Educated: A Memoir, by Tara Westover, narrated by Julia Whelan.
Audio published by Random House Audio
Publication Date: February 20, 2018
“You can miss a person every day, and still be glad that they are no longer in your life.” Tara Westover grew up in isolation with her family of nine: six siblings, an herbalist mother, and a devout Mormon father obsessed with the apocalypse and the evil, “brainwashing” federal government. Westover did not go to school and instead spent her time canning food, stocking supplies, and preparing for the end of the world. By the time she was eight, the family had stopped school lessons, though officially she was “home-schooled,” and Tara spent her time trying to survive her father’s junkyard where safety precautions were nonexistent because the faithful only need angels for protection. Westover’s story is revealed as she survives her upbringing, including an abusive older brother. At seventeen, Westover begins to fight for her education, attending college and grappling with her changing view of the world and her family. As her mental and physical world expands, moving from Idaho to England (for a PhD), to trips to Rome and Paris, Westover educates (empowers) herself: “My life was narrated for me by others. Their voices were forceful, emphatic, absolute. It had never occurred to me that my voice might be as strong as theirs.” This book presents a powerful look at family, education, and religion.
Julia Whelan gives an understated performance for the narration, which has enough dramatic action, such as the harrowing accidents the family experiences, to compel the story. She gives a credible voice to characters and has a controlled pacing throughout the book.
An adult book with young adult appeal, Westover’s struggle to understand her parents’ choices and lifestyle, will resonate with many teens. As a survivor of emotional and physical abuse, her decision to forgive but not reconcile with her family has given her peace, and that idea might be valuable to teens in difficult situations. Recommended for readers, 9th grade and up, interested in memoirs, survivalist fiction, or dysfunctional families, give to fans of The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls, Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt, and My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult.