You can love someone and still choose to say goodbye to them . . . You can miss a person every day, and still be glad that they are no longer in your life.
I have been struggling to write this review, not because I didn’t like the book but because I loved it so much that I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it. I want to get the words exactly right, because I think everyone should read Educated by Tara Westover. And I do mean everyone. This is an extremely powerful, disturbing, and moving memoir about a girl in a situation most of us will never fully be able to understand. It is well-written and captivating, and I could not put it down.
Tara Westover grew up in the mountains of Idaho. Her parents, radical survivalists, kept her and her siblings out of school for most of their lives, did not believe in doctors or modern medicine, and taught their children to prepare for the end of the world. When Tara decides that she does want to be educated, she begins to read as many books as she can in order to prepare for college entrance exams, despite never having attended school. When she gets into and begins classes at Brigham Young University, she is in for a shock when she learns, for the first time, about events such as the Holocaust, civil rights movements, and that Advil will cure a headache, not kill her. Even though she has willingly escaped an isolated and violent life, she struggles with her choices and the choices her parents wish she had made. Tara has to choose what’s best for her and her future, even if it means going against her family.
This book is startlingly personal, and I think it’s because she wrote it very soon after going through all of the events. I could really feel Tara’s struggle with what amounts to choosing between her family and the “real” world. Reading it as someone who has never been in her situation, the choice for me seemed clear (There is a scene in which someone is burned very badly, and they still refuse to go to a doctor. It is truly unbelievable and shocking.), but seeing it through her eyes, I understand why she was in an impossible position. She was choosing to leave her family in order to receive an education, and it was clearly not an easy choice.
Educated is a moving novel about the education and coming-of-age years of a woman who is stronger than most of us even realize. I get the feeling that Tara Westover is probably still not ok, and maybe won’t ever be ok, but this book feels like an attempt to sort everything out in one place. It feels a bit unsettled, probably because she is still in the situation. She is still young and her complete break from most of her family happened recently. I would love to read an essay from her reflecting on everything in 20 or 30 years, when she’s completely come out on the other side. Until then, all I can do is beg you all to read this book!
The Guardian has a great interview with Tara!