Review: Educated, by Tara Westover

EducatedEducated by Tara Westover
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

There isn’t a lot I could write to recommend this book to anyone, simply because it isn’t so much an autobiography as a fantasy fiction. Allegedly–and I do use the term advisedly, because many of Westover’s assertions lack any corroborating evidence, beyond her assertion–she was raised by fringe, likely mentally unstable parents who pursued a survivalist, conspiracy-theory lifestyle in Idaho.

Where do I begin? Perhaps with the caricature of the father. While tyrants and fathers and sheer crazy stupidity aren’t mutually exclusive, I’m afraid the combination in Westover’s presentation is a bit over the top. There are more than a few moments when her father suffers serious injury in his wrecking yard, and yet somehow miraculously survives without debilitating impediment, all through through the grace of hack home remedies not seen in employment since the Dark Ages, or perhaps anti-vaxxers and followers of Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop snake oil. Which makes me wonder if in fact Westover’s mother wasn’t a supplier of witch-doctor remedies to Paltrow.

Then there’s Westover’s assertion she and her six siblings were home-schooled by their mother, not much beyond a rudimentary ability to read and write. Not that the education (or lack thereof) wasn’t possible, but that with this barely adequate education Westover somehow manages to not only escape the family cult, but achieve a stellar university education at Brigham Young, which institution is a known Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints university. While her education at is in fact a matter of record, how she achieved that given her background and financial distress remains questionable. Sure, there were grants, but as others have questioned, grants only take you so far.

And there is so much more which left me growling and researching to verify her allegations. I could go on. But what’s the point?

Yet this autobiography received considerable literary and critical acclaim, having achieved the LA Times Book Prize, PEN America’s Jean Stein Book Award, and two awards from the National Book Critics Circle Award. And that doesn’t encompass the endorsement and praise received from the likes of President Barak Obama and others.

Did no one question Westover’s radical claims? Did no one even have the basic understanding of some of the basic physics and science behind some of what she presented? Not one question from these luminaries? Just acceptance that because Westover wrote these things, and spoke with confidence, that all of this remarkable story is credible and true?

Perhaps I have grown cynical with age. But last I checked my ears weren’t wet, and if I’m going to invest time in a reading journey with an author, that author best be sure their facts are straight.

Read Educated or not as you choose. Just be aware you’re never going to get those hours back.

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