Blink Book Review #3: Educated by Tara Westover

June 21, 2022

This is the second in a series of summer “Blink Book Reviews” by Reba Hull Campbell

 

When “Educated” first came out in 2018, I remember seeing the book in the “new non-fiction” section of Litchfield Books. My first reaction was that it was shelved in the wrong area. The jacket description read like fiction. At the time, I passed over this memoir of a turbulent and disturbing childhood in a survivalist home in rural Idaho.

But recently, I heard the author, Tara Westover, interviewed on Kate Bowler’s engaging podcast “Everything Happens…” and I was completely drawn in and bought the book on my next trip to the bookstore.

“Educated” didn’t disappoint. The story boils down to one of control and how the author learned in very hard ways that she could have control and agency over her life despite her very unconventional upbringing.

While most kids grow up with some sense of their family’s way of doing, believing and living is the “right” way, Tara’s family lived the extreme of this. Her father believed the government, along with the medical and education establishments, were the work of the devil.

Tara’s achingly honest writing describes her early glimpses of the outside world and how she came to understand her family was different. She and her six siblings didn’t go to school. They had dangerous jobs at a very young age in their father’s junkyard business. They didn’t have birth certificates, get immunizations or go to the doctor.

This is her tragic, yet triumphant, story of self-teaching her way to Brigham Young, finding her voice at Cambridge and ultimately receiving a PhD from Harvard. The author doesn’t mince words with her descriptions or try to protect or defend the way she was raised. That said, she tells the story with a gentleness I wouldn’t expect of such a harsh story.

And don’t overlook the details of the beautiful cover art.

 

Reba Hull Campbell is president of the Medway Group, a big word nerd and avid summertime reader. This is part of her summer reading discipline to get off the screen and back to books in a dozen or so “Blink Book Reviews” for the summer. She’s challenging herself to keep them to 300-ish words so readers can skim them in a couple of blinks. Reach Reba at [email protected]