by Tara Westover

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NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY The Washington Post O: The Oprah MagazineTime • NPR • Good Morning America San Francisco ChronicleThe Guardian The Economist Financial TimesNewsdayNew York PosttheSkimmRefinery29BloombergSelfReal Simple Town & CountryBustlePastePublishers WeeklyLibrary JournalLibraryReadsBookRiot • Pamela Paul, KQED • New York Public Library

An unforgettable memoir about a young girl who, kept out of school, leaves her survivalist family and goes on to earn a PhD from Cambridge University

Born to survivalists in the mountains of Idaho, Tara Westover was seventeen the first time she set foot in a classroom. Her 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. When another brother got himself into college, Tara decided to try a new kind of life. Her quest for knowledge transformed her, taking her over oceans and across continents, to Harvard and to Cambridge University. Only then would she wonder if she’d traveled too far, if there was still a way home.

“Beautiful and propulsive . . . Despite the singularity of [Tara Westover’s] childhood, the questions her book poses are universal: How much of ourselves should we give to those we love? And how much must we betray them to grow up?”—Vogue

“Westover has somehow managed not only to capture her unsurpassably exceptional upbringing, but to make her current situation seem not so exceptional at all, and resonant for many others.”—The New York Times Book Review

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780399590511
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 02/20/2018
Sold by: Random House
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 352
Sales rank: 114
Lexile: 870L (what's this?)
File size: 2 MB

About the Author

Tara Westover was born in Idaho in 1986. She received her BA from Brigham Young University in 2008 and was subsequently awarded a Gates Cambridge Scholarship. She earned an MPhil from Trinity College, Cambridge, in 2009, and in 2010 was a visiting fellow at Harvard University. She returned to Cambridge, where she was awarded a PhD in history in 2014. Educated is her first book.

Read an Excerpt


I’m standing on the red railway car that sits abandoned next to the barn. The wind soars, whipping my hair across my face and pushing a chill down the open neck of my shirt. The gales are strong this close to the mountain, as if the peak itself is exhaling. Down below, the valley is peaceful, undisturbed. Meanwhile our farm dances: the heavy conifer trees sway slowly, while the sagebrush and thistles quiver, bowing before every puff and pocket of air. Behind me a gentle hill slopes upward and stitches itself to the mountain base. If I look up, I can see the dark form of the Indian Princess.
The hill is paved with wild wheat. If the conifers and sagebrush are soloists, the wheat field is a corps de ballet, each stem following all the rest in bursts of movement, a million ballerinas bending, one after the other, as great gales dent their golden heads. The shape of that dent lasts only a moment, and is as close as anyone gets to seeing wind.
Turning toward our house on the hillside, I see movements of a different kind, tall shadows stiffly pushing through the currents. My brothers are awake, testing the weather. I imagine my mother at the stove, hovering over bran pancakes. I picture my father hunched by the back door, lacing his steel-toed boots and threading his callused hands into welding gloves. On the highway below, the school bus rolls past without stopping.
I am only seven, but I understand that it is this fact, more than any other, that makes my family different: we don’t go to school.
Dad worries that the Government will force us to go but it can’t, because it doesn’t know about us. Four of my parents’ seven children don’t have birth certificates. We have no medical records because we were born at home and have never seen a doctor or nurse.*  We have no school records because we’ve never set foot in a classroom. When I am nine, I will be issued a Delayed Certificate of Birth, but at this moment, according to the state of Idaho and the federal government, I do not exist.
Of course I did exist. I had grown up preparing for the Days of Abomination, watching for the sun to darken, for the moon to drip as if with blood. I spent my summers bottling peaches and my winters rotating supplies. When the World of Men failed, my family would continue on, unaffected.
I had been educated in the rhythms of the mountain, rhythms in which change was never fundamental, only cyclical. The same sun appeared each morning, swept over the valley and dropped behind the peak. The snows that fell in winter always melted in the spring. Our lives were a cycle—the cycle of the day, the cycle of the seasons—circles of perpetual change that, when complete, meant nothing had changed at all. 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.
There’s a story my father used to tell about the peak. She was a grand old thing, a cathedral of a mountain. The range had other mountains, taller, more imposing, but Buck’s Peak was the most finely crafted. Its base spanned a mile, its dark form swelling out of the earth and rising into a flawless spire. From a distance, you could see the impression of a woman’s body on the mountain face: her legs formed of huge ravines, her hair a spray of pines fanning over the northern ridge. Her stance was commanding, one leg thrust forward in a powerful movement, more stride than step.
My father called her the Indian Princess. She emerged each year when the snows began to melt, facing south, watching the buffalo return to the valley. Dad said the nomadic Indians had watched for her appearance as a sign of spring, a signal the mountain was thawing, winter was over, and it was time to come home.

