Educated by Tara Westover

Educated was published in 2018, and has been a huge international bestseller. It is the memoir of Tara Westover’s radical upbringing in an extremely devout Mormon family in Idaho. Tara did not have a birth certificate until she was nine years old. She did not take any prescribed medication until her late teens, and her first vaccinations came in her early twenties. Her family would plan for an oncoming apocalypse, canning food, burying fuel tankers and packing emergency rucksacks for the End of Days.

Her father owned a near-fatal junkyard. Deep cuts, crushed fingers, catastrophic burns and life-threatening falls were daily occurrences in the pursuit of scrapping metal and building barns. Her father’s deep-rooted suspicion of the government meant no doctors, no hospitals and no state education. Women were not to display their flesh, and their place was in the home as mothers and cooks.

Educated follows Tara’s eventual quest to receive an education, go to college, and from there university. With it comes the harsh reality that she cannot have both – a modern state education, and her life at home. Breaking the boundaries of her family’s radical ideology becomes a violent and abusive struggle.

I don’t read a lot of memoirs, but Educated has always sounded so fascinating. I was drawn to learning about a life I could hardly fathom. It is written masterfully, with beautiful and eloquent descriptions of Idaho, Buck Peak and the mountains. The gritty hardships of a brutal life scrapping metal are brought sharply into focus. You cannot help but wonder how no one died from the onslaught of life-threatening injuries that are sustained within its pages. Even more so without modern medical intervention.

It takes a lot of bravery to write so openly about a life that is alien to most people, especially when they may be poised to judge you and your family harshly off the back of it. I have listened to Tara speak on podcasts and she talks calmly and rationally about her life. In reading Educated, I have enormous respect for her.