Educated

Educated

Tara Westover was 17 the first time she set foot in a classroom. Born to survivalists in the mountains of Idaho, she prepared for the end of the world by stockpiling home-canned peaches and sleeping with her "head-for-the-hills bag". In the summer she stewed herbs for her mother, a midwife and healer, and in the winter she salvaged in her father's junkyard.Her father forba...

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Title:Educated
Author:Tara Westover
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Edition Language:English

Educated Reviews

  • Jennifer ~ TarHeelReader

    🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟

    I grew up in a home of readers with a teacher mom and a dad who questioned my effort when I made an A-minus on my report card. When I began reading Educated, I was floored that Tara and her siblings were not in school, and they were not homeschooled either. How could this happen in modern times with compulsory schooling put in place long ago?

    Tara made it clear from the start that her family’s Mormon faith did not cause her father’s substantial paranoia;

    🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟

    I grew up in a home of readers with a teacher mom and a dad who questioned my effort when I made an A-minus on my report card. When I began reading Educated, I was floored that Tara and her siblings were not in school, and they were not homeschooled either. How could this happen in modern times with compulsory schooling put in place long ago?

    Tara made it clear from the start that her family’s Mormon faith did not cause her father’s substantial paranoia; however, he used his faith to feed it. This family not only did not have insurance, they did not believe in accessing traditional medical care. Horrific accidents and illnesses abounded due to the father’s and one sibling’s risk-taking, and no one went to the doctor.

    While the family was clearly having difficulty grappling with many things, I was struck by the love and devotion between them, even with the strained family dynamics. It was both fascinating and heartbreaking to watch those dynamics shift even more as Tara’s aspirations developed and were achieved.

    Strength. Grit. Perseverance. Tara’s tenacity resulted in her leaving the farm at Buck’s Peak and enrolling in college, after never attending a day of school. Her words were upfront, bold, but never complaining or looking for pity.

    Overall, I found Educated to be one of the most engaging, powerful, and inspiring memoirs I have read.

    Thank you to Tara Westover, Random House, and Netgalley for this reading experience I will treasure. Educated is now available!

  • Angela M

    Difficult to read. Impossible to put down. A powerful, powerful book that you shouldn’t miss. I can’t just leave it at that because Tara Westover’s story deserves more than those few words. I don’t often read memoirs, but when I do I want them to be told by extraordinary people who have a meaningful story to tell and that would be faint praise for this book. It sounds odd to say how beautifully written this is because we are not spared of the ugly details of what this family was about, but yet i

    Difficult to read. Impossible to put down. A powerful, powerful book that you shouldn’t miss. I can’t just leave it at that because Tara Westover’s story deserves more than those few words. I don’t often read memoirs, but when I do I want them to be told by extraordinary people who have a meaningful story to tell and that would be faint praise for this book. It sounds odd to say how beautifully written this is because we are not spared of the ugly details of what this family was about, but yet it is beautifully written. I had to remind myself at times that I wasn’t reading a gritty novel, that Tara and her family were real as I got more than just a glimpse of a life that was hard for me to even imagine.

    A religious fanatic father, hoarding food and guns and bullets and keeping his family off the radar, not filing for birth certificates, not getting medical attention when they needed it, avoiding the government, the feds at all cost , keeping his children out of school, the paranoia, the preparation for the “Days of Abomination” - this is what we find in this place on a mountain in Idaho. There are horrible accidents and he won’t get medical help for his family. Her mother’s healing herbs and tinctures are used to treat the slightest scrape to the most horrible head injury or burns from gasoline to an explosion. If some thing bad happens it because that’s the will of the Lord. Her mother seems at times more sympathetic to her children, but she is complicit by her subservience to her husband. I don’t even know how to describe it other than gut wrenching to see the effects on this family of neglect in the name of religious beliefs and in reality mental illness. It isn’t just her father but the brutality by one of her brother’s which is more than awful and creates rifts between family members,

    That she was bold enough and somehow found the will to rise above it all while she is torn with the sense of duty, of loyalty to her family, the ingrained beliefs, still loving her family is miraculous. Going to college was the first time she’d been in a classroom, not knowing what the Holocaust was, learning about slavery, the depression, WWII, the civil rights movement. She doesn’t just get a college education but ultimately a PhD from Cambridge, a Harvard fellowship. She struggles for years to discover who she was, who she could be - a scholar, a writer, an independent woman. This is a stunning, awe inspiring story that will haunt the reader long after the book ends.

