The Short Review: If you liked The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls or The Liars Club by Mary Karr, you'll like this. It's not a light read, but you'll fly through it. Educated is compelling, well written, heartbreaking and funny.
The Long Review: For a long time, I thought I hated memoirs. There's actually an entire shelf of my library dedicated to abandoned memoirs, where I'd rolled my eyes one too many times at the bad writing, self-importance, and long passages where nothing happens. It wasn't until I found Mary Karr's The Liars Club, that I realized I'd just been reading bad memoirs. Tara Westover, like Mary Karr, is a great memoirist. She's honest, values everyone in her story, and writes beautifully. We're living in a world where people make things up or embellish on their lives, but I never once doubted Westover in her telling of the story. She tries, like the best memoirists, to be as honest as possible, and includes the conflicting stories of other people when she can. She also doesn't write for sympathy; she's only telling her story, and she includes just as much of the funny and the sweet moments as she does the bad.
The response we have to books partly comes from our personal history. If I'd read this at seventeen, I would have thought Tara Westover's life was pretty normal. I'd gone to school but was home-schooled on and off due to bullying. At one point during this time, I moved in with my mom and stepdad. I won't get into specifics, but my life in those moments was similar to Westover's, and I knew as I was reading it why she wrote about so much of this as if it wasn't a big deal. The truth is, when you're in the thick of an odd life, it seems perfectly normal. Even abuse can seem normal. For her to write this story as more harrowing, or use a tone that depicted things as more depressing would have been dishonest. Something else I found important was the moments when her parents showed their love. We forget sometimes that just because you've had a hard life doesn't mean that there weren't easy days and months.
I'd be curious to know what other people's responses were to this book, on a personal level. People who'd lived much different lives and had different experiences. After I read this book, I posted my review on Instagram. I did warn people that this wasn't an easy read, but I mostly meant it wasn't easy for me. I was triggered in some moments and had to set the book down. But I never thought, "this girl was so strong to get out of that". It just hadn't occurred to me. But seeing everyone on Instagram marveling at her survival made me realize how skewed my own views are. How I measure the suffering of others hasn't been level in some time.
I think this book is a great read, and I think it's great for a general audience. You don't have to like memoirs or survivor stories to enjoy this. I gave it five stars out of five, and this will probably make my top ten books of the year. If you do read it, I'd love to discuss this with people in depth. If you haven't read the book, this is the end of my review. If you have read it, I have more thoughts below.
There's a part at around page 130, where Tara's parents decide to kick her out. She's sixteen, saving up for college, and when her dad finds out she's holding money, he says she can afford to live on her own. The scene ends with Tara and her mother arguing over Tara's age. Her mother thinks she's twenty...she completely forgot how old her child was. While I know her mother received a brain injury, I honestly don't think it had much to do with that. I think even if she'd never had the injury, her mother would have never gotten her age right. She just didn't concern herself with those kinds of things. But it is heartbreaking, for any child to realize how little their parents know about them.
The sweetest moment in the book (for me) came on page 165 when Tara called her father and told him school wasn't going well. He acted like you'd expect a father to act, and it was so tender and special, and unlikely. I think to see that glimpse of his humanity concretized that he's never been a mentally stable person, but he might have been a better father if he'd been helped.
Was anyone else as furious with Shawn as I was? I will never have any compassion for a man like him. I know I should, that I should understand people's stories, understand their struggles with mental health...but there's just something so unforgiving about abusing another person. Like I said, I think our reactions to things come from our history, but this has to be a general consensus, right? Like, can't we all, despite our different outlooks, agree that he was a terrible person who should have been sent to prison? I hated him, and I rarely hate anyone I read about. I really need to discuss his horribleness with someone ASAP.
Anyway, those were my stray thoughts while reading this book. I hope you guys enjoyed this, and thanks for checking it out! If you liked this style of review (which I know isn't a typical review, but it's all I got) let me know, and if you prefer reviews with a different focus, i'm always open to constructive comments! Hope you have a great Wednesday! :)