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November 22, 2020

Educated



Nonfiction - Memoir
2018 Random House
Finished on November 22, 2020
Rating: 2/5 (Fair)

Publisher's Blurb:

Tara Westover was 17 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.

Educated is a train wreck of a book. I cringed with every assault (both verbal and physical) by one of Tara's brothers, grew angry with her father's cruelty and paranoia, and shook my head in confusion at her mother's lack of nurturing and turning of a blind eye to the dangers of her husband's fanatical beliefs. While I admire the author's resilience and ability to overcome her lack of education, not only graduating from BYU, but advancing further to receive a masters degree and a doctorate, I was not impressed with her memoir. I was compelled to keep reading, eager for some climatic event that would bring her parents to some sort of acceptance and understanding of her choices in life. If not that, at least some event that would finally land her insane brother in prison. I grew more and more frustrated each time Tara returned home, unable to understand why she couldn't cut the ties to her dysfunctional family. I don't need to like all the characters in a book in order to enjoy it, but as I read the final page, I wondered what was the point? I love a good memoir, but this one left me cold and annoyed. 

20 comments:

  1. I've seen the strength of family ties despite dysfunction over and over in my life. The ending did not surprise me.

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    1. Deb, it was a pretty disturbing book, that's for sure.

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  2. I had heard good things about this book, but it somehow did not appeal to me. I'm thinking it's a 'no' for me right now. It did come up as a possible choice for our afternoon book group, but I'm glad it didn't 'win'. Hope all is going well today for Rod!

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    1. Kay, I'm rarely regret reading the books I've read, but I wish I had just skipped this one. I can imagine it would make a good book discussion selection, though.

      Thanks for the good wishes for Rod. All went well and he's busy recovering.

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  3. One of the things I appreciate about your reviews is how honest you are. You haven't led me astray yet! I hope you and your family have a lovely Thanksgiving. :-)

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    1. Laurel, thanks for this comment. I always feel badly when I give a low rating, especially when so many other readers have raved about the book, but we all have different tastes, don't we.

      Happy Thanksgiving to you, too.

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  4. Though it won awards & such -- I have not been able to pick this one up -- just the endangerment factor by the parents made me queasy. I did read & like The Glass Castle which (I think) had some of the same elements ... and maybe Hillbilly Elegy ... but this one I haven't gone there yet. Thx for your honesty.

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    1. Susan, I read and enjoyed The Glass Castle too, but this one missed the mark. I also have Hillbilly Elegy in my stacks, but I may wait to read that one (although I want to read it before I watch the movie).

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    2. We watched Hillbilly Elegy last week and thought it quite a downer .... though the actors were all good. Perhaps for whatever reason ... I was able to stomach the audiobook easier ... hmm

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    3. Susan, I really thought I'd like to see Hillbilly Elegy, but the reviews haven't been very good, so I'm not too excited about it anymore. I will get to the book one of these days.

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  5. We listened to this on a road trip and we didn't like it either. It started out interesting but got quite outlandish. Glass Castle was also about dysfunctional childhoods and that one was terrific but something about this one didn't sit right with me.

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    1. Diane, I agree that it started out pretty well, but like you said, it got very outlandish. Yes, The Glass Castle was much better, in spite of the similar situations.

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  6. I'm glad I didn't try this one--in spite of so many positive reviews.

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    1. Jenclair, in spite of the subject matter, it could have been a good memoir, perhaps with a different editor. Somehow, it fell short of my expectations.

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  7. I've been meaning to read this one because of so many good reviews. Sorry to hear it wasn't that great. I think I can understand what you mean of expecting some kind of resolution and being disappointed when there isn't one.

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    1. Iliana, it was all those good reviews that got me curious, but it missed its mark with me. Oh, well.

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  8. First of all, thank you for this. I had a weird upbringing as a child and I have stayed far away from this book because I worried it would mess with my head. Who needs to revisit unpleasant events in one's own life? Not me. However, because it got so much buzz I kept it on my list of to reads. Now, I can take it off without regret. Thank you.

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    1. Ti, I'm sorry your childhood leaves you with unpleasant memories. {Hugs!} Yes, take this one off your list. There are so many other books to be read, many of which are uplifting and hopeful. This is not one of those.

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  9. “A train wreck of a book” is right! I remember being intrigued, to some degree, while I read it. But, it seems highly unlikely, or unusual at the very least, that a person with such a background could make it so far in life. I worked hard for every C I ever got (😉), and many doors were never opened for me as they were for Tara. It left me feeling skeptical, and more than a little annoyed, by the time I finished reading.

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    1. Meredith, it was an intriguing book, but like you, I was a bit skeptical about some of the anecdotes. And you hit the nail on the head! I, too, was annoyed when I finished the book. Sigh.

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