There are books that insist you do not shut them till they are finished. There are books that cause you so so much grief you are just not able to move forward another page because they are going to take away something from you. Some books grant solace, some joy and some make you part with something of yourself.
Tara Westover’s “Educated” is all of these and then more. For want of a better word, this is one of the most unbelievable books I have read in a long time.
Its a memoir of a young girl and her struggle to get an education inspite and because of her circumstances. Its story of Tara Westover, who was raised on the mountains of Idaho by parents entrenched in mormonism. A father who spent his life stocking food and ammunition for the ends of the days, scared of the Illuminati, who would corrupt his children if he sent them to school and trying to stay away as much as possible from the government scanners,to not even have birth certificates issued for three of his youngest children.
Its story of unshakeable belief in “Gods pharmacy”where everything from chopped fingers to third degree burns to minor injuries are treated at home by Tara’s mother, who is a reluctant midwife but cures people with her herbs and salves and later proclaims to diagnose diseases by the click of her fingers.
This story breaks your heart with the violence both physical and mental, of a broken family on the edge of lunacy and mania. A mother who turns a blind eye on her son beating and abusing his sisters.
A father who forces his children to take unimaginable risks with their lives and limbs in his junkyard ,with his hare brained schemes.
One is appalled at the way this family functions where car crashes and burns are taken lightly. Pain is accepted as punishmemt for wrong doing.
After every such episode I wanted to drop the book because it made me livid and amazed at how this is possible in a so called developed nation like America. But the curiosity to know how Tara gets out of that world got the better of me.
She does manage to get an education on her own gumption and hard work inspite of have never seen the inside of a school.
This story is about a girl conflicted by her faith, her love for her family and her desire to move out of the shackles of that same family and faith without breaking her bond with both.
Her inability to trust anyone, her naivete and her fear of her brother has been portrayed in complete honesty to the point of self degradation.
It is one of the most brutally honest books that I have read.
The beauty of words, the poetic flow of language, the interplay of guilt, loyalty, love and shame juxtaposed with her desire to get an education make this memoir, although a story of an exceptionally different and difficult upbringing may resonate with every reader in some way. Its not really different, a young girls gift of education to herself inspite of the odds.
Tara Westover’s book is for people who love words, who seek new stories and who are courageous.