Educated – Tara Westover

An extraordinary memoir about a woman’s discovery of education, its transformative power and the price she has to pay for it.


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 travelled too far, if there was still a way home.

Educated is an account of the struggle for self-invention. It is a tale of fierce family loyalty and of the grief that comes with severing the closest of ties. With the acute insight that distinguishes all great writers, Westover has crafted a universal coming-of-age story that gets to the heart of what an education is and what it offers: the perspective to see one’s life through new eyes and the will to change it.


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.


This is a book I chose to read with my real life book club (BBC) as I had heard so many positive things and needed to be taken outside my comfort zone.

I don’t often read True Stories/Memoirs but having read EDUCATED, I shall be rectifying that very quickly!  They say that truth is often stranger than fiction and boy, oh boy that is certainly true in this book.

Tara Westover was brought up in a large strict Mormon family living off the grid on a farm in Idaho. At the hands of an aggressive and tyrannical father who forbade his family to go to school, visit a doctor or hospital and work in the family junkyard with no regard for health or safety, Tara and her siblings grew up relying on natural remedies and prayer and cowering from the violence of their father and older brother.

Tara is an incredibly strong and often stubborn young woman who was determined at whatever cost to get herself educated even if it meant being disowned by her family and in EDUCATED she tells us of her journey from the depths of a junkyard to the halls of Cambridge and Harvard Universities.

There were moments in this book that made my heart break and moments that my heart soared.  This is a raw and often brutal memoir of one headstrong, determined individual on a mission to educate herself and breakaway from the constraints of her childhood.  An truly inspirational story which will remain in my thoughts for a long time.


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