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Book Review| Educated by Tara Westover

Updated: May 2, 2019

The center of this memoir is an austere Mormon family, layered with the complexity of a monarch suffering from mental health ailments. Tara tells the story of her anomalous upbringing with her 6 siblings on a mountain side in rural Idaho. Never reaching a public classroom until she was seventeen years old, only after suffering physical, mental and emotional abuse from her family –though unintentional, Tara is forced to face the outside world on her own beginning with attending Brigham Young University (BYU). Her journey entails learning, unlearning and re-learning the tools that ultimately help her find herself.

This book is highly entertaining, a must read for those looking to experience a lifestyle that they wouldn’t otherwise fathom. Parents, especially, will be shocked -gasping at some of the accounts of poor decision making by Tara’s Mother and Father –though from a place of what they perceived as love. Readers will also enjoy the triumphant, yet at times hesitant persistence of Tara in exploring herself, questioning the world around her and determination to live a life of her choosing.

This is a well told story, the author's writing is simplistic allowing the reader to glide through the story as if in one long scene. The most moving accounts written are between the author and her physically abusive brother highlighting the naturally rippling effects of mentally ill parents on the behaviors of their children. This being the very topic Tara researches for a college term paper, serving as a pivotal turning point in the memoir.

My favorite quality about reading true encounters is that they allow the readers to reflect on true life lessons. Keep reading for five self-care tools Tara picked up along her journey that may also help us along ours.

Happy reading my friends!




1. Tell the truth to yourself [always]…

Tara couldn’t allow herself to heal from the abuse until she was willing to admit the abuse was in fact happening. Secondly, Tara's religious upbringing told her that her gender dictated her options in life and the only thing she should want is to be a wife and a mother. However Tara apprehensively followed her innate calling of pursuits in education at Cambridge and Harvard.


2. The Importance of keeping a journal…

Tara mentions journaling several times throughout the story. As a young girl Tara mentions journaling questions: ponders of the world around her, the people, the places. However, the true breakthrough presented when she began to document true accounts of what she experienced without sugar coating and making no excuses for traumatic events. For example, Tara references an encounter with her brother outside of a hardware store where he assaulted her, cracked her wrist, and exposed her body to strangers all because she resisted his attempt to embarrass her in front of an ex-boyfriend. This being her first inkling in allowing herself to admit the abuse and her feelings.


3. “It’s strange how you give the people that you love power over you.”

This is a quote from Tara's journal referenced in the book recognizing that the opinions of her father and brothers dictated many of her decisions. Not until she learned how to love her family AND herself at the same time, did she understand how destructive living a life for someone else, no matter how much you love them, can be.


4. “The most powerful advantage of money is the ability to think of things besides [not having] it.”

By allowing herself to accept scholarship funds Tara could focus on her exploring her gifts and curiosities while at university. This created a sense of security for her basic needs allowing the privilege of focus.


5. “First find out what you are capable of then decide what you want to do.”

This was a line of advice from one of Tara's professors at university. It reminds us all to continually test our limits, never count ourselves out, and never settle. We are all capable of much more than we assume.



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