    Thank you to Tara Westover for sharing yourself with us. I received an advanced copy of this book from Random House through NetGalley. Thanks to my friend Diane for bringing this book to my attention. Without her review I might have missed this.

  • Will Byrnes

    is both a tale of hope and a record of horror. We know from the first page of her book that Tara Westover is a bright woman, a gifted writer with an impressive, poetic command of language. But her early life offered no clue that she would become a Cambridge PhD or a brilliant memoirist. She was the youngest of seven children born to Gene and Faye (not their real names) Westover, fundamentalist, survivalist Mormons, in rural Idaho.

    - image from her

    The children constituted his workforce in Gene’s scrapyard. Father was the law in their household, but it was a rule informed as much by significant mental health issues as it was by his ardent religious beliefs. In a less rural, less patriarchal, less religious community, theirs could easily have been deemed an unsafe environment. The scrapyard was a particularly dangerous place.

    Ruby Ridge had occurred when Tara was five, and fed her father’s paranoia. Everyone had to have head-for-the-hills bags for when the government, Deep State, Illuminati, choose your own boogeyman, would come for them. He had a profound distrust of the medical profession, believing that doctors were agents of Satan, intent on doing harm. He saw the herbalism Faye practiced as the only true, righteous treatment for one’s ills, calling her products “god’s pharmacy.” And he practiced what he preached, for himself as well as for his children, even after suffering a devastating injury. Maybe not an ideal way to make sure your kids reach adulthood in one piece.

    - image from Westover’s site

    Home schooling was also less than idyllic, with mom’s attention spread not only over seven children but to her work as an herbalist and later, in addition, a midwife. Luke had a learning disability, frustrating mom, who really had hoped to educate them all. Dad undermined this, dragging the kids out to do chores and learn

    skills. Eventually mom gave up. Education consisted of Faye dropping them at the Carnegie Library in town, where they could read whatever they wanted. Dad rustled the boys at 7am, but Tyler, who had an affinity for math, would often remain inside, studying, until dad dragged him out.

    Successful schooling or not, Tara acquired a desire for and love of learning. Tyler, a black sheep, not only loved books but music, as well. This was a major tonic for Tara, who was smitten with the classical and choral music her brother would play on his boom box. Not only did she find a love for music, but she discovered that she has a gift for singing. Being a part (often the star) of the town musical productions gave her greater contact with peers outside her family than she had ever had before. It formed one pillar of her desire to go to school, to college, to study music. (I included a link in EXTRA STUFF to a music video in which she sings lead, so you can hear for yourself.)

    At age seventeen, Tara Westover attended her first school class, at BYU, clueless about much of what was common knowledge for everyone else, resulting in her asking a question in class about a word everyone, I mean everyone, knows. Oopsy.

    Her intellectual broadening and education forms one powerful thread in her story. How her natural curiosity emerged, was nurtured, discouraged, and ultimately triumphed. The other thread consists of the personal, emotional, psychological, religious, and cultural challenges she had to overcome to become her own person.

    The world in which Westover was raised was one in which a powerful patriarchy, fed by a fundamentalist religious beliefs, applied its considerable pressure to push her into what was considered the proper role for a young woman, namely homemaker, mother, probably following in her mother’s dual careers as herbalist and midwife. And what about what was the right course for Tara? There was some wiggle room. Once dad sees her perform on stage, he is smitten, and softens to her musical leanings. Male siblings had been allowed to go to college. But every step outside the expectations, the rules, came at a cost. Do something different and lose a piece of connection to your family. And family was extremely important, particularly for a person whose entire life had been defined by family, much more so than for pretty much anyone who might read her book.

    - image from the NY Post

    A piece of this proscribed existence was a tolerance for aberrant behavior. Father was domineering, and was feckless about physical danger, even as it applied to his children. And distrustful of the medical establishment. His solution for infected tonsils was to have Tara stand outside with her mouth open to allow in the sun’s healing rays. Severe injuries, including Tara having her leg punctured by razor-like scrap-metal, a brother suffering severe burns on one leg, and even dad himself suffering catastrophic third-degree burns in a junkyard explosion, were to be treated by home-brew tinctures. He was also extremely moody, a characteristic that carried forward in some of the family genes.

