Educated by Tara Westover
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I read this for my bookclub, and was keenly interested in the entire topic; the book did not disappoint.
Tara Westover's writing is particularly literate for someone who came to formal learning late - or maybe because of it. Her use of words and description is powerful, mesmerising, and flows so well it is easy to visualise what she imparts - the people and the place.
For the first 100 pages I considered this just a novel about people living a different lifestyle. Having had a close friend who was a Mormon and believed in the Holistic way of life and had a distrust of medicines and doctors, and some of the conspiracy theories surrounding Big Pharma, it was not new to me. I wondered at the descriptions of abuse in the blurb and whether it had just been hype, but then I realised Tara was simply setting the scene; familiarising the reader with the characters (her family) and the culture, both religious and in terms of her father's mental disposition. Then the story started to develope as we were introduced to her brother Shawn and other elements of her life that were not quite as easy: the family accidents, the physical abuse, the gaslighting and trying to break out both physically and mentally.
There were strange paradoxes and plenty of inconsistency - even hypocrisy - in how she was raised and the people surrounding her. For someone who wasn't registered at birth, which is officially illegal (I thought), I was surprised at the lack of repercussions when they called to get her a birth certificate years on. There was no inquiry, or authorities querying it. And it seemed quite incredible how easy it was for her to apply and get into a local university just by passing a few tests after studying four basic subjects. It made me wonder why we can't all do this! But maybe the exact detail and difficulty were underplayed. However, when it came to getting into Cambridge, I could only imagine how unique her view point in what she wrote must have been; how differently she saw things, that it made such an impact. If anything it shows that those of us boxed and labelled by the system early on are also limited by it - although I wouldn't wish Tara's journey there on anyone.
As someone who has suffered domestic abuse as a child, quite a lot of this novel was quite difficult in that I felt the dread and the tension before reading certain scenes - any time she was due to see Shawn or he would be in the room I felt this. It made me connect much more closely and consider that Tara sharing her story was something extremely brave to do, especially considering the abusers are still alive. Some may think that was wrong of her to do, but I don't. I think that there has to come a time where you speak out, not just for yourself but for others who have been through the same, or are still stuck in it and unable to find a way out. Too many people make these topics taboo and find it uncomfortable to talk about, but what they don't realise is that this allows a lot of these sorts of abuse to continue. I applaud Tara for doing this and for doing it so effectively, and eloquently.
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