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Fixed on Fiction

Educated by Tara Westover

In February, Fixed on Fiction met to discuss Educated by Tara Westover-

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 traveled 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.

-Summary courtesy of Goodreads.

Overall, Educated was very well received at Fixed on Fiction with 11 thumbs up votes and 1 so-so. Here are some of the initial comments readers made while discussing this month’s selection:

  • She’s a great writer. A lot of horrific things described here, but overall this was a message of hope.
  • Very good writer. There were several parts where I was very afraid for her. Amazed at how she has grown. I wonder why she wrote this? Perhaps as a form of therapy.
  • Such a suppressed and cultish family. Amazed she broke out and did so well.
  • She was a great writer. The same story told by a weaker writer definitely wouldn’t have been good.
  • I struggled with two crazy father stories (The Great Alone) in a row. But I’m going to keep reading and finish it.
  • I thought it was interesting that if you deprive children of formal schooling- that only makes them want it more. No matter how educated she became, she always reverted back to her 15 year old self whenever she went home.
  • I read this and thought- “Wow, my childhood was easy!” I kept waiting for Shawn to kill somebody. Very powerful.
  • A skilled writer- loved her language. Very sad but so happy for her.
  • I enjoyed this. I usually question what’s true in memoirs as we can’t always trust our own memories. I appreciated the notes that various family members had different memories of one event.

These are simply a few comments made during our discussion. Feel free to share additional thoughts on Educated in the comments section below.


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