Educated by Tara Westover, USA, 2018

Educated by Tara Westover, USA, 2018

In this book, Tara Westover describes her very dysfunctional family and her path to getting an education. Although the Westovers are Mormons, Tara goes to lengths at the beginning of the book to explain that her book is not about Mormonism: ‘This story is not about Mormonism.’ she writes ‘Neither is it about any other form of religious belief … In it there are many types of people, some believers, some not … ‘ The Westovers could have been Jehova’s Witnesses, Catholics, Presbyterians or even atheists; the book is not so much about beliefs but about fanaticism.

One of seven children, Tara grows up in Idaho where the messiness of her father’s scrap-iron business is reflected in the house where she lives and in the relationships between the members of the family. The children do not exist, having been home-birthed and never having been issued with birth certificates; nor do they attend school – schools, according to their father, being a primary source of brainwashing. Doctors, hospitals, and all those services that most people take for granted are not part of the Westover reality. Their mother does a poor job of homeschooling them, and when they need medical attention, she relies on her own herb concoctions mixed with a fair amount of superstition.

Tara’s father, who obviously suffers from some mental disease, spends most of his time preparing for the End of Days, stockpiling food, petrol, and weapons. The children, free from any constraints school might have had on their time, are there to fetch and carry for their father. It is a case of survival of the fittest, where familial love and affection have been either pushed into some forgotten corner or are completely non-existent. The mother seems unaware of her husband’s failings and the violence within the family, completely accepting her subservient role in the household.

That Tara, at age sixteen, is able to break free from her family and actually begin an education is amazing. As she wends her way through college and various universities, she continues to feel strangely guilty about her decision to make something of her life until, finally, she learns to accept the decision on her own terms, realizing that it is for her own sake, not because her father deserved to lose her.

This is, at times, a disturbing book, honestly written and extremely thought-provoking.

The photo of Tara Westover is from Wikipedia.

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