Book review: ‘Educated’ by Tara Westover

By LARRY BALLWAHN | Wilton

Tara Westover was the daughter of survivalists in the State of Idaho. Her father and mother believed in a truncated form of the Mormon faith that derived from her father’s belief that everything that happened, good and bad, was part of a plan and came directly from God. He saw himself as something of a prophet with a duty to proselytize and save all around him, most importantly his family. Everything was a government plot, thus the survivalist mode. The public schools were the government’s means to brainwash.

The Westover children were homeschooled, which essentially meant they were taught the skills needed to foster the businesses of their parents. Literacy was mostly self-taught using the Bible and Mormon material. Since Mr. Westover was in the scrap and construction business, there were many practical skills that could be contributed. Mrs. Westover was somewhat of a self-taught herbalist. The survivalist creed taught that the medical establishment was suspect in all regards, so there was a need for her skills. Along with becoming a midwife, she developed her own essential oils and salves.

Tara became adept at running the equipment required at the scrap yard and was also able to help her mother gather the herbs and mix the medicines. She even accompanied her mother on some of the midwife duties. One of Tara’s brothers broke the mold. He was going to college. “College is extra school for people too dumb to learn the first time through,” his father said. Tara began her home study more vigorously, got jobs outside the home, and learned she had an above-average singing voice. She took the ACT and qualified for Brigham Young University – BYU.

For someone of Tara’s upbringing, the university was a challenge on so many levels. Besides being new to formal schooling, she had her father’s harangues in her head regarding everything from the way to dress to a woman’s appropriate role. With that came guilt. As she modified her mode of dress to at least partially comply with her surroundings and developed interests beyond becoming a wife and mother, she would hear her father’s voice saying Tara was being controlled by Lucifer.

As might be expected, Tara learned there was a gigantic world out there and much that was and had happened in it. She found she had a talent for learning and for expressing what she had learned. At least as importantly, the talents were apparent to others, and she soon found mentors that led her to new heights in education. But she was always drawn to home, to Buck’s Peak, to family. Her father was not one to compromise, however, on something as important as his religion, so try as she might,she could not return home. Not, at least, without changing her newfound values.

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