Audiobook, Autobiography, Memoir, Non Fiction

Educated by Tara Westover @tarawestover @PRHAudio

the setup…

Tara Westover is the youngest of six children born to Mormon survivalist parents from Clifton, Idaho who had strong ideologies and mistrust of anything associated with the government. She never went to public school and had limited teaching at home from one of her siblings and sometimes her mother. When she was 17-years old, she left her family home in the mountains of Buck’s Peak to enroll in Brigham Young University based solely on having passed the ACT tests with an exceptional score. She eventually earned a PhD from Cambridge University, having somehow earned scholarships, qualifying for grants and working to fund her education. But it’s her personal journey that preceded her education that is the strongest message of her story.

the heart of the story…

Tara’s father owned a scrapyard and all of the children were expected to help out, beginning at a young age and ending only when they left the mountain for other endeavors. It was dangerous work and her father didn’t seem to view safety as a priority. Tara’s mother was a midwife (unlicensed) and later became skilled in herbal healing remedies. There was little in the way of outside influences and Tara was almost an adult before she was exposed to anything other than her parents’ points of view. She describes events that I found heartbreaking, suffering physical and emotional abuse at the hands of one sibling who was allowed to continue doing so unchecked. Tara also believed her father had a mental illness, possibly being bipolar, and the behavior she described certainly seemed to fit that unofficial diagnosis. It was remarkable that Tara ever gathered the wherewithal or courage to leave her family and seek a formal education as her father had a dim view of schools at any level. But her biggest challenge took much longer to achieve, acknowledging that the only way to maintain any relationship with her family was by acknowledging that her truisms differed greatly from those of her parents but remaining silent about it.

the narration…

Julia Whelan, one of my most favorite narrators, delivered a powerful performance. She did this story justice, never embellishing the most difficult parts of Tara’s recollections, letting the eloquence of the words stand on their own. If you have a choice to read or listen, I’d go for the audio format.

the bottom line…

I delayed reading this book because I thought the emphasis was on how Tara developed a formal education and thought that might be a bit predictable. This was not that kind of memoir as I found her struggle for independence from her family, both in her thinking and physically, much more powerful. It defines her and every path she chose. While I’m still unclear as to not only how she was accepted into college but even made it through, I don’t question the abuse she suffered and the indifference to it by her parents. If I had any doubt about that, it was dispelled when her mother wrote her own book, leveraging the name of this one, not only victimizing her daughter again but presenting herself and her husband as being unblemished prophets. Whereas Tara changed the names to protect her siblings and never named her parents, her mother’s book took none of those precautions. It’s a difficult story I found thought provoking as I considered how much of my own truisms, initially formed by my parents, were reshaped as I was offered alternative points of view from the outside world and my own reaction to learning that Mom and Dad could be wrong. It’s a story I’d recommend you discover and judge for yourself.

Book Info

  • Release Date: February 20, 2018
  • Narrator: Julia Whelan
  • Audio Length: 12 hours, 10 minutes
  • Publisher: Random House Audio



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37 thoughts on “Educated by Tara Westover @tarawestover @PRHAudio”

  1. Great review, Jonetta! I think I felt similar to you about this one – I absolutely believe she was abused and her writing about it was so powerful, but I felt there was so much missing in the journey of her education and how she actually managed it. For as much detail as there was elsewhere, I couldn’t believe the gaps that were in these parts! I had no idea her mother had also released a book, which is just…ugh. Way to further traumatize someone who’s already suffered terribly. She seems incredibly strong despite what her family put her through, though!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you, Ren💜 It saddens me that her family, particularly her parents, chose to sanction her abuse and punish her for speaking up. That alone seems to validate all other aspects of her story about them (I thought she was generous!). But her path to education is still a mystery for me. I’ve since learned that BYU made lots of concessions for Mormons, which would explain why that’s murky. It’s still remarkable that she made up a lot of years in learning fundamentals but it may have been an extraordinarily different experience at a non-faith based college or university. And, I think she’s off the charts smart.

      FYI, I think my comments are going into your spam folder😏

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It saddens me, too. I’m sure an apology and acknowledgment of her experience wouldn’t have changed much going forward, but it could’ve been extremely healing for her. And to instead hit back at her is so cruel.

        That would make a lot of sense if BYU made special concessions for Mormons, but it still was such a wild leap to me! I’m not sure if she just omitted things she thought would make for boring reading, like additional tutoring or something.

        Eek, I’m sorry to hear that, I had no idea! I’ll check the spam folder and see if I can figure out what’s going on!!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Just checked – I don’t see any comments from you in the spam folder! How odd! (Unless you’re using a different name to invite me to check out a very NSFW photo gallery 😂) Are you getting any kind of error message when trying to leave them?

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Oh that’s so strange! I haven’t heard that from anyone else. I’ve had my own issues with other people’s blogs that require me to log in anew each time to comment, but as far as I can tell mine is a standard WordPress where as long as you’re logged in already, you can comment. I do hold them for approval (after a white supremacist commented all over a post a few years ago 😒) but otherwise they’re all approved. So bizarre and I’m really sorry. I’ll see if I can figure it out!

          Liked by 1 person

  2. This sounds like such an emotional story – running the whole gamut of emotions. The struggles some children have to endure is just so heartbreaking. I could tell you stories from school counseling that are so bad they hardly seem like they could be real. Excellent review!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Excellent review, Jo. When I originally read this, I was shocked, angry and saddened and just reading your review brought those feelings back. There was so much controversy over whether Tara’s story was true or embellished and it left me in limbo for awhile. Even if some is embellished, it is terrible for anyone to live through it and to not be believed makes it worse. I did not know her mother wrote her own book, how sick is that. Did you read it?

    Liked by 1 person

  4. It’s a brutal life she had and it’s great she was able to make her own life away from them. You’ve written a fantastic review for this compelling novel. I didn’t know her mother had written a novel too but I’m not interested in reading it.


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