How does one survive in a survivalist household? When your only role models proclaim that the government is sinful, and that public education is a plot to control the populace? Tara Westover details this plight in her rich, meaningful and well-written memoir, Educated.
One of a handful of children, and the youngest to boot, Westover’s survivalist Mormon upbringing hindered her elementary education, understanding of social mores and ability to view herself in a positive light. It taught her to hide her feelings, to withstand unbearable pain and to take on responsibilities that no 10-year-old ever should. Reading it, you forget that the majority of the novel takes place in the early-aughts. It sounds like a more excruciating, misogynistic Oregon Trail.
Topping the bestseller lists for weeks, right above Carreyrou’s Bad Blood, Educated is a stinging indictment of a belief system gone terribly awry. It is at times unreadably graphic, depicting at-home accidents, abuse and remedies for pain that continue to make my stomach do somersaults. At other points, it’s painfully relatable. Doesn’t everyone have weird family shit and basements in their glass houses?
What piqued my interest most was Westover’s continuous struggle with her identity, particularly as her scope of knowledge increased, and her horizons broadened. From Buck’s Peak Idaho, scrapping metal and crafting tinctures, to the hallowed halls of Cambridge University, there’s a fairytale theme beneath Westover’s story. And yet, there isn’t. It’s confusing, just as I imagine living her life must be.
Give it a read, and let me know what you think! I’m curious.