As I reached the last page of this book yesterday night, I felt totally numb. This memoir of Tara Westover is unlike any memoir I’ve read till date. Read on to know more about this must-read.
Please note that this is a discussion post, and not a review. So, beware of spoilers!
The cover of “Educated” is brilliant. A pencil, which is a universal symbol for education, is fabulously used to show the mountains in her hometown of Idaho. Full marks for creativity.
The plot of the book, as seen on GoodReads:
Tara Westover was seventeen 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.
What I liked about this book is the total incredulousness of Tara’s experience. As a Mumbaikar, I have seen children working hard for a living instead of attending school. But nothing, in my 19 years of existence, opened my eyes to the inescapable realities of the world like this book.
In the former half of the book, Tara’s dad is shown to be eccentric, an eccentric man with an obedient family. A family who took his words to be divine doctrine, and supported all of his hare-brained ideas of saving food, supplies and ammunition to prepare for the “End of The World”. This part of the book reminded me of the rumour of the Mayan Calendar-related “End of The World” on 21st December 2012 (I remember how my friends and I joked about how we’d survive on Maggi noodles, and use matchsticks for the first time in our lives.) But as I read Tara’s account of how her father had led them to believe about the “End of The World”, I somehow felt the fear radiate from the Kindle into me. Even though I obviously knew none of it was true, I couldn’t help but get totally involved into the story narrated by Tara.
However, in the latter half of the book, we understand why Tara’s dad behaved the way he did. Tara, in the course of her education, learned about the symptoms of bipolar disorder, and how she noticed the very same symptoms in her father. The paranoid behaviour that her father exhibited in the past seemed understandable now.
Tara’s relationship with the other members of her family: her Mother, siblings Tony, Richard, Shawn, Tyler, Audrey, are not as ordinary as that of the average human being. Her father’s staunch beliefs against hospitals and public education system and his lengthy discourses about morality and decency did not affect Tara alone. All of them felt the pressure of it, and each of them reacted in different ways. They made choices that helped the bond between some of the siblings stronger, while some decisions drove some siblings apart.
Also, I felt inspired while reading the part where Tara started pursuing her graduation at BYU, and subsequently her life at Cambridge and Harvard. The struggles of directly entering into college without any formal education upto high school were articulated in a heart-wrenching manner. The daily dilemma of whether to help her dad with scrapping, or spending some time with the unintelligible algebra was so fierce.
There are so many more aspects about the book that I wish I could highlight. But I’d rather insist that you buy a copy of this book, and read it with an unadulterated experience.
Also, this book is not for the faint-hearted. Be prepared to read about domestic violence, car accidents and scrapyard accidents.
I’d like to share my favourite quote from this book:
The book can be summed up in one line: “Educated” depicts a woman’s struggle against the confines of the thoughts her family inculcated in her and the hopes they had for her, versus the thoughts she had created from her interactions with other people, and her own new and redesigned hopes.
I give this book a 5/5 star rating, and recommend it to every student, every life-long learner, every person who wishes to break stereotypes to touch new skies, every person who needs a nudge to make a major life decision. This book will be a strong companion, and a memoir that will help you believe in your true potential.
Thank you Random House Publishing Group and NetGalley for making this beautiful book a part of my Read shelf.