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Group Reads - Non-Fiction > Group Non-Fiction Read Q1 2019 - Educated

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Jo Weston (joster) | 1697 comments Mod
The discussion thread is now open. Spoilers are allowed on this thread. Don't read on if you haven't finished the book. Can you also unclick the 'Add to my update feed' people don't see your comments in their home screen.

Things to consider:

1. Did you like the book?
2. Do you think that the author covers the subject adequately?
3. Do you like the tone and language of the book?
4. Was there any part of the book that was important or significant to you?
5. Have you learnt anything from the book?
6. Has reading this encouraged you to look for other books on the subject?

Gisela Hafezparast | 242 comments It will be really interesting to hear what you all think. I read it a few months ago and had one opinion, but other people's review and opinions, especially those coming from the US, who have more local knowledge, has made me think since then.

The story is basically the story of a fanatical (even for the Mormon community) religious family and the awakening of a young girl/women. The author does point out in the book and in subsequent interviews, that this is her take on her and her family's story, but others (including some of her family members) see what happened differently.

For me it also shows the strange place the US really is, where parents can totally isolate their offspring and rule over them without anybody interfering or even checking on the well-being. The book is clearly also about mental illness, the interplay between religion, (family) dictatorship, misogyny, domestic abuse and on the positive side (and there are some), real family and sibling love, freedom to pursue your own way of life, and opportunity to change your life when you realized that that what you needed to do. A place where a survivalist lifestyle where people do not want to engage with society because they feel that society is the straight way to hell, can at the same time co-exist with a totally capitalism approach to abusing people's lack of funds to pay for real medical help and/also wish to use alternative medicine. Again, that can just be done, no regulation, nobody stopping what for me is "abuse". It's mind boggling!

When I first read the book, I was full of admiration for the author that she has managed to turn her life around. Reading other people's review made me still admire her, but again, also realizing that she has capitalized on her and her family's experience. Mmhh, truly American?

I would love to read more books on these types of societies, definitely.

Looking forward to hearing what others think.

Lisa (mrswhams) | 730 comments Mod
Great review, Gisela – I agree with what you say. It sounds as if writing the story at the time was a kind of therapy for her. She obviously has capitalised on it, but the book's success seems to have surprised her; she comes across as a modest type.

This was my choice and I do urge everyone to read it as it is fascinating, well written and as gripping a memoir as I have ever read.

I'm not going to comment too much more just yet to give people a chance to read it but this caused the best discussion yet in my RL book group so I'm hoping it will do the same here.

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Jason (jasondenness) | 1875 comments Not heard of this one before, sounds like home schooling gone mad, so will give it a go methinks

Lisa (mrswhams) | 730 comments Mod
Mad is right! It's fair to say some fairly jaw-dropping things happen.

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Jo Weston (joster) | 1697 comments Mod
This has been recommended to me by several people and reading your passionate post Lisa means I am really looking forward to reading it early next year. Thanks for proposing it.

Julie | 6 comments Just picked this up from the library yesterday. Looking forward to starting it in the new year!

Jessica | 44 comments Randomly received this book for Christmas - I'll be reading it after I've finished the book I'm currently in the middle of.

Lisa (mrswhams) | 730 comments Mod
Just wanted to mention that this won the GoodReads Choice Award for Memoir/Autobiography, so it counts towards our Vipers 2019 Award Winners Challenge 😁

Jessica | 44 comments Just finished reading Educated and it was quite enjoyable. It was a well written book that had a great flow to it. I found part three of the book to be a bit slower than the rest. Some of the stories about school seemed to drag on a bit to me and probably could have been cut down a bit. All in all it was an excellent book though!

It boggles my mind that the author (Tara Westover) and her siblings grew up the way they did and that there was no concern for their well-being by others that knew them. Tara and I are the same age so it is definitely eye opening that while we live in the same types of countries we grew up so differently.

Tara (and some of her siblings) are clearly very intelligent - to be able to graduate from a university level without having any prior schooling speaks volumes to her character and intelligence. The fact that she was able to escape the abusive nature of her family after being taught it her whole life also speaks volumes to her being.

Her dad clearly had some mental health issues going on to go along with his religious fanaticism - which is sad. He seemed to truly love his family even if he didn't have the best way of showing it. To me it seemed that Shawn inherited some of these mental issues, and unless he gets some help he will continue to live an abusive life.

I agree with the statement above that the book was a type of therapy for Tara. Throughout her life she has kept journals, so it seems that writing is an outlet for her. It is awesome and amazing that she was able to find this outlet, even if she didn't realize it.

I know my comments were all over the place above - so I apologize. But I really did enjoy this book and found it to be enlightening. Excellent book and I hope she continues to be able to heal and move forward with her life!

Gisela Hafezparast | 242 comments Shawn and his abusive behaviour to all women was the scariest. I'm not sure if it he is also mentally ill or just an abuser, but if something isn't done about it, he will kill a women sooner or later. What I don't understand is that nobody in their community did anything for these kids, especially the girls. I don't know much about the mormon community, but I thought one of the positive points was that it was supposed to be a caring community. So why did nobody help!

Jessica | 44 comments @Gisela - completely agree with you - he will end up killing someone at some point. He is definitely an abuser but I do believe he may have mental health issues that go along with it (only my opinion).

I also can't understand why nobody was looking out for these kids. Even the grandparents could have done something about the situation. But - I also don't know much about the Mormon community so I can't really speak too much to it.

Becky | 161 comments I went into the book without particularly high expectations. I've heard all the hype about it but I've also heard some negative reviews, particularly around how believable people found it.

