Educated by Tara Westover is a riveting memoir that stresses the power of family dynamics in conflict with internal motivation to succeed.
Tara is the youngest of a large sibling group. Her parents are strict Mormons while her dad also displays signs of mental illness, perhaps bipolar disorder or schizophrenia. He is against public education, medicine and government and is constantly prepping for an apocalypse. Tara and her siblings are “home schooled” amidst their dad’s erratic and reckless behaviors. Usually, home schooling is trumped by their work breaking down scrap in the dad’s junkyard.
Once Tara is a bit older, she becomes the ongoing subject of both physical and mental abuse from one of her brothers. Throughout her young life, it is almost impossible to imagine the injuries that various family members endure, all without proper medical treatment. Most notable are multiple instances of traumatic head injury and two serious burns. Tara’s mom uses homeopathic remedies to treat her family, eventually growing a profitable business from her treatments. Tara’s mom is an interesting character, at first seeming quietly indifferent to her husband’s rants to eventually supporting them.
Somehow, Tara and a couple of her brothers manage to escape the family hold, but for Tara it is at the price of most of her family. Tara puts herself through college. Her brilliance captures the attention of her professors which permits her exceptional opportunities to further her education, resulting in a doctorate from Harvard. Tara’s inner drive is remarkable, despite the powerful voices from her upbringing which almost hold her back.
This is a story of resilience, determination and finding oneself. It is also a story of the intense inner workings of family that may be impossible for outsiders to understand.