“What my father wanted to cast from me wasn’t a demon: it was me.”
Tara Westover lives in the mountains of Idaho and grows up in a family where shame and violence rule. Her father has mood swings and is probably bipolar, but sees himself as a messenger from God who keeps his family in line with the strictest Mormon rules. His children are homeschooled, but mainly spend their days helping him in the junkyard or building sheds and barns. A few of her older siblings try to leave for college and while they move away, the ties that bind this family together are very strong – they are the only ones who understand life as a Westover. Tara learns exactly how strong these bonds are as she prepares to leave and study at Brigham Young University.
Educated was the book club choice for my local group in February. We alternate between fiction and non-fiction. We chose it because it was a bestseller and it seemed many people were planning to read it already. It wasn’t an easy book to read due to the violence and family problems, but we all agreed it was brave for Tara to share her story.
When Tara starts college, she quickly realizes how much she doesn’t know from not going to school. She also lacks social skills, which put her on the outs with her roommate. As time passes, she learns to ask people and professors for help and studies and studies and studies. She also finally gets counseling to deal with the traumas from her childhood, which includes her brother violently bullying her. She eventually goes on to visit Europe and get a PhD. However, the biggest test is not from any classes, but from how to create safe boundaries with her family who want their way or nothing to do with her at all.
There is a great sadness in Educated and while Tara gets an education in the end, she also ends up losing her family to some degree. She has chosen the better path, but it’s a hard one when she just wants to feel loved by her parents and have them help her and believe her. I would recommend this book as it gives many lessons about family relationships, mental disorders and the importance of education. It is for adults due to the accidents, violence and threats described in the book.