    Tara’s ten-years-older brother, Shawn, was a piece of work. She felt close to him at times. He could be kind and understanding in a way that moved her. He even saved her life in a runaway horse incident. But he had a reputation as a bar brawler, as a person eager to fight. Sometimes his rages turned on his own family. And it was not just rage, sparked by trivialities, but cruelty, to the point of sadism. Tara was one of the objects of his madness. Dare oppose him and he would twist her arm to the point of spraining, drag her by her hair, force her face into unspeakable places and demand apologies for imagined offenses. Possibly even worse than this was her family’s denial about it, even when it occurred right in front of them. It is this denial that was hardest to bear. If your own parents will betray you, will not look out for you, in the face of such blatant attacks, then what is the value of the thing you hold most dear in the world?

    Her brother, aliased as “Shawn” in the book, was a master manipulator, who, for years, succeeded magnificently in persuading Tara that what she had just experienced had never really happened.

    One frustrating aspect of the book is Tara’s dispiriting, but also grating ability to doubt herself, to allow others in her life, bullies, to persuade her she does not think what she is thinking, that she does not feel what she is feeling that she did not see what she has seen. She was living in a gaslit world in which multiple individuals, people who supposedly loved her, were telling her that what she had seen was an illusion, and that bad things that other people did were somehow her fault.

    That gets old well before the end. I was very much reminded of victims of domestic abuse, who convince themselves that

    must have done

    to cause, to deserve the violence they suffer. One can only hope that she has been able to vanquish this self-blaming propensity completely by now. Years of therapy have surely helped.

    - image from Salt Lake City Tribune

    She struggles with the yin and yang of her upbringing and finding her true self. Her father was extreme, but also loving. Her abusive brother had a very kind side to him. Her mother was supportive, but was also a betrayer. Her parents wanted what they truly thought was best for her, but ultimately attempted to extinguish the true Tara. The dichotomy in the book is gripping. At times it reads like

    , an upbringing that was idyllic, rich with history and lore, both community and family, and featuring a strong bond to the land. Their home was at the foot of Buck Peak, which sported an almost magical feature that looked like an Indian Princess, and was the source of legends. At others, it is like a horror novel, a testament to the power of reality-bending, indoctrination, and maybe even Stockholm Syndrome. How she survived feeling like the alien she was in BYU and later Cambridge, is amazing, and a testament to her inner strength and intellectual gifts. Westover caught a few breaks over the course of her life, teachers, one at BYU, another at Cambridge, who spot the diamond in her rough, and help her in her educational quest. Reading of this support, I had the same weepy joyful feeling as when Hagrid informs a very young lad,

    When setting out to write the book, Westover had no clue how to go about it, well, this sort of a book, anyway. She had already written a doctoral thesis. But she did have stacks of journals she’d been keeping since she was ten. In figuring out how to get from wish to realization, one important resource was listening to the New Yorker fiction podcast, with its focus on short stories. And she took in plenty of books on writing. It is certainly clear that, just as she had the wherewithal to go from no-school to doctorate at Cambridge, she has shown an ability to figure out how to write a moving, compelling memoir.

    is a triumph, a remarkable work, beautifully told, of the journey from an isolated, fundamentalist, survivalist childhood, through the trials of becoming, to adulthood as an erudite and accomplished survivor. It is a powerful look at the ties, benefits, and perils of families. Ultimately,

    is a rewarding odyssey you do not want to miss.

    Review Posted – 3/23/18

    Published – 2/20/18

    November 29, 2018 -

    is named as one of

    December 2019 -

    is named winner of the 2018 Goodreads Choice Award for memoirs, beating out Michelle Obamas's blockbuster hit,

    . From a

    with Westover

    =============================

    Links to the author’s

    ,

    and

    pages

    Although the internet yielded no vids of Tara singing lead in her town’s production of

    in the wayback, here is one of grown-up Tara singing lead vocal on

    with John Meed

    -----

    - interviewed by Susannah Cahalan – video – 1 hour – If you can manage only one of these, this is the one to see

    -----

    - video – 6:41

    -----

    promotional video – 7:01

    -----

    - 8:46

    -----

    - with Dave Davies – the link includes text of the interview. There is a link on the page to the full audio interview – 38:18 - This is the source for several quotes used in the review, and is definitely worth a look and/or listen

    -----

    A sample of the audiobook, read by Julia Whelan, on

    A brief interview with Westover and Whelan re the making of the audiobook - on

  • Matthew

    Every second of this book is enthralling!

    EVERY.

    SINGLE.

    SECOND.

