“I had been educated in the rhythms of the mountain, rhythms in which change was never fundamental, only cyclical… I believed my family was a part of this immortal pattern, that we were, in some sense, eternal. But eternity belonged only to the mountain.” — Tara Westover
Educated is a memoir written by American historian and essayist Tara Westover. Born to a fundamentalist Mormon family at the base of Buck’s Peak, Idaho, Tara first set foot in a classroom when she was seventeen. Her family was isolated from society by Tara’s father, who believed the government and modern medicine were evil schemes, and her mother, who enabled his behavior. There was no one to intervene when Tara and her siblings were forced to risk their lives in the name of familial loyalty or when her older brother, Shawn, became violent. Motivated by a hope to explore beyond the peripheries of her parents’ world and the Idahoan massif , Tara embarked on a quest for knowledge, crossing oceans to Cambridge and then eventually to Harvard. Only then she would realize the cost of education, of selfhood, of defending a reality formed by an independent mind.
Westover’s story is elevated by her strikingly original, propulsive, and gripping writing. There is suspense in the graphic description of accidents where people are burnt and impaled. At times, compressed rage made me turn the page. But the overall reading experience is defined by the love and generosity with which the writer humanizes those who wronged her. She transcends the inherent danger in writing about traumatic memories—wallowing in self-pity. Her work is not a jeremiad , but a sincere attempt to understand her family.
Despite the singularity  of Westover’s childhood, Educated poses universal questions about love, violence, and memory. The book shows how Tara comes to understand these concepts differently over time. Some may call this change a transformation, metamorphosis, or betrayal, but to Westover, it’s “an education.” Thus, Westover’s understanding of education is not limited to a degree or its “air of respectability.” It’s rather a “reconstruction of experience (borrowing John Dewey’s words).” The strength to reject her parents’ narrative and to reconstruct her own reality is the reward, but also the price the writer had to pay for her education.