Staff Book Reviews

Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover

by BPL Team Member Sue

Educated is the award-winning autobiographical story of Tara Westover and her journey away from her survivalist Mormon family living on a secluded Idaho mountain called Buck’s Peak.

Tara grew up with a father suffering from a bipolar disorder who distrusted the government and the medical establishment. He made his living by doing odd construction jobs and scavenging metal in his family junkyard. Tara’s mother worked as a midwife and an herbalist, with Tara sometimes assisting her. The children helped in the junkyard on a daily basis and sustained serious injuries that were treated with only their mother’s herbal remedies. Tara and her siblings were home schooled, but the only real focus was on reading so they could study the Holy Bible and the Book of Mormon. One older brother terrorized his younger siblings with physical abuse, particularly Tara and her older sister, but their parents did not intervene or appear to believe what was really happening.

Tara finally began her process of acquiring a formal education at the age of 17. With much self-study, she was able to pass the ACT test with a high enough score to get into Brigham Young University, and then continued her studies at Cambridge and Harvard, eventually obtaining a PhD. During these years, conflict with her family and their ways continued, while Tara searched for an identity separate from her past.

While listening to this coming-of-age story as an audiobook, I was disturbed by the many graphic details of the physical abuse and accidents suffered by Tara and her family. I also felt frustration when her father and his ideals were blindly followed. When Tara or a sibling tried to stand up and push for a change, their family loyalty was called into question. I reveled in Tara’s and a couple of her brothers’ strength as they pursued their educational dreams and new lives despite the familial power trying to trap them on Buck’s Peak forever.

I would recommend this memoir for fans of such bestsellers as Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance and The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls.

Other read-alikes can be found on BPL’s database NoveList Plus:

Book Club Discussion Questions are located at the LitLovers site: