Educated - A Memoir
Tara Westover
Contributed by Micheal Celestin

A Review by Erin Henderson

According to Erin Henderson, although Westover’s Educated is a terrible and depressing story, it is also a page-turner as she recalls staying up late into the night to finish reading it. That said, Erin is unsure of whether she can recommend the book to anyone. At one point, she detested every character in the story including Westover herself (Henderson np). The abuse and pain experienced by Westover are so frustrating that even Erin felt abused after reading the book, but her abuse cannot be compared to what the author suffered. Erin also talks about the significant conceptual inconsistencies she noticed in Westover’s work as some parts of the author’s story are described in almost obsessive details while vital moments are concealed.

Erin notices a strange distance in the relationship between Westover and those who did not abuse her, a thing she believes is common among survivors of abuse. The author is unable to appreciate the kindness and sensitivity directed towards her by many outsiders. It is true that Westover mentioned them at some points but only briefly which gives the sense that she resents their generosity.

Though Erin thinks Educated is a compelling and enriching story, she says she cannot read it a second time as she does not find it inspiring. The said, she insists it is not a bad book; it is just tiring and stressful (Henderson np). Erin suggests the book should not be read by those going through tough times as it can be quite demoralizing. Although she says she will not reread the book, she also feels she wrote his review too early and should have waited another 10 or 20 years to understand the meaning of the book truly.

Review by Anna Carey

In her review of Educated, Anna Carey appears to almost sympathize with the fact that Westover had been a victim of circumstance, a case that made her being cut out of the rest of the civilized society. For instance, the fact that she did not know the meaning of the word, “Holocaust” made her classmates believe that she was cheeky, after asking the professor what it means. Carey also details on some of the notable realities that Westover had to face in her life and the general effect that it would have upon her (Carey np). For instance, Carey notes that Westover had not been exposed to any form of racial discrimination. Before she reached college, it is evident that Westover did not realize that race was such a big issue in the country, with people taking different sides regarding the issue. Thus, by Carey mention about the oblivion of Westover regarding racial problems in the country, she aims to detail about the serious negative effect that homeschooling had done on the author. Westover’s father, being a staunch Mormon had a strong belief that formal education was harmful towards children. He, therefore, had to resort to educating his children, on his own, a case that made him lack the chance to orient them to most of the contemporary issues that were taking place at the time. 

In her review, Carey also appears to admire the level of zeal and skill that Westover uses in her story-telling endeavors. For instance, she lauds the fact that Westover was systematic on telling the story of how she was able to rise from a primitive lowly educated person to attaining a Ph.D (Carey np).  Carey also admires the fact that Westover managed to use her education to have a positive view of her family. In spite of being misled by her father for the most of her childhood, she did not allow her heightened education status. Thus, Westover was able to use her education for her benefit and that of her family, as opposed to the possible challenges that would have occurred in seeing it as very different.  

Carey is also more attached to the book that she admires the level of love that the Westover parents had towards their children. She agrees to the idea that the parents were committed to seeing the best in their children, even though they used a wrong approach to improving their situation. She is, however, particularly, perturbed by the actions of Gene Westover (Carey np). Particularly, Carey notes that Carey had a total disregard towards the wellbeing and safety of his family, to the level that she, sometimes had to put down to book to wonder.

Michelle Dean’s Review

According to Michelle Dean’s review, Westover’s Educated is the story of the author's background, the nature of the people in her life who were superstitious and cruel, and her family’s poor economic and social life. Westover’s parents were Mormon Fundamentalist, and she was the youngest of seven siblings. Her father who was a religious man and a prophet did not believe in taking his children to school (Dean np). Michelle finds it ironic that the author’s father works so hard in his junkyard, which itself is a result of modern technology, to earn an income but forbids his children from going to the hospital and seeking western medicine. According to Michelle, Westover’s narrative style which is episodic, meditative, and repetitive does not embrace melodrama to the level of the actual events she recounts.

The review recognizes Westover’s determination and hard work. She had no formal education but managed to study and qualify to go to college. She struggles so much and in the end, is admitted to Cambridge. After going through all that, the author can transform her life into something that can be perceived as a betrayal to her family. However, her transformation was nothing close to betrayal as it was a show of the great determination that she had in which she sought to establish all that lay within her capacity (Dean np). Westover had a strong will to follow through her studies. This enabled her to develop a more in-depth interaction with the world around her. It also helped Westover identify who was important in her life and, therefore, establish ways in which she would interact with them to achieve more success. This situation led her to earn the scholarships. Michelle believes Westover's story is worth both sharing and reading. She also thinks her background sends a strong message about the United States (Dean). Even in a country like the United States where there is a great opportunity, one can grow up with no idea of how the world away from her home looks like.

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