I finished this book a while ago and have been thinking on how to talk about it the entire time. Educated isn’t an easy book to read and it isn’t easy to talk about either, Tara Westover’s story is a difficult one. But it was so worth the read. Westover grows up in the mountains of Idaho, her parents say they are home schooling her, but most of her education comes whatever she does for herself growing up.

Westover’s father hates the government and believes they are out to get people like him and he also fiercely believes that the end times are going to come and they need to be prepared. The kids are forced to work from a young age, either helping their father, or in some type of job to contribute to the family household. Westover works a variety of jobs from childhood through her teenage years. And through it all her home is filled with abuse: emotional, physical, verbal, you name it. The amount of manipulation and guilt that is piled on this girl from a young age is heartbreaking.

I was often angry while reading, angry at her parents, her older siblings, and the community. But to be honest by the end of the book I was amazed, amazed that Westover was able to do what she did, that she got out and found a life for herself away from her family. Westover kept a diary while growing up and this is what helped her write her story, her journals helped her remember the details. But more than anything Westover talks about what constitutes a true education; is it the act of learning in a school or is it about so much more, about figuring out who you are and how the world is and what is true and what isn’t true? Westover takes on the latter while also doing the former, as she goes to college and gets graduate degrees.

I highly recommend this book, it’s well worth the read, even if you’re angry at times.

But now I understood: the precious thing, that was the maze. That’s all that was left of the life I’d had here: a puzzle whose rules I would never understand, because they were not rules at all but a kind of cage meant to enclose me. (loc 4908)

What is a person to do, I asked, when their obligations to their family conflict with other obligations—to friends, to society, to themselves? (loc 5022)

It was only as I grew older that I wondered if how I had started is how I would end—if the first shape a person takes is their only true shape. (loc 5165)

Guilt is the fear of one’s own wretchedness. It has nothing to do with other people. (loc 5173)

I shed my guilt when I accepted my decision on its own terms, without endlessly prosecuting old grievances, without weighing his sins against mine. Without thinking of my father at all. I learned to accept my decision for my own sake, because of me, not because of him. Because I needed it, not because he deserved it. (loc 5174)