Educated – by Tara Westover – a book review

Like my most recent book reads, this one too came from GatesNotes.com – the personal blog of Bill Gates. His recommendations on the best reads of the year are always spot on, and always promise to widen your horizon in many ways.

This is a memoir by Tara Westover. Growing up in a strict Mormon household, waiting, and actively preparing for the day of judgement (end of the world) to come, the child Tara doesn’t attend any school until she is 17! In fact, she and her siblings didn’t even have a birth certificate until she was 9 years old, and then their mother worked up the phones for several days to get them a birth certificate.

Some of the images of her childhood stand out:

– Her father had a business dealing in car metal scraps. He was so reckless that, even with his kids around in the workshop, he would throw big metal pieces around, sometimes endangering the kids’ lives, including actively hurting them.

– Her father did believe that the doctors are out to kill you. Not one of his family members visited any hospital, ever.

– Tara’s brother (Mark) was so abusive to her, physically and psychologically (he would often, supposedly playfully, strangle her to near-death), and the parents so supportive of his behavior, that Tara couldn’t ever reach out to them for help.

– Tara’s mother, used to make potions at home using natural essences and oils and was a healer in the local community, starting out as a mid-wife. For any ailments that the family would have, they wouldn’t go to any doctor, and it was up to her mother to treat them.

When Tara does go out to a school, against the wishes of her parents, she realizes the limited existence she had been living all this while. The studies in art, literature and history open her to wider perspectives and help her retrospect her life so far and, eventually, redeem herself from her troubled past. She shines through her academic studies, and ends up getting a doctorate from Cambridge, and reconcile with the fact that her parents (who, by now, had concluded that she was under the influence of Satan!) would never get her point of view, and chooses to give up trying to reconcile, eventually gaining immense freedom from her troubled past.

A touchy contemporary read. And surprising that there are still folks around who abhor formal educational and medical establishment.

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