A Memoir

Book - 2018 | First edition.
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"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. 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. As a way out, Tara began to educate herself, learning enough mathematics and grammar to be admitted to Brigham Young University. Her quest for knowledge would transform 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. With the acute insight that distinguishes all great writers, Tara Westover has crafted a universal coming-of-age story that gets to the heart of what an education offers: the perspective to see one's life through new eyes, and the will to change it."--Provided by publisher.
Publisher: New York : Random House, [2018]
Edition: First edition.
ISBN: 9780399590504
Characteristics: xv, 334 pages ; 25 cm


From Library Staff

If ever there was a book to end the nature vs nurture debate, this would be it. By most measures, Tara Westover should not have survived her childhood. Brought up by paranoid survivalist parents who isolated her family from outside influences, her story will make you wince, cringe and shake your ... Read More »

"It’s an engrossing read, a fresh perspective on the power of an education, and it’s also a testament to the way grit and resilience can shape our lives. "

From the critics

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Jul 11, 2020

This book is moving and inspiring and amazing. It is hard to believe how Tara could even survive her childhood. I loved hearing about her growth as an academic and her slow climb toward normalcy and success. I did not get any sense that she was bragging about being a poor room-mate. If one realizes how isolated she was in her dysfunctional childhood, then it is totally understandable that she would need to learn all the social graces by trial and error. I would love to read a sequel.

Jul 06, 2020


Jun 27, 2020

I can’t be as eloquent as some of the other reviewers. I can only say powerful and immensely sad. Unfortunately I think families as disfunctional is this one; as plagued by mental illness as this one; by generations as scarred as this one are entirely too common as we would give credence. And yet, in spite of all of this strong, whole individuals like the author can still be forged in this furnace.
To say this is a great book is a massive understatement. The words she uses are almost poetic in the sentiments she evokes. The aura of dread and fear she constructs around the protagonist is palpable: we share the dread of what waits around the corner.
This book does end. Eventually. But it end too soon. There are too many un-answered questions: the conclusion comes too quickly: there should have been more.
Having written her memoir, one waits to see what Westover writes next. It’ll be well worth waiting for for sure.

Jun 21, 2020

Tara Westover's memoir, EDUCATED, is easily the best memoir I've ever read. I think it also has a place among my favorite books , of any genre. The story of Tara's upbringing and lack of preparation for entering school for the first time, as a college freshman, is brutally honest and beautifully written. There is no ego in her account of growing up at the foot of a mountain in Idaho, raised by a zealot father who practiced a feverish and unbelievably harsh version of Mormonism. As the youngest of seven children, to say her upbringing was unconventional, widely understates the truth.

This book should make readers kinder and more considerate of people they do not know. Snap judgements about the character, intelligence, or motives of others should be avoided. Tara's remarkable journey shows how impossible it is to understand the character, or any other quality of a person you you meet for the first time, or only know superficially. We were all raised in a unique microcosm that serves as our frame of reference for the world. Tara entered college without ever having learned that she should wash her hands after using the bathroom. It didn't mean she was stupid, filthy or any of a dozen other adjectives. It meant only that she had never been taught to do so. We are each only as worldly and knowledgeable as our experiences. Assumptions are often wrong. Tara's book illustrates this over and over.

Even though she ever attended school, before college, and wasn't even homeschooled, Tara must surely be one of the most versatile and accomplished women alive today. She has a doctorate degree from Cambridge, but could easily deliver a baby, run a backhoe, write a paper on theology, or prepare herbal remedies from scratch.

What she could not do was surrender her own truth for her fathers delusions. She pays a steep and heavy price for choosing her own mind to clarify reality, instead of blindly accepting her fathers doctrine. That doctrine was a dangerous way to raise 7 children. That Tara and her siblings even survived childhood feels like a miracle, which is exactly what her father believed it was.. This man literally risked his childrens lives and limbs because God and God alone would determine the outcome, and the full extent of the injuries. In his predetermined world, there was no need to exercise caution to prevent injuries . Even at great heights, God was the net, and no safety harnesses or hard hats were were allowed, as that would show you didn't trust in God's will or willingness to intervene.

Risking your own life to test God's willingness to intervene is one thing, but Risking your family is a whole different kind of reckless. But... The powerless don't have a choice, and children don't choose their parents. This was the life Tara was born into.

Tara's story is amazing. If you love to read, this is one story you do not want to miss.

I think everyone should jump for a chance to read this book.

Jun 16, 2020

I am part way through and find it is so gruesome and contains such sadism that I don't think I will be tough enough to continue. The book should have a warning on the cover.

Jun 01, 2020

This story left me going, what?! wow....

It's hard to believe that it's true so it blows your mind.

May 15, 2020

Wonderful - did for book club

May 14, 2020

Wow! One of the best books I’ve read in a long time. The obstacles she was required to overcome are mind blowing. Just when I thought she could finally move forward, it always seemed that something was there to hold her back. Despite this, and maybe because of this, she flourished. She took an emotionally abusive childhood and turned it into a thriving well lived life. I have recommended this book to everyone !

