Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Review: Educated (Audio)

Summary: Tara Westover was seventeen the first time she set foot in a classroom. Born to survivalists in the mountains of Idaho, she prepared for the end of the world by stockpiling home-canned peaches and sleeping with her “head-for-the-hills” bag. In the summer she stewed herbs for her mother, a midwife and healer, and in the winter she salvaged metal in her father’s junkyard.

Her father distrusted the medical establishment, so Tara never saw a doctor or nurse. Gashes and concussions, even burns from explosions, were all treated at home with herbalism. The family was so isolated from mainstream society that there was no one to ensure the children received an education, and no one to intervene when an older brother became violent.

When another brother got himself into college and came back with news of the world beyond the mountain, Tara decided to try a new kind of life. She taught herself enough mathematics, grammar, and science to take the ACT and was admitted to Brigham Young University. There, she studied psychology, politics, philosophy, and history, learning for the first time about pivotal world events like the Holocaust and the Civil Rights Movement. Her quest for knowledge transformed her, taking her over oceans and across continents, to Harvard and to Cambridge University. Only then would she wonder if she’d traveled too far, if there was still a way home.

Educated is an account of the struggle for self-invention. It is a tale of fierce family loyalty, and of the grief that comes from severing one’s closest ties. With the acute insight that distinguishes all great writers, Westover has crafted a universal coming-of-age story that gets to the heart of what an education is and what it offers: the perspective to see one’s life through new eyes, and the will to change it. -- Random House Audio

I decided to listen to EDUCATED: A MEMOIR by Tara Westover after seeing that Kathy (aka Bermudaonion) enjoyed it. The comparisons to HILLBILLY ELEGY were a plus too; however, I'm not always the best listener of audio books. I was hoping that I might have better luck with a memoir because for some reason, I can usually stay focused on memoirs more than novels. It was definitely true with this "truth is stranger than fiction" story.

EDUCATED is Tara Westovers life story... so far -- she's still only in her early 30s. She was born to Mormons in rural Idaho, and her family was a bit unusual in that they were survivalists. Her mother was a midwife and herbalist, while her father ran a junkyard. Neither was normal by conventional standards, but her father's behavior bordered on manic. He distrusted the medical establishment so much that even when members of the family were seriously injured, he wouldn't take them to the hospital. He just relied on the mom's treatments.

In addition, he distrusted any and all of the establishment. His children, including Tara, didn't attend school; and truth be told, they weren't really homeschooled either. Tara decided tot each herself enough to do well on the ACT and admitted to Brigham Young University. So at 17, she entered a classroom for the first time... and it was truly an experience. She didn't know the basics (including the truth of the Holocaust for starters); and she wasn't exactly socially adept either. It is an amazing story that she went from these beginnings to eventually Harvard and Cambridge... and even earned her doctorate!

EDUCATED is truly an incredible story. First and foremost, Tara Westover is amazing to overcome her childhood and get such a wonderful education. (She's also pretty amazing to have survived it all with some sense of sanity!) In addition, I am blown away that she wanted to share her story with others. It's shocking and even disturbing at times, and I can't help but be impressed by how Ms. Westover worked through her family issues. I honestly have so much respect for her -- she's only strong woman!

The memoir is incredibly honest, painfully so at times, and I throughly enjoyed it. (That sounds twisted!) So many of her childhood memories are larger-than-life including her interactions with her dad and abusive older brother. It's almost hard to believe that one family could have this much happen to them, but I guess that's why she had to write a book. As interesting as these tidbits were about her youth, I appreciated even more what she had to overcome to become the person she is today.

The audiobook version was read by Julia Whelan, and she did a fantastic job. For most of the book, I felt as if Ms. Westover was telling me her story -- not a narrator. It's 730 minutes long, so it's not a quick read/listen. However, I think it's well worth the time.

I do think EDUCATED would be a smart book club selection. I was excited to find a reading guide with nine interesting questions. Some of the themes you might want to discuss include family dynamics, mental illness, abuse, parent/child relationships, trust, freedom, healing, and grief.

EDUCATED is a fantastic memoir that fans of HILLBILLY ELEGY and THE GLASS CASTLE will enjoy.

Thanks to the publisher for the audio download of this book.


Aj @ Read All The Things! said...

This book has been getting such good reviews! I’m excited to read it. It sounds like the author had a very strange childhood. Great review!

Aj @ Read All The Things!

Kim@Time2Read said...

I've heard so much about this one, but I'm still on the fence. I don't usually enjoy memoirs, but I think I might like this one. I'm still on the fence....

Kelly-Belly said...

I'm interested. I like to listen while I do my crochet...which I haven't done in a while. Thanks for the post! :)

bermudaonion said...

Wasn't Westover's story something else? It was painful at times but so uplifting to know she was able to triumph over her past.

Karen White said...

This is a "maybe" for my bookclub for next month so it's good to see you think it'd be a good choice.

Susan's Literary Cafe said...

I loved it. It only took me a couple days to read. I did read Hillbilly Eulogy. But, I didn't think to compare it. Her father had a mental disorder, and didn't trust the government. Hillbilly Eulogy, didn't have that problem. They were angry with how life treated them in the rust belt. Where Educated was a mistrust, and thinking the end of the world is coming. Think of Ruby Ridge.Her family especially her father limited her learning until she was able to think for herself. I'll tell you what a family. So, sad how her family treated her. Her brother, Shawn, and her father, and her brothers, and sisters that weren't educated. It is a wild ride.

I would love our book club would read this, and discuss. There is so much to talk about. If you believe in Education, and books, you would be inspired how she was able to get beyond her limited education, and go to all places Cambridge.

I have not written my review yet. Thanks for your thoughts.

There are all different ways to educate yourself. Institutional education is not always the only way. That is what I got out of the book. There is so much to talk about. I am afraid to tell more. Because I don't want to ruin it for anyone.