    The tales in here are true. The stories are mind-blowing. The events are not from a time long ago - they happened in the past 20 years! You will have to keep reminding yourself of that because the mindset and ideas discussed sound antiquated, but they are alive and kicking . . . and that is just crazy!

    One thing that brought this story close to home is that at the time a lot of the events in this book we're taking place, I was living in

    Every second of this book is enthralling!

    EVERY.

    SINGLE.

    SECOND.

    The tales in here are true. The stories are mind-blowing. The events are not from a time long ago - they happened in the past 20 years! You will have to keep reminding yourself of that because the mindset and ideas discussed sound antiquated, but they are alive and kicking . . . and that is just crazy!

    One thing that brought this story close to home is that at the time a lot of the events in this book we're taking place, I was living in Yellowstone National Park and frequently travelled to or through Idaho Falls, Pocatello, Salt Lake City and all points in between. This means I could have been mere miles away from the events in this book while they were taking place! Again, this seems impossible to me and I had to keep reminding myself that this was happening in my neck of the woods! And, because of this, my mind was repeatedly blown.

    I suppose I should mention what might be a trigger warning for some. Most of the men and some of the women in this book are described doing crazy and abusive things. I swear that every few minutes I had to stop, collect my thoughts, and say, "Wow!" While none of us were there to witness this and the author even says there are many who will deny the events and say that her version of the events are driven by the devil himself, they are shocking and will get your mind churning! I feel her frustration and so many times I wanted to reach into the pages and tell her, "It doesn't have to be like this!"

    Also, another trigger warning, if you work for OSHA or help maintain OSHA workplace safety standards, you are going to probably throw this book across the room or at least slam it in disgust a few times.

    This book is amazing and I highly recommend it - I am driven to follow this up by hunting down interviews with the author.

  • Bill Gates

    I’ve always prided myself on my ability to teach myself things. Whenever I don’t know a lot about something, I’ll read a textbook or watch an online course until I do.

    I thought I was pretty good at teaching myself—until I read Tara Westover’s memoir

    . Her ability to learn on her own blows mine right out of the water. I was thrilled to sit down with her recently to talk about the book.

    Tara was raised in a Mormon survivalist home in rural Idaho. Her dad had very non-mainstream views about

    I’ve always prided myself on my ability to teach myself things. Whenever I don’t know a lot about something, I’ll read a textbook or watch an online course until I do.

    I thought I was pretty good at teaching myself—until I read Tara Westover’s memoir

    . Her ability to learn on her own blows mine right out of the water. I was thrilled to sit down with her recently to talk about the book.

    Tara was raised in a Mormon survivalist home in rural Idaho. Her dad had very non-mainstream views about the government. He believed doomsday was coming, and that the family should interact with the health and education systems as little as possible. As a result, she didn’t step foot in a classroom until she was 17, and major medical crises went untreated (her mother suffered a brain injury in a car accident and never fully recovered).

    Because Tara and her six siblings worked at their father’s junkyard from a young age, none of them received any kind of proper homeschooling. She had to teach herself algebra and trigonometry and self-studied for the ACT, which she did well enough on to gain admission to Brigham Young University. Eventually, she earned her doctorate in intellectual history from Cambridge University. (Full disclosure: she was a Gates Scholar, which I didn’t even know until I reached that part of the book.)

    is an amazing story, and I get why it’s spent so much time on the top of the

    bestseller list. It reminded me in some ways of the Netflix documentary

    , which I recently watched. Both explore people who remove themselves from society because they have these beliefs and knowledge that they think make them more enlightened. Their belief systems benefit from their separateness, and you’re forced to be either in or out.

    But unlike

    —which revels in the strangeness of its subjects—

    doesn’t feel voyeuristic. Tara is never cruel, even when she’s writing about some of her father’s most fringe beliefs. It’s clear that her whole family, including her mom and dad, is energetic and talented. Whatever their ideas are, they pursue them.

    Of the seven Westover siblings, three of them—including Tara—left home, and all three have earned Ph.D.s. Three doctorates in one family would be remarkable even for a more “conventional” household. I think there must’ve been something about their childhood that gave them a degree of toughness and helped them persevere. Her dad taught the kids that they could teach themselves anything, and Tara’s success is a testament to that.

    I found it fascinating how it took studying philosophy and history in school for Tara to trust her own perception of the world. Because she never went to school, her worldview was entirely shaped by her dad. He believed in conspiracy theories, and so she did, too. It wasn’t until she went to BYU that she realized there were other perspectives on things her dad had presented as fact. For example, she had never heard of the Holocaust until her art history professor mentioned it. She had to research the subject to form her own opinion that was separate from her dad’s.

