Book Review: Educated by Tara Westover

“We are all of us more complicated than the roles we are assigned in the stories other people tell.”



Tara Westover was 17 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 in her father’s junkyard.

Her father forbade hospitals, 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 one of Tara’s older brothers became violent.

Then, lacking any formal education, Tara began to educate herself. She taught herself enough mathematics and grammar to be admitted to Brigham Young University, where she studied history, learning for the first time about important 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. Only then would she wonder if she’d traveled too far, if there was still a way home. 

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Hi all! It’s been ages. I was supposed to post this review a couple of weeks ago, before the COVID-19 pandemic hit really hard. We have been in community quarantine for 13 days now (more or less). How are you? I hope you’re all coping well. I’ve been drowning in bad news after bad news but my family and I are doing relatively fine. I’m trying to establish a normal routine again despite the circumstances. Without further ado, let’s talk about Educated by Tara Westover ✨

So many things have already been said about this book– all the praises and the superlatives. So I’m not gonna tell you more about that. What I want to talk about is how sad I am that there is actually a number of people who questions her story, and I just can’t believe that even after writing a whole book about her family gaslighting her, people will still do the same 💔 If the issue is her financial capacity to continue at Harvard, I believe it is possible to be so poor and yet graduate from a premiere university—I know because I’ve been in that situation. I had to sacrifice a lot, and I still have nightmares that I didn’t get to graduate after all. My subconscious is still worried a decade after I got my diploma. ⁣

“Curiosity is a luxury for the financially secure.”

Though Westover’s experience is way more extreme, it brings to mind my experience with my parents who are Catholics and having to find out I’m an atheist. I remember the arguments I had with my boyfriend (now husband) when I was just transitioning. I felt like I have been asleep and dreaming all my life and now I’m just waking up. Reading the author’s experience further reconciled that internal conflict and gave me additional support that I thought I no longer needed. I would find myself in tears while reading her words regarding her breakdown and her desire to live a lie just to be with her family. Still, I am lucky to have the most understanding parents who accepted my decision (and also not to marry in church, not to have my son baptized, etc.) ⁣

“You can love someone and still choose to say goodbye to them,” she says now. “You can miss a person every day, and still be glad that they are no longer in your life.”

I also have a brother with a tendency for violence and I can relate to Westover’s story of how families have this ability to cover things up or turn a blind eye in the hopes that things will get better. (Things are a bit better at home, but that’s a story I’m not ready to share fully yet.)⁣

So yes, I wouldn’t call this book comforting but it lightens my heart just to know I’m not alone. It doesn’t matter how extreme or complicated the situation, the feelings and internal conflicts are familiar. ⁣

“You are not fool’s gold, shining only under a particular light. Whomever you become, whatever you make yourself into, that is who you always were.”

Read this to be devastated or to be inspired, but please read this with an open heart and mind, and know that there’s a whole different universe out there outside of your bubble.

overall rating_ 5_5 (1)



About the Author

Photo Shape Editor:

Tara Westover is an American author living in the UK. Born in Idaho to a father opposed to public education, she never attended school. She spent her days working in her father’s junkyard or stewing herbs for her mother, a self-taught herbalist and midwife. She was seventeen the first time she set foot in a classroom, and after that first taste, she pursued learning for the next decade. She received a BA from Brigham Young University in 2008 and was subsequently awarded a Gates Cambridge Scholarship. She earned an MPhil from Trinity College, Cambridge in 2009, and in 2010 was a visiting fellow at Harvard University. She returned to Cambridge, where she was awarded a PhD in history in 2014.

Book Details


Educated by Tara Westover
Hardcover, 334 pages
Published February 20th 2018 by Random House
ISBN 0399590501 (ISBN13: 9780399590504)
Literary Awards: Audie Award for Best Female Narrator (2019), Los Angeles Times Book Prize Nominee for Biography (2018), ALA Alex Award (2019), Wellcome Book Prize Nominee for Longlist (2019), National Book Critics Circle Award Nominee for Autobiography (2018)Goodreads Choice Award for Memoir & Autobiography (2018), PEN/Jean Stein Book Award Nominee for Shortlist (2019), Reading Women Award for Nonfiction (2018)
Genres: Nonfiction | Autobiography | Memoir


Buy Links




13 thoughts on “Book Review: Educated by Tara Westover

  1. I heard of Tara Westover’s story, and I thought just knowing the gist of it was enough, but this book sounds like it deserves the read 😮. Thanks for sharing your experiences and how this story resonated with you 💛.


  2. Saw this book before and was intrigued. Now I am even more curious. More than that, much respect to you for standing for yourself, even if it meant diverging from the values of your family. Not easy.


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