kimberly wrote: "Recently finished this book and it is fabulous. However, I did a Google search on this book and an article popped up where her parents had complained that she was not truthful. It listed her parent..."
That seems to be her brother. No recent photos of her father appear online, to my knowledge.

In regards to whether or not Tara exaggerated her father's disfigurement and scarring, even Tara's mother agrees this happened. She writes about it on her own website, and says that thanks to her miracle salve, the scarring is barely noticeable today.

I questioned why Tara consistently went back home for more abuse. “If you do what you did, you’ll get what you got.” It boggled my mind that Tara accepted the abuse from most members of her family for most of her life and yet was able to rise so high above, yes, to heights unimaginable -such as a free ride to Cambridge and even Harvard.

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