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'Educated: A Memoir'

Westover’s disturbing, powerful memoir is much more than seeking the education she was denied by her

government-hating, paranoid father whose mental illness was a factor in the astonishing lack of concern for his children’s welfare.

Born to survivalists in the beautiful mountains of Idaho, Tara prepared for the end of the world by stockpiling home-canned peaches. In the summer she stewed herbs with her mother, a midwife and healer. Tara had no birth

certificate, never saw a doctor, and didn’t go to school. 

What little schooling her mother tried to provide was always interrupted by her father dragging his children to his junkyard for dangerous labor that caused serious injuries.

As Tara watched the insanity and chaos of her parents’ poor choices, she had one glimpse of life beyond the mountain. Her older brother Tyler had left home and gone to college. He encouraged her to do the same. So she bought textbooks and tried teaching herself.

The book’s most graphically detailed part depicts the physical abuse of Tara by her brother Sean who often dragged her by the hair around the house or shoved her head into the toilet. What’s most confounding is the mother’s complicity. 

Rather than sheltering her daughter, she defends her violent and controlling husband and son. When Tara speaks out against the abuse, the family gaslights her.

Later, through sheer force of will she passes the ACT and is accepted into Brigham Young University. From there she will distinguish herself with scholarships and ultimately earn a doctorate from Cambridge. Still, the family in Idaho will pull her back again and again with the same dismal results until, finally, she makes a life-changing decision.

In refusing to deny the reality of her childhood nightmare, Westover has given readers a memoir that will continue to haunt them long after the last page.