Lord_Vad3r May 06, 2020

One of the diversions I find myself exploring on a regular basis are belief systems that are, well, outside of the mainstream. That was what initially attracted me to Tara Westover's Educated. The Westover children were raised with the constant expectation that the world would be ending soon and that they needed to be prepared.

Some people in this world can only maintain their drive by having some form of enemy: maybe it's the government, socialists, the medical establishment, whatever. If that enemy doesn't materialize they will either lose all focus or shift their efforts to demonizing a new group. This is part of the reason many of the Westover kids didn't have birth certificates, vaccinations, or a public school education. Their early education was learning to read, burying fuel, storing ammo, canning peaches, or helping to prep homeopathic treatments. Everything in the family was dictated by their father, who may suffer from bipolar disorder, and his oscillations between mania and despondency. The specter of mental illness also manifests in the persona of Shawn, the abusive and controlling older brother.

The expectation of a woman in Ms. Westover's family would not have been education but marriage, children, and midwifery. In her recounting of the story, her choices first to attend college and second to call out her brother's abuses end up viewed as betrayals to the family.

To some extent her inner struggle, trying to discover who she really is an reconcile that with both her family and the world at large, is something we all go through. At some point in the process of becoming an adult you have to decide what you stand for and then hold your ground. Part of me feels like you can only truly experience this struggle if you are lucky enough to have been born into a society where a daily struggle for survival doesn't demand your focus for every waking moment.

Educated is very reminiscent of Glass Castle. I am always impressed by people who have the fortitude to shrug off the shackles of the past and defy expectations to become something more. Ms. Westover, if she can be taken at her word, meets that criteria. If you like stories that feature a coming of age story line, you should consider reading Educated.

May 01, 2020

One feels great sympathy for the author having been born into a family with members who have serious mental health issues as well as great admiration for how the author worked so hard to overcome huge obstacles. Mid-way through the book, the author has made it to college. It is surprising to read what a terrible room mate she was. She brags of never doing her share of the chores and of her neglect of personal hygiene. The author then buries her readers in superflous detail of her studies of each subject and her worries concerning quizzes. Boring...boring...boring .... just had to stop reading.

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Oct 02, 2019

"The blessing was a mercy. He was offering me the same terms of surrender he had offered my sister. I imagined what a relief it must have been for her, to realize she could trade her reality - the one she shared with me - for his. How grateful she must have felt to pay such a modest price. I could not judge her for her choice, but in that moment I knew I could not choose it for myself. Everything I had worked for, all my years of study, had been to purchase for myself this one privilege, to see and experience more truths than those given to me by my father, and to use those truths to construct my own mind. I had come to believe that the ability to evaluate many ideas, many histories, many points of view, was at the heart of what it means to self-create. If I yielded now, I would lose more than an argument. I would lose custody of my own mind. This was the price I was being asked to pay, I understood that now. What my father wanted to cast from me wasn't a demon; It was me."

Sep 12, 2019

I am only seven, but I understand that it is this fact, more than any other, that makes my family different: we don’t go to school. Dad worries that the Government will force us to go but it can’t, because it doesn’t know about us. Four of my parents’ seven children don’t have birth certificates. We have no medical records because we were born at home and have never seen a doctor or nurse. * We have no school records because we’ve never set foot in a classroom. When I am nine, I will be issued a Delayed Certificate of Birth, but at this moment, according to the state of Idaho and the federal government, I do not exist. Of course I did exist. I had grown up preparing for the Days of Abomination, watching for the sun to darken, for the moon to drip as if with blood.

Sep 12, 2019

…all the decisions that go into making a life — the choices people make, together and on their own, that combine to produce any single event. Grains of sand, incalculable, pressing into sediment, then rock.

“ What’s college? ” I said. “College is extra school for people too dumb to learn the first time around,” Dad said.

“There’s two kinds of them college professors,” Dad said. “Those who know they’re lying, and those who think they’re telling the truth.” Dad grinned. “Don’t know which is worse, come to think of it, a bona fide agent of the Illuminati, who at least knows he’s on the devil’s payroll, or a high-minded professor who thinks his wisdom is greater than God’s.”

Sep 12, 2019

My strongest memory is not a memory. It’s something I imagined, then came to remember as if it had happened. The memory was formed when I was five, just before I turned six, from a story my father told in such detail that I and my brothers and sister had each conjured our own cinematic version, with gunfire and shouts. Mine had crickets. That’s the sound I hear as my family huddles in the kitchen, lights off, hiding from the Feds who’ve surrounded the house. A woman reaches for a glass of water and her silhouette is lighted by the moon. A shot echoes like the lash of a whip and she falls. In my memory it’s always Mother who falls, and she has a baby in her arms. The baby doesn’t make sense — I’m the youngest of my mother’s seven children — but like I said, none of this happened.

Sep 12, 2019

One telling in particular has stayed with me. I am seven or eight and am in my room dressing for church. I have taken a damp rag to my face, hands and feet, scrubbing only the skin that will be visible.

