If you’ve been listening or watching, you’ll know that I grab fiction 10 out of 10 times and non-fiction when there’s cause to. Well cause arose for Tara Westover’s Educated when it was selected as a book club pick. Also if you follow me on social and having seen the picture of my book, I’m pretty sure you walked this journey with me while reading it last year.
Tara’s [this year I’m breaking whatever rule exists about calling authors by their first names. If I read your book – then I know you well enough to call you by your first name. Yeah, I said what I said] writing is incredible. Simply magnificent. She paints vivid pictures with her words that teleport you into her world at the exact time and place she’s describing. Truly it is an amazing talent that she has. It is only magnified by her lack of foundational education.
Her memoir – to be honest, was a series of shattering, collecting my broken parts off the floor only to have them smashed again and again. I cannot imagine for the life of me how anyone survived such a life.
Tara was born to a religious extremist father and a mother who was loyal to a fault. Her Mormon family lived in seclusion with their father basically dictating the terms of living until the outside world eventually penetrated their little society and her siblings, a sister and three brothers, finally saw what life was outside of home.
For Tara, her awakening would be one of traveling back to herself, of learning of life one foot behind everyone else and of enduring every form of abuse imaginable, without breaking. It would also be a struggle. Not dissimilar to that of a wild animal caged for a period of time who takes a while to realise when the cage has been lifted and they are finally free to go.
This has to be one of the weirdest books I’ve ever read. One minute I wanted to put it down, the next I needed to know how it ends. One minute I was suffocating from holding my breath and praying nothing more happens, the next I was overwhelmed with empathy, anger or some other equally rich emotion, which was seldom joy.
This memoir was hardly ever bliss.
And to think none of it is made up. I shudder.
It may take me forever to process this book – it was a lot, a whole lot. I’m still not even sure I’ve relayed just how unsettling and excruciating this experience was on a psycho-emotional level. It may even be impossible to explain it all to someone who hasn’t read this.
It was both a delight and a horror, all mixed in one.
What has come across strongly for me, however, in these pages, is that every day we are faced with a choice to do good or evil. Every day, the stronger of us chooses good, but out there, somewhere, so many people suffer at the hands of weak humans who masquerade as strong, busy inflicting pain on others.
Another point of discussion on this memoir that I had with my sister is whether or not the story would have turned out like this for a black Tara Westover in America. One who lived the exact same life with the exact same intellectual capacity and capability. What’s sad is that we both doubt it. Though we deeply empathise with Tara’s story, and how her life played out. We couldn’t help but wonder if the same system would have afforded a black person the same opportunities.
Whatever books black people write (if even that) from similar experiences are not titled Educated. And that is an even deeper pain.
At its core, Educated is a story about family. How far we let it make us or break us. What we do when we know better. What societal norms have caused us to be weary of walking away from our family, and why, in some instances, estrangement is the only way out.
Tara has done a stunning job with this unbelievable book. Never in our wildest dreams would we ever have imagined anyone, anywhere in the world, lived a life like this.
But now we know.