All my father’s stories were about our mountain, our valley, our jagged little patch of Idaho. He never told me what to do if I left the mountain, if I crossed oceans and continents and found myself in strange terrain, where I could no longer search the horizon for the Princess. He never told me how I’d know when it was time to come home.


*Except for my sister Audrey, who broke both an arm and a leg when she was young. She was 
taken to get a cast.

Table of Contents

Author's Note xi

Prologue xiii

Part 1

1 Choose the Good 3

2 The Midwife 13

3 Cream Shoes 24

4 Apache Women 31

5 Honest Dirt 41

6 Shield and Buckler 54

7 The Lord Will Provide 67

8 Tiny Harlots 76

9 Perfect in his Generations 84

10 Shield of Feathers 92

11 Instinct 98

12 Fish Eyes 104

13 Silence in the Churches 112

14 My Feet No Longer Touch Earth 122

15 No More a Child 132

16 Disloyal Man, Disobedient Heaven 142

Part 2

17 To Keep it Holy 153

18 Blood and Feathers 160

19 In the Beginning 167

20 Recitals of the Fathers 174

21 Skullcap 182

22 What We Whispered and What We Screamed 187

23 I'm From Idaho 198

24 A Knight, Errant 207

25 The Work of Sulphur 216

26 Waiting for Moving Water 223

27 If I Were a Woman 228

28 Pygmalion 235

29 Graduation 244

Part 3

30 Hand of the Almighty 255

31 Tragedy then Farce 265

32 A Brawling Woman in a Wide House 274

33 Sorcery of Physics 279

34 The Substance of Things 284

35 West of the Sun 290

36 Four Long Arms, Whirling 297

37 Gambling For Redemption 306

38 Family 314

39 Watching the Buffalo 320

40 Educated 327

Acknowledgments 331

A Note on the Text 333

Reading Group Guide

1. Many of Tara’s father’s choices have an obvious impact on Tara’s life, but how did her mother’s choices influence her? How did that change over time?

2. Tara’s brother Tyler tells her to take the ACT. What motivates Tara to follow his advice?

3. Charles was Tara’s first window into the outside world. Under his influence, Tara begins to dress differently and takes medicine for the first time. Discuss Tara’s conflicting admiration for both Charles and her father.

4. Tara has titled her book Educated and much of her education takes place in classrooms, lectures, or other university environments. But not all. What other important moments of “education” were there? What friends, acquaintances, or experiences had the most impact on Tara? What does that imply about what an education is?

5. Eventually, Tara confronts her family about her brother’s abuse. How do different the members of her family respond?

6. What keeps Tara coming back to her family as an adult?

7. Ultimately, what type of freedom did education give Tara?

8. Tara wrote this at the age of thirty, while in the midst of her healing process. Why do you think she chose to write it so young, and how does this distinguish the book from similar memoirs?