    Her experience is an extreme version of something everyone goes through with their parents. At some point in your childhood, you go from thinking they know everything to seeing them as adults with limitations. I’m sad that Tara is estranged from a lot of her family because of this process, but the path she’s taken and the life she’s built for herself are truly inspiring.

    When you meet her, you don’t have any impression of all the turmoil she’s gone through. She’s so articulate about the traumas of her childhood, including the physical abuse she suffered at the hands of one brother. I was impressed by how she talks so candidly about how naïve she once was—most of us find it difficult to talk about our own ignorance.

    I was especially interested to hear her take on polarization in America. Although it’s not a political book,

    touches on a number of the divides in our country: red states versus blue states, rural versus urban, college-educated versus not. Since she’s spent her whole life moving between these worlds, I asked Tara what she thought. She told me she was disappointed in what she called the “breaking of charity”—an idea that comes from the Salem witch trials and refers to the moment when two members of the same group break apart and become different tribes.

    “I worry that education is becoming a stick that some people use to beat other people into submission or becoming something that people feel arrogant about,” she said. “I think education is really just a process of self-discovery—of developing a sense of self and what you think. I think of [it] as this great mechanism of connecting and equalizing.”

    Tara’s process of self-discovery is beautifully captured in

    . It’s the kind of book that I think everyone will enjoy, no matter what genre you usually pick up. She’s a talented writer, and I suspect this book isn’t the last we’ll hear from her. I can’t wait to see what she does next.

  • Elyse Walters

    Tara Westover’s book “Educated” is a distressing & discomforting - alarming & startling exposure of her Mormon fundamentalist family.

    “Educated” is a memoir of nonfiction - but names and identifying details have been changed. Aaron, Audrey, Benjamin, Erin, Faye, Gene, Vanessa, Judy, Peter, Sadie, Shannon, Shawn, Susan, Robert, and Robin are pseudonyms.

    Tara tells us in her authors notes:

    “This is not about Mormonism. Neither is it about any other form of religious belief. In it there are

    Tara Westover’s book “Educated” is a distressing & discomforting - alarming & startling exposure of her Mormon fundamentalist family.

    “Educated” is a memoir of nonfiction - but names and identifying details have been changed. Aaron, Audrey, Benjamin, Erin, Faye, Gene, Vanessa, Judy, Peter, Sadie, Shannon, Shawn, Susan, Robert, and Robin are pseudonyms.

    Tara tells us in her authors notes:

    “This is not about Mormonism. Neither is it about any other form of religious belief. In it there are many types of people, some believers, some not; some kind, some not. The author disputes any correlation, positive or negative, between the two”.

    Yet....as I read this novel - I not only felt angry - sickened at times - but really conflicted too. I had duel thoughts from the beginning of this novel to the end. I ‘did’ think - in part this book was about Mormonism ( let’s call a spade a spade).

    Tara and her siblings had backpacks filled with supplies to defend themselves ready to “head-for-the-hills” ....ready to run ( away from the government).

    Her dad, Gene, feared that the government might one day try to intervene their lifestyle. They were living off the grid. The kids had no formal education, or medical care when sick or injured. Instead of going to the hospital when needed - their mother, midwife/herbalist cared for them with alternative remedies.

    The government might have even brought in social workers to evaluate the health their family. Abuse? YES! This family stayed hidden. Abuse in many forms was hidden.

    Tara’s memoir-impart- also details ( summarizes) the transitions and challenges entering the academic world -Brigham Young University- Harvard- Cambridge ( PhD in History). Her educational journey was interesting — some of it maddening to me also ....

    not faulting anyone - but it was painful for me to discover just how ‘much’ about the world - life changing world events a 7 year old knew - at age 17 she ‘didn’t’ know - yet somehow was studying at a University. I questioned ‘how was this even possible’? Amazing. Tara had great support from a church entering college...which was wonderful.

    At times I felt frustrated ‘besides’ some greatly disturbing horrific frightening descriptions during Tara’s childhood.

    Tara’s academic accomplishments were extraordinary—but I couldn’t find her voice. She seemed - fragile - and often so uncertain of herself.

