Educated by Dr. Tara Westover

Originally published October 2018

Coming off 50 days of blogging about myself, I wasn’t sure a memoir was what the doctor ordered.

But what a read.

Educated by Tara Westover is more than just a “How I got off the mountain and into Cambridge” kind of story — it’s a tale so incredibly dramatic that just a third of the way through, I was left wondering exactly how this family survived long enough for her to have a narrative to share. Raised largely off the grid in the Idaho mountainside, Westover’s family struggles with poverty and self-reliance (at least in her childhood years) in the face of not just a kind of religious fanaticism of their own making but mental illness as well.

Car crashes, industrial accidents and end-of-days preparations are a regular occurrence on the Westover homestead and Tara navigates childhood in some ways much like she navigates her father’s junkyard, with kind of a carefree caution. It’s when her older brother Tyler takes flight that any inkling of a world outside her own begins to really gnaw at her and she takes steps to plant one foot in another kind of world.

I don’t know that I am giving too much away by saying that this is a story not just of self-discovery on Westover’s part, but also of loss, in the ensuing estrangement from most of her family. Of course, right? Because no sane person could continue to live under that kind of spell, right? It’s this that makes her story all the more heartbreaking, because what also comes across is a genuine love for her family. She is careful not to diminish the belief system under which she was raised, even though logic makes it impossible for her to remain under its rule. Logic, and the understanding that at least one of her family members subjected her to such abject terror that it’s a mother lovin’ miracle she escaped physically unscathed. (Well, she was impaled in her leg in the junkyard at least once, so even saying that is a stretch.)

There’s a lesson in every read, and in this I had to get quite literally to the end to come across a passage especially profound:

“Guilt is the fear of one’s own wretchedness. It has nothing to do with other people.”

That. There. I feel like I need another girls’ weekend to break that one down.

Seriously, one of the best books I’ve read all year. What a story. Don’t miss it.

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