To begin with I found it quite readable. I’ve got a fiction book on the go as well and figured I would probably read a bit of Educated each day after work and then get back to the other book. That’s what I intended to do yesterday, I was about a third of the way through Educated and hadn’t picked it up for a couple of days so thought I’d better get on with a bit of it. Hours later I’d finished it. It was just so readable and compelling.

I found a lot of it to be an uncomfortable read given the violence and the extreme views, particularly the way they spoke about young girls.

I agree with the rest of you, Shawn is a very dangerous man. They can keep covering up for him but where will it lead? I had also wondered if he was mentally ill.

It actually made me think a few times about the relationship between extreme behaviour or views and mental illness. Where the line is between them and what is cause and what is effect. Shawn is obviously a very violent, abusive man with a certain view of women, none of which fits with what we would consider acceptable or ‘normal’. Does that make him mentally ill or just a nasty piece of work? Or are his views and behaviour caused by mental illness. Similarly, with the father and his extreme views and paranoia, particularly around conspiracies and the government. (The ideas aren’t clear in my mind so I’m sure I haven’t expressed them clearly.)

I was also astonished by her father’s complete disregard for any sort of safety, even after people were seriously hurt. I could see that it was based on his belief that God and the angels would protect them and whatever happened it was God’s will. However, as someone who isn’t at all religious it had me mentally throwing my hands up in frustration.

I accepted that they lived a fairly isolated life and actively hid some of what was going on so I didn’t particularly question the lack of intervention from other people. Especially given the extreme views of the father and brainwashing of everyone else. How much could the grandparents, for example, have actually done. The thing that did seem strange to me was that the police didn’t insist on them being taken to hospital after the first car crash, particularly given how badly injured the mother was.

I'm not sure if enjoyable is the right word to describe the book although I had a very good reading experience. It is definitely thought provoking and I very much admire Tara's drive and determination to educate herself.

Gisela Hafezparast | 242 comments Whilst not condoning or understanding how you could chose to live like that, I could sort of see that the parents had a religious/ life view and therefore where doing what they were doing. However, when the mother then started to make serious money from her "medicine" without sharing it around her community but actual accepting money from people who clearly couldn't afford the American health system, that's when I stopped believing in their convictions and got really cross on behalf of their children and community. Did anybody else feel that way?

Becky | 161 comments I thought it detracted somewhat from the point of the "medicine". Surely remedies that supposedly involve the "healer" putting their energy and focus into it lose something when produced on the more industrial scale that she was up to later in the book.

Her healing and midwifery (when practised outside the family) seemed to always be about making money for her. She started as a midwife's assistant as a job. It never seemed to be done as a calling.

message 16: by Lisa (last edited Jan 25, 2019 02:21AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lisa (mrswhams) | 730 comments Mod
Well, I suppose a 'calling', done for free, doesn't put food on the table, and it sounds like money was tight at various times when the scrapyard wasn't doing so well.

The midwifery thing was interesting because it obviously completely terrified her that the life of mother and child was put into her hands. It was obviously not a job she ever really wanted to do.

The thing about the 'reality' of the book is interesting. Tara emphasises several times that these are her own memories, which may not be fully true, and she has footnotes describing how members of her family dispute her version (but have equally varied memories of the events themselves). These are often related to the most traumatic events. So I think the book really engages with the idea of memory and how personal it is.

I suspect she had a lot more home education that she remembers; instead her main memories are of how often she had to do 'medicine'-based errands for her mum or work at the scrapyard.

My own view of Shawn is that he had a callous and bullying nature from the start, which was exacerbated by a terrible head injury and possibly hereditary mental health problems that made him very volatile. My RL book group felt that there he may have sexually abused Tara as well, although she never says so explicitly.

Jessica | 44 comments I never felt like the family truly cared about the community so I wasn't surprised when they didn't share the wealth when they started making a decent amount of money off the medicine. It seemed like anytime they had some spare money it would be spent on making sure the family would survive the end of the world.

I agree that Tara and the other children probably had more education then she remembers. I believe they probably got more education before the accident where the mom suffered a serious brain injury. I have a feeling the mom was a lot more accepting of a bit more of a 'normal' lifestyle but after the brain injury she tended to side with the dad more often.

Imogen | 60 comments I liked this book a lot. It's a miracle any of the children survived their upbringing and Tara showed enormous inner resources to have escaped her background and gained a doctorate. At times it read like a thriller, when her life and those of members of her family were repeatedly on the line, and at times it was much more elegiac as she mourned what was lost, and the beautiful place she grew up. At still other times it was almost like a self-help book: if I can do this, you can conquer your petty problems, reader! I had assumed this book was all hype, but actually it lives up to the hype for me, and more.

Corey Nelson (coreynelson) | 8 comments Recently finished the book. Like others, there seemed to be so much hype which sparked my interest. A retelling of life is usually not my cup of tea. But once I started, it was so hard to even take breaks. The writing has a great temp as to careful explain her world as she experienced it but not bogged down with details that distract. I was fasciated.

It seemed so odd that Tara was in a family that held such distrust of everyone else, that she struggled so much to grasp that danger that Shawn was her entire life. Brutality triggers one’s self-preservation. That should have helped her understand much sooner but then again, look at the examples from the other women around her. Even the men accepted abuse, if not outright commit it themselves, as normal.

Since the book frequently pointed out that others remembered things a bit different (not surprising in any way as humans do that, and some might still be in denial) it almost begs sequels for a more robust view including what others experienced. For that reason, this story is more a case study than a book.

This story was not written by someone without skills to communicate and grasp, eventually, the bigger view of what was going on her life. I throughly enjoyed this book.

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