    This book is very well written - ( gloomy -perplexing - and wearisome at times from repetitive trips back home to seek validation from her family)- but it seemed her education brought her almost as much pain as it did inner fulfillment. Because Tara disputes any difference between negative and positive —admirable in ways —I had a hard time getting an experience of ‘HER’. I admit it’s my own frustration. This young girl had a childhood I could never fully comprehend- or know what scars remain...but the fact stands — she's living proof that amazing change is possible. Tara calls that “an education”. Alright ....I agree....but I’m still sad and feel incomplete. ( it’s my problem - not hers).

    There have been comparisons to this book and “The Glass Castle”. I understand that — but in reality they are presented very differently. Not only does Jeannette Walls not change any names in her book — she had just freedom to go on National television with her homeless mother. She didn’t need to hide or change identifying details. Tara Westover felt the need to keep names hidden. ( less freedom between the author and her readers for full- self expression). I understand- but a little less satisfying.

    I DO FEEL THIS BOOK OUGHT TO BE READ ....

    I DO SEE THIS BOOK’S IMPORTANCE....a story about an American family living by their own rules - ignoring others who don’t follow their beliefs.

    WE SEE TARA WESTOVER’S SKILLFUL LYRICISM in this book....very impressive— one of the most inspiring aspects to me. With her achievements, education, and talent, we got a well-written fascinating SAD STORY.

    I will think about Tara - worry & wonder about her in years to come. It killed me that Tara continued time and time again to seek validation - I’m not sure it’s over.

    She kept going home to a place where her own brother tried to kill her —

    She almost begged her mother to see her time and time again too— it was soooo painful to me that her mother rejected her ——but just as painful that Tara kept needing their approval. All so sad. I UNDERSTAND....yet I can’t see who she is through her own behavior.

    Tara has an inspiring academic education— a relationship with 3 of her siblings but trying to regain a relationship with her parents - her violent brother - and even one of her sisters she was once very close to was like trying to get blood from a turnip....it just wasn’t possible. It made for very frustrating reading.

    Why did Tara keep trying to fill her heart with the family that rejected her several times? And were abusive? And can a book education take that pain away? These are questions that lingered with me.

    Tara had a sweet - warm- soft voice on NPR. Her interviewer called her dad a ‘character’. She agreed. All light and fluffy.

    Tara share About MANY HAPPY CHILDHOOD MEMORIES on NPR. I was a little confused listening to her. Was she happy or angry? She seemed so happy about her childhood. Huh? Yet for years she suffered abuse which she tells us in her book.

    On NPR:

    She said the junkyard was playful and exotic, but was dangerous....but also fun.

    She said the Mountain where she grew up was magical and beautiful.....but they were closed off from the rest of the world.

    Duality....duality...duality ...... is a word that Tara used over and over again on NPR. Tara see’s two sides to her entire life. I felt a little “duality” in this story myself. I still feel Tara herself is hidden from this story.

    Can’t put my finger on it. But one thing does hit home — we can’t meet the rest of her family like we were able to of Jeannette Walls. So - this is clearly TARA’S memoir....and I’ll respect it at that.

    This is a valuable powerful read but I’m guessing there might be more to this story one day.

    Thank You Netgalley, Random House, and Tara Westover ( congrats to you on your book - may you continue to find inner peace and happiness)

    4.4 Stars

  • Emily (Books with Emily Fox)

    I had a really tough time reading this book.

    The physical and emotional abuse made me want to put it down and forget about it. The manipulation, the abuse she went through left me speechless. While not unique, family issues are still so taboo. Brainwashing your own self into thinking it's your fault, that it wasn't that bad or that you imagined it will hit way too close for comfort for a lot of people.

    The author's writing was beautiful and her courage to get an education and stand up to her famil

    I had a really tough time reading this book.

    The physical and emotional abuse made me want to put it down and forget about it. The manipulation, the abuse she went through left me speechless. While not unique, family issues are still so taboo. Brainwashing your own self into thinking it's your fault, that it wasn't that bad or that you imagined it will hit way too close for comfort for a lot of people.

    The author's writing was beautiful and her courage to get an education and stand up to her family was inspiring.

    Do recommend if you can stomach it.

  • Emily May

    What an interesting fantasy novel.

    I'm kidding.

    I think.

    Some parts of this

    seem farfetched, such as how an uneducated mountain wildgirl clicked her heels together, magicked up thousands of dollars (yeah, yeah, scholarships don't cover everything, you know), and went on to some of the world's most prestigious higher education centres. Intelligence is not the main thing required to attend Harvard or Cambridge; being able to pass exams and perform the system's dance is. Someone without formal ed

    What an interesting fantasy novel.