9. Tara paid a high price for her education: she lost her family. Do you think she would make the same choice again?

Customer Reviews

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Educated: A Memoir 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 318 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I stayed up last night even though my alarm is set for 5 a.m. telling myself just one more page...and then I'd reach the next chapter and think just a little more! How often does that happen with nonfiction?
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Read and experience what her life has been so far and her story. Please listen to the interview she gave on NPR. Very interesting.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This memoir is riveting, better than any fiction . I won't attempt to count the levels this book resonates with me. There are just too many. Highly recommended!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Spent a whole day reading. No chores were accomplished today.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I was captivated by Tara's story & the challenges she overcame. Fantastic read! I don't usually enjoy non-fiction, but I found myself fully caught up in her well-written account about her life.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Amazing true story. Heartbreaking. Inspiring. Terrifying. Uplifting. Healing.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A heart wrenching and triumphant account of breaking away from an oppressive childhood. A true success story.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I couldn't put it down.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Sometimes difficult to read because of her family experiences but always engaging and very inspiration.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Tara’s story is of course unique, as we all have our own lives with individual crises and triumphs. What sets her tale apart is the rarity of the circumstances surrounding such an unusual and ultimately inspiring journey. Kudos to Tara for finding the courage to overcome mental abuse, which in many ways appeared to be far more difficult than earning her doctorate. Indeed, it appears that education provided the perspective that ultimately saved her sanity and allowed her to find her own path in this complex world of ours.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A highly complex study of the strength of the human spirit, the power of family and the triumph of accepting who we are in relation to our parents. Written in a simple, truthful voice intended to impress no one and to still love those who so grievously wound us in an attempt to raise us. A triumphal and mind boggling masterpiece.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Really loved the book. Amazing how our upbringing can influence our whole lives and our feelings about ourselves no matter how hard we try to change. Definitely thought provoking.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
If I didn't know this was a memoir I would have thought it a beautiful work of fiction. Everyone should read this book. To acknowledge that others live lives we can't even imagine, in ways we'll never understand.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Amazing read. Brilliant mind. Harrowing story. Real life psychological thriller. I hope Dr. Westover has a good therapist still.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The author brought her family to life without denying her own imperfect memory of what was said or done. Probably as close to a balanced view as you could ever expect.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I always love a book that changes my perspective of the world around me.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I am more than halfway through this book and can’t wait to pick it up again. I covered most of my reading on a flight from Amsterdam Germany to Washington DC. An amazing story of perseverance, innocence, loyalty, and strength.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Beautifully written memoir that is painful, enlightening, and stunning all at once. I know I’ll come back to this to read again and again, gleaning something new and meaningful each time. I applaud Tara for being so transparent and thoughtful; by sharing her story, she is healing others in ways she can’t imagine.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I highly recommend this book about a girl whose childhood began on a beautiful mountain in a narrow world created by her father’s anti-establishment mindset of fear Take 20% off coupons from
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I'm not quite sure how I came to be reading this book... did someone recommend it ? Did I peruse the back cover and write the title down 'to check out later?' Did I stumble across it by accident? Did I think it was the story of something else? . Well, whatever that reason was, it is dwarfed by my immense gratitude that this story opened its pages before me. . I could neither relate to the peasant, nor the scholar... my life was fairly average... but her journey of doubt, perseverance, and self-idenity drew me into her chaos, her hurricaned life. . How could such a background happen in the 1980s, modern time? How did noone have the power to rescue this family from themselves? . My jaw opened in protest many times. It was like those horror movies where you scream at the screen for the characters to GET OUT OF THE HOUSE! . Yet, at the same time, I saw such humanity in the retelling of her life. I could see her mother, her siblings, her father. . I couldn't believe her transformation at first, surely she, what? Exaggerated? Misremembered? But the details of each step in her life, each self examination, converted me, and pulled me with her through her growth and transformation. . Read this book. It's great.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book captures an unbelievable story of a family who chooses family loyalty and religious fanaticism over loving kindness and acceptance of each other’s differences. It is well written and captivating in the details of a person’s life that no fiction rendition could match.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very moving recounting of a dysfunctional family, bipolar disorder, a mother who cannot stand up to her husband, a father who is a radical Mormon, abuse, and the effect it has on the author and other members of her family. A very good read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It’s a difficult read, the continual abuse in this day and age, knowing it shouldn’t have occurred in Idaho, or any other state. But watching her and her brothers wrench themselves from this cycle of abuse is enlightening. Hooray for her! She made it and gained some normal family!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Powerful, moving, sad, hopeful. Thank you!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Tara’s recollections are vivid and painful. It is a miracle to me that she and two of her siblings were able to break away from their controlling father. I wonder in how many “hollers” and “runs” this scenario is being replayed right now due to allowing homeschooling (or lack thereof) by zealots, bigots, and mentally ill parents. I hope the author is able to transcend all of the damage and violence visited upon her over the years in the name of God.