Educated is at once, amazing and disturbing.
Tara Westover is a young woman born to Mormon fundamentalist parents in a remote region of Idaho. The youngest of seven children, Tara’s father is a Survivalist, and the family ‘prophet’. Ruling the family with an air of tyranny and fear, he forbids all forms of formal education and western medicine, convinced they are evil arms of a government plot. Tara’s mother is completely subordinate to her husband in all matters, even at the risk of her own children’s safety.
And if that weren’t bad enough, Tara must endure the sadistic physical and mental abuse from her older brother, Shawn. As she recounts tales of his psychotic behavior, one wonders how or why anyone would endure such cruel treatment. And how could her parents be blind to such suffering? Yikes!
3 Words: Dysfunctional family loyalty.
At some point Tara realizes she wants a different life, and steps foot in a classroom for the first time as a freshman at Brigham Young University. And while the reader breaths a sigh of relief at her escape from the grip of her tyrannical family, a new struggle emerges. Tara is an outsider, and her acclimatization to the ‘real’ world isn’t easy. With no sense of world history, societal norms or pop culture, her entry into the secular world is fraught with isolation and alienation. We painfully watch her seesaw back and forth between the two worlds, not fully belonging to either. We suffer with her as she struggles to find her own identity, and a sense of place. We cringe when she returns home, and cheer her on when she manages to escape Buck’s Peak, again and again.
Yes, I recognize that this review seems to be slathered in judgment and contempt. Typically I appreciate that others have different beliefs or guiding principles. I try really hard to not judge people based on these differences. I may not always agree with them, but I try to allow them space to live their own lives. For that reason, this book challenged me in ways I couldn’t imagine. Even though Gene and Faye Westover are entitled to raise their children according to their own beliefs, I found it virtually impossible to not become simply outraged by their choices. I found myself wondering if there were ‘others’ like them.
Really?! When I did become such a judgmental snob? I hated myself for judging their ways as wrong and mine as right. And in a world that is already overwhelmed with hate, who needs more hate, right? So my challenge to you is to read this memoir and try not to categorize Gene and Faye by their religion or beliefs. This is not a book about Mormon fundamentalists. This is not even a book about Survivalists. This is a book about the Westover family, from the perspective of Tara. And as a wise man (my husband) reminds me when I start to get all judgmental-y, “Remember, they did the best they could with the resources they had at the time.” Well Gene and Faye, I’m sure you did the best you could. And I applaud Tara to have the courage to see a different future for herself. And as a result, may she give courage to others to follow their own path, against all odds.
Click below to find a local bookstore where you can purchase this memorable memoir!