    I'm kidding.

    I think.

    Some parts of this

    seem farfetched, such as how an uneducated mountain wildgirl clicked her heels together, magicked up thousands of dollars (yeah, yeah, scholarships don't cover everything, you know), and went on to some of the world's most prestigious higher education centres. Intelligence is not the main thing required to attend Harvard or Cambridge; being able to pass exams and perform the system's dance is. Someone without formal education should have no idea how to do that.

    Also-- are some people magically cured by herbs and finger-clicking here or did I miss some medical intervention along the way?

    But I think, overall, I was just a little underwhelmed by this book because everyone seemed to find the survivalist aspect so dramatic and awful. I've read a few books about isolated communities that go off the grid and enforce their own laws and, I have to say, Westover's experience felt pretty tame. Her family were survivalists who spent months canning peaches and hunting for scrap, but is this really that odd? My grandfather used to take us to collect blackberries and then we'd spend time making blackberry jam and canning. How avant-garde.

    They are also just really bad at going off the grid. I heard all these promises of "wilderness" and "mountain survivalists" but they have a phone and TV. Come on, guys! If you're going to do it, do it properly. I would say this family is more "eccentric" than "survivalist".

    Where the book does succeed is as

    . I think this was the most important part of the book and it's been glossed over in favour of people's delight at learning about weirdos running around wild in the mountains. (I'm not judging; I came for that too.) I also found it really interesting and sad when the author suggested that her father's paranoid delusions might have been undiagnosed bipolar disorder.

    It's a

    , I'll give it that. But it's hard to not feel like something is amiss, and certain events were probably exaggerated. Or, alternatively, Westover's "survivalist" family were sitting on a few on-the-grid dollars that conveniently popped up when equipment needed repairs and people needed to go to college. It's also possible that the writing lacked clarity because some things definitely didn't add up.

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  • Debra

    "It's strange how you give the people you love so much power over you"

    I am in the minority on this one, but this did not blow me away. I wanted to read this after seeing so many high ratings. I was expecting to love this book but ended up feeling meh about it. I actually wanted to hurry the book up in parts and other times found it to be a little repetitive. There were other times I wanted her to go into more detail or explain things more. One thing I had an issue with is that her family is desc

    "It's strange how you give the people you love so much power over you"

    I am in the minority on this one, but this did not blow me away. I wanted to read this after seeing so many high ratings. I was expecting to love this book but ended up feeling meh about it. I actually wanted to hurry the book up in parts and other times found it to be a little repetitive. There were other times I wanted her to go into more detail or explain things more. One thing I had an issue with is that her family is described as survivalists who educated their children at home - many of which do not even have a birth certificate - but then they had many modern conveniences. Her father has a junkyard and a huge distrust of the government. Her Mother becomes a midwife at her husband's urging and makes tinctures and uses herbs to cure those in her family and in their community. I do realize that the family acquired the telephone due to her Mother's job as a mid-wife but then I wondered how they paid for everything. .

    Tara grows up free or wild. She didn’t bathe that often, didn’t wash her hands after using the restroom, and is unaware of world history, and is quite comfortable living around bad odors and smells. She is abused by an older brother and no one seems to notice, intervene, or even care. They seem to be a reckless group - example: multiple car accidents, etc.

    I had a hard time believing some of the information presented. Case in point the first car accident in the book, Tara's father offered to pay for the damaged tractor. Where did they get the money? Just how much does farm equipment cost? It's not cheap, I know that. Even if the farm equipment purchased is used it still must be pricey. Plus, the damage to their car would mean they would need to purchase another. Then the family has another car accident. More money, lots of injuries, possible need for another vehicle, etc. I am not saying that none of this happened, but I had a lot of questions about how things were paid for

    Plus, this family seemed to be very accident prone, falling from surfaces, fires, head injuries. Was this because they were raised without any rules and became reckless, or did bad things just happen to them?

    Tara does want a better life for herself. She does educate herself at home, so she can pass the test to get into College. College isn't cheap, nor are book, nor is housing or food. Again, I wondered how she paid for all of this. Plus, once she got to college, she didn't seem to mind that her roommates were upset with the smell in their home. Dirty dishes, not bathing, not having clean clothes. I get if this is the norm, in the home she grew up in but when faced with other's displeasure, I would think a smart girl like her would have taken the hint that being clean and living in a clean environment is the norm, not how she was raised. Plus, at home a young man even pointed out to her that her home smelled as did she.