How the paranoia and fundamentalism were carving up my life, how they were taking from me the people I cared about and leaving only degrees and certificates — an air of respectability — in their place. What was happening now had happened before. This was the second severing of mother and daughter. The tape was playing in a loop.
God couldn’t abide faithlessness, Dad said. That’s why the most hateful sinners were those who wouldn’t make up their minds, who used herbs and medication both, who came to Mother on Wednesday and saw their doctor on Friday — or, as Dad put it,” Who worship at the altar of God one day and offer a sacrifice to Satan the next. “These people were like the ancient Israelites because they’d been given a true religion but hankered after false idols.

Sep 12, 2019

I had misunderstood the vital truth: that its not affecting me, that was its effect.
I was fifteen and I felt it, felt the race I was running with time. My body was changing, bloating, swelling, stretching, bulging. I wished it would stop, but it seemed my body was no longer mine. It belonged to itself now, and cared not at all how I felt about these strange alterations, about whether I wanted to stop being a child, and become something else.

Dad said that the Government had programmed the computers with a six-digit calendar, which meant the year had only two digits. “When nine-nine becomes oh-oh,” he said,” the computers won’t know what year it is. They’ll shut down.” “Can’t they fix it?” “Nope, can’t be done,” Dad said. “Man trusted his own strength, and his strength was weak. ”

I’d never learned how to talk to people who weren’t like us — people who went to school and visited the doctor. Who weren’t preparing, every day, for the End of the World.

Sep 12, 2019

I was sixteen, had never taken an exam, and had only recently undertaken anything like a systematic education;
I began to study trigonometry. There was solace in its strange formulas and equations. I was drawn to the Pythagorean theorem and its promise of a universal — the ability to predict the nature of any three points containing a right angle, anywhere, always.

“ Tara can’t drive the crane,” Dad said. “It’ll take half the morning to teach her the controls, and she still won’t know what the hell she’s doing.” “But she’ll be careful,” Shawn said,” and I’m done falling off shit. ”
I am not sorry, merely ashamed.
I applied to BYU a week later. I had no idea how to write the application, so Tyler wrote it for me. He said I’d been educated according to a rigorous program designed by my mother, who’d made sure I met all the requirements to graduate.
Doctors were Sons of Perdition. Homeschooling was a commandment from the Lord.

Sep 12, 2019

“Holocaust. “ I don’t know how long I sat there reading about it, but at some point I’d read enough. I leaned back and stared at the ceiling. I suppose I was in shock, but whether it was the shock of learning about something horrific, or the shock of learning about my own ignorance, I’m not sure.

As a child, I’d been aware that although my family attended the same church as everyone in our town, our religion was not the same. They believed in modesty; we practiced it. They believed in God’s power to heal; we left our injuries in God’s hands. They believed in preparing for the Second Coming; we were actually prepared.

I don’t understand why I wasn’t allowed to get a decent education as a child.
I’d earned A’s in every subject except Western Civ. I would get a scholarship for half of my tuition. I could go back.

Sep 12, 2019

Rosa Parks. An image appeared of a policeman pressing a woman’s finger into an ink sponge. Dr. Kimball said she’d taken a seat on a bus. I understood him as saying she had stolen the seat, although it seemed an odd thing to steal.

The word and the way Shawn said it hadn’t changed; only my ears were different. They no longer heard the jingle of a joke in it. What they heard was a signal, a call through time, which was answered with a mounting conviction: that never again would I allow myself to be made a foot soldier in a conflict I did not understand.

Algebra threatened to put an end to my scholarship. The professor spent every lecture muttering inaudibly as he paced in front of the chalkboard. I wasn’t the only one who was lost, but I was more lost than anyone else. Charles tried to help, but he was starting his senior year of high school and had his own schoolwork. In October I took the midterm and failed it.

Sep 12, 2019

The test was in front of me. The problems were compliant, pliable; they yielded to my manipulations, forming into solutions, one after the other. I handed in my answer sheet, then stood in the frigid hallway, staring up at the screen that would display my score. When it appeared, I blinked, and blinked again. One hundred. A perfect score.

My life was narrated for me by others. Their voices were forceful, emphatic, absolute. It had never occurred to me that my voice might be as strong as theirs.
I was sitting in Psychology 101 when the professor read the symptoms aloud from the overhead screen: depression, mania, paranoia, euphoria, delusions of grandeur and persecution. I listened with a desperate interest. This is my father, I wrote in my notes.
…a student asked what role mental disorders might have played in separatist movements. “I’m thinking of famous conflicts like Waco, Texas, or Ruby Ridge, Idaho,” he said.

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Feb 11, 2020

Yolandaunicorn thinks this title is suitable for 10 years and over

Jan 23, 2020

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Mar 23, 2019

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Jan 04, 2020

A Memoir by Tara Westover is a powerful book.  Westover’s courage to tell her story is important because it provides others with a true journey.  A complex, emotional, brutal, and brave journey a young women took ‘from’, ‘towards; and ‘to’ a healthy new beginning.  Reading Tara’s story was not easy.  She experienced a family life, with her siblings and parents, that left scars. Westover’s candor fills this book. I appreciate how straightforward and humble her writing is. I am so glad I read it.  

This book was selected as one of The New York Times Book Review’s 10 Best Books of 2018.


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