Tara Westover’s “Educated” is as solid a memoir as I’ve read. I hesitate to say “The best memoir ever,” as I know tastes vary. But Westover’s debut masterpiece ticks all the boxes in the checklist I’ve built, reading classics like Mary Karr’s “Liar’s Club,” Jeanette Wells’ “The Glass Castle,” Bernard Cooper’s “The Bill From My Father” and (perhaps the progenitor of the field) J.R. Ackerley’s “My Father and My Self.”
I want to be clear: classics though they are, none of those checks ALL the boxes so effortlessly ticked by Westover; as “effortlessly” as she ticked off ACT test bubble-answer sheets to gain acceptance to college with no prior formal education!
I cannot more highly recommend a memoir than I recommend Tara Westover’s “Educated.”
Literally… because they won’t give me more stars. But I can write more to prove how much I loved this book. … (more)
Find the detailed/complete review on Goodreads,
2 thoughts on ““Educated” Book Review”
Interesting. I have no understanding of why this book has been so well received. Here’s the reveiw I gave it on amazon & goodreads: Just finished Tara Westover’s _Educated_. I am very disappointed and frustrated by it, since given the title, “Educated”, I expected much, much more about how an entirely ignorant girl, raised in excruciatingly insane circumstances, came to earn in a very short time a PhD from Cambridge University. Instead, she spent chapter after chapter recounting the gruesome and terrifying details of events in her Mormon survivalist family, with familial abuse, parental neglect, and a gillion acts of violence and injury. One or two of those would have been entirely enough to get a picture of the cruel damage done to children raised in such circumstances. I understand that this must have been cathartic and necessary for her to confront and write down, but she then glosses over what to me is the real story: how someone who didn’t even know what an “essay form” was could within the space of two years write well enough to impress a professor at Cambridge to recommend her to Harvard! As other critics have said, it’s perhaps precipitous that she has written this so young–she is only 32, and only began this process of removing herself from this toxic environment at 17. She is still so damaged, her wounds are still so fresh, that she’s unable really to be removed enough to give herself a pat on the back for having escaped through sheer intellect such a miserable world view. I have ended up feeling nothing but distress and dismay that there are still so many of these survivalist families out there, causing terror and insanity to continue to poison their own children. Telling in excruciating detail what happened to her at the hands of her parents, and especially her psychotic brother, became boring and unfulfilling. I was NOT expecting an entirely “happy ending”, but some acknowledgment of how far she had come and how she did it. Her writing style also varies greatly: some parts are quite beautiful and evocative, others read like a sophomoric journal. As someone who overcame a relatively dysfunctional family through intellectual pursuit, and someone who has had personal experience with Mormon sect members, I really wanted to gain some understanding of her intellectual journey. Perhaps her next book?
Every memoir is, to some degree, like a Rorschach blot.
As I read your review I was going to comment that perhaps you didn’t know Mormonism… but you have experience. How much/where? I grew up in a similarly small town to Westover’s Preston, ID: Ely, NV, approximately 60% mormon at the time I lived there.
The culture of my town was a bit more balanced, religiously, with a strong Catholic community, and a number of garden variety Protestant sects. 🙂
Seeing how closely you read, and your review/reaction to this book, I am looking forward to comments on the beta-version of my memoir you’re reading. (mine is substantially less sequential). There IS a huge element of catharsis, overcoming the denial of ones self, in both Tara’s and my memoir.