Educated by Tara Westover
If you have knickers- prepare for them to be gripped. There were times reading this when I realised that I was holding my breath because I was so tense. It’s not knicker gripping in a Lee Child sort of a way, when the last line of each chapter reads something like “and all was quiet and calm right up until the moment that his head blew off” or “as he drove into the night he realised that the banging noise he could hear was coming from the boot of his own car.” (Not that I don’t love a Lee Child moment – I’m not a Philistine)
This book, however, is not like that. It’s a memoir, set in the 1980s-90s. Tara was born to a survivalist Mormon family in Idaho. However, this is not really about the Mormon faith – her family are far more under the influence of their father than they are their faith. He is the head of the family in every aspect, holding sway over them with terrifying stories of families like theirs being terrorised and killed by the FBI or by quoting Scripture which reinforces his world view. A women who answers back is a whore, schools are not to be attended because they are run by “the enemy” and ambition is to be discouraged because the end is coming and all energy must be poured into being ready.
But Tara is different. She is a female but she is clever and the outside world is calling her. I don’t think it is a spoiler to say that she ends up at Cambridge University because it is on the back of the book but her journey there is so powerful and difficult, I found this book very hard to leave until it was finished.
I’ll be honest with you, when people talk about a book being well written, I’m not sure what they mean. I’m not sure I’m clever enough to be able to deconstruct a book and say what makes it a cut above other things that I read. I think though that this is a great book. She is walking a heartbreaking tightrope all the way through where she knows she needs to leave but how far does she have to leave her family behind to find her life? They don’t help, her mother is impossible to read and veers between obsessive obedience to her husband and urging Tara to get away. She has a dangerously unhinged and violent brother and has to be careful not to upset him.
Sometimes you despair of her (“Just go!”) and sometimes I had a little uncomfortable bell ringing in the back of my head that recognised her childhood in a fundementalist church where leaders were never to be challenged and women were second class citizens. My life was nothing like hers of course but I did understand how hard even ties that are bad for you are sometimes hard to break.
I lost HOH for an entire afternoon while he was finishing this which I completely understand. It’s a grown up book and it’s also highly recommended.