Book review: ‘Educated,’ memoirs of a home-schooled survivalist family

Cover of the book "Educated" by Tara Westover. Library background courtesy of Alfons Morales via Unsplash, St. George News

OPINION — Tara Westover’s father was a committed anti-government survivalist. They lived near “Buck Peak” in Idaho. His paranoia deepened with the coming of Y2K and with the news of Ruby Ridge in the early 1990s. He wanted to be off the grid and didn’t believe in doctors or birth certificates. Her mother was committed to her husband, or at least afraid of him. She was an unlicensed midwife and herbalist.

The family attended The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints but were not mainstream, and they mixed many of the father’s beliefs into their religious viewpoint. An author’s note page points out that the book is not about Mormonism or any other religious point of view.

The author starts out a chapter titled “Educated,” saying, “When I was child I waited for my mind to grow, for my experiences to accumulate, and my choices to solidify, taking shape into the likeness of a person.” The book does just that. It is a unique look at the strength of the individual and, likewise, the strength of environment.

Tara’s first school experience was at Brigham Young University where she earned a bachelor of arts degree on the strength of claiming she was home-schooled and her ACT score. She graduated magna cum laude.

She went to Cambridge for a summer program; a professor saw in her the strength of her intellect, and likely he could see the real advantage that not attending public schools had been for her. He encouraged her to apply, and she was awarded the Gates Cambridge Scholarship.

She was invited to Trinity College where she gained a masters in philosophy, which is a postgraduate advanced research degree. Then she received her Ph.D in history from Cambridge in 2014.

Tara’s family was split down the middle. Three of the children earned Ph.Ds and four had no high school diploma. The four became dependent on the family business. Tara, as a girl growing up, was not just a tomboy, she was doing the work of a man from childhood. She could drive a fork lift before she could drive a car.

The family lived during those years off the junkyard that surrounded their house. The father did construction work and the children were required to help. It was dangerous, and the work they did would scare anyone.

Tara’s transition into a young woman, with the years of being on the crew, are interesting, and her intellectual look at herself about this time was insightful. After Tara left, and after her father’s life changing accident, her mother’s herbal business took off and became a major area-employer. It was a good example of how a little Scripture can really sell a product.

This is one of the best memoirs you may read. The writing is excellent, and the purity of thought and honesty is a powerful reason for why this book is so important.

Written and submitted by BRENT M. JONES, South Jordan.

This review is not the product of St. George News, its editors, staff or news contributors. The matters stated and opinions given are the responsibility of the person submitting them; they do not reflect the product or opinion of St. George News.

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