    There was a part of this book that I did enjoy. Tara's thirst for knowledge and teaching herself and gaining entrance to college without a formal education. I appreciated her struggles and having to learn how to "learn". She went on to achieve a lot in her life and it is impressive and commendable. Tara definitely was an under dog and I did root for her. She definitely changed her life and sought for better for herself. Even without a lot of support from her family, she found strength and kept going. This is what shined for me in this book with otherwise left me with questions. Who doesn't want to root for her? I did. Having said that, there were just too many questions raised why reading this. I don't care if someone is a survivalist, I would think one would still want their children to be safe and free of harm. The turning the blind eye to abuse was despicable. The family also had a lot of modern conveniences which did not gel with my idea of what a survivalist family would own or not own. But I am no expert on survivalist families. Her father clearly had some mental health issues and they contributed to his beliefs and possibly to their way of life. Yes, she suffered abuse. Yes, she grew up in a home with an untreated mentally ill parent, yes, it is all very sad but it was still not enough to make me enjoy the book.

    What worked for me in this book was Tara's drive for a better life. How with very little support from her family, she went out on her own and obtained an education. I appreciated her drive and determination. Her book is well written and I realize this is her account of how she remembers things from her perspective. I just was left with questions hence the 3 star rating.

    Again, in the minority with this one. Most love this book. It just wasn't for me.

    I received a copy of this book from Random House Publishing group and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

    See more of my reviews at

  • Marialyce

    2 stars and I know, I am an outlier.

    I have been born with a gene called the "doubting Thomas" gene. It has made me very leery of trusting and believing a lot of things and unfortunately this gene kicked in big time in this story billed as a memoir.

    While I do believe that the things described by Tara Westover might have happened, I also have to think that this was a book of childhood memories. Sometimes, as children, we distort the truth, and sometimes grown to adulthood we only remember fragment

    2 stars and I know, I am an outlier.

    I have been born with a gene called the "doubting Thomas" gene. It has made me very leery of trusting and believing a lot of things and unfortunately this gene kicked in big time in this story billed as a memoir.

    While I do believe that the things described by Tara Westover might have happened, I also have to think that this was a book of childhood memories. Sometimes, as children, we distort the truth, and sometimes grown to adulthood we only remember fragments of what happened and when confronted by others realize our memory was somewhat faulty.

    There are actually quite a few things I just could not wrap my hands around in this story. For one, being a former teacher and having had the pleasure of teaching many gifted and brilliant students, I just could not see what, with the quantum lapses in Tara's education, how she could possibly have made it into both a fairly prestigious college and then onto the highest level of university in England. Learning builds upon itself and being a former math teacher, I can say that if one only

    had the rudimentary knowledge of the four simple math functions, that going onto higher level math would be virtually impossible. Was it possible that her early education being home schooled was not as lacking as she described it to be?

    The next issue I had was that of the number of injuries incurred by she and her brothers and her mother just snapping her fingers, using essential oils and other agents and then recovery occurred. Granted, I am not a medical professional, but the incidents described in one or two particular cases was life threatening and yet these techniques done by the mother worked? I know I still blame it on my doubting Thomas gene. I do also have a belief in both holistic and regular medicine being a partnership in the healing process.

    Next up for me, was Tara's ability to obtain somehow the finances to attend college and then to travel overseas to England and back. Yes, I do know that she was awarded scholarships but what about the incidentals, travel, food not provided in school. Did she live like a hermit and never leave the confines of the school she was attending? From her writing, we know that is not true.

    Lastly, if indeed these things were happening, where were the people who should have noticed the abuse? Where were the friends, the church goers, the people who did business with the father? Would they have not noticed untoward things happening to the Westover children. Would not at least one of them have come forward? Why are some of them coming forward now to defend this family?

    So, sorry to say, I am going against the grain of many of my fellow much respected readers and reviewers, and saying that I just could not buy into what was being set forward in this book. I am not an advocate for her parents, nor do I think that things never did happen. Perhaps to me, this book just has not explained the circumstances well enough for the doubting Thomas in me to believe.

    Thankful to my Traveling Sisters who read this book along with me. We all seemed to share the same ideas on this one and I am glad as always to have my thoughts and feeling able to be expressed to such a wonderful group of avid readers.

    Also thank you to netgalley, the author and the publisher for providing me with an ARC of this book.

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