“Educated,” by Tara Westover

“You can miss a person every day, and still be glad that they are no longer in your life.”

― Tara Westover, Educated

An education is not so much about making a living as making a person.

-Tara Westover , Educated

Peak 8724 (Buck Peak), Idhao

***** Book Club Review Results *****

The club met to review and discuss Educated on July 17, 2019. The average review results, on a five-point scare, are as follows:

Readability: 4.67

Content: 4.167

Overall: 4.167

Comments Include:

“Loved the book and appreciated the ties to Mormonism.”

“A fascinating memoir with beautiful prose.”

“Good. A little fluffy, but good.”

“Very well-written but some aspects of the book are hard to believe.”

“Very interesting and a good book for sparking discussion.”

“Enjoyed the book but some of the information seemed unverifiable. Would have been interesting to see how the author’s perspective may have warped her recollections.”

Discussion Questions:

1). “Educated” starts with an epigraph from Virginia Woolf: “The past is beautiful because one never realizes an emotion at the time. It expands later, and thus we don’t have complete emotions about the present, only the past.”

What do you think Woolf meant by this? Why do you think Tara Westover chose to begin her memoir this way?

2). In the Author’s Note, Westover cautions that this memoir is not about Mormonism or “any form of religious belief,” and that she rejects a negative or positive correlation between believing or not believing and being kind or not being kind. But her father Gene’s faith informs how he sees the world.

What did you make of Chapter 8, “Tiny Harlots,” which moves from Gene’s distrust of Westover’s dance recital uniform to his pride over her singing in church?

Samuel and Vicki Weaver (left and rear-center) pose with Sara and Rachel. 

3). By part two of “Educated,” Westover has decided she wants to get an education, has found a way to take the ACT, and has left the mountain to go to college at Brigham Young University, despite her father’s objections. In her first class at college, Westover recounts not knowing what the word “holocaust” means.

Why is this moment significant?

4). Westover makes great efforts to ensure the story is as objective as possible, including footnotes where accounts of an event differ, or comparing her diary entries to her memory.

As a reader, how important is objectivity in this story, and more largely, in memoirs in general?

5). One professor describes Westover as “Pygmalion,” while Westover herself at one point says she believed she could “be remade, my mind recast” at her university. In the end, she writes that she is a “changed person” from the person she was as her father’s daughter, and from her 16-year-old self. “You could call this selfhood many things,” she writes. “Transformation. Metaphorosis. Falsity. Betrayal. I call it an education.”

What do you make of these final lines?

6). Looking back over the book, what did you learn about family and forgiveness and trauma? What did you learn about education?

Social Media:

Memoirist Retraces Her Journey From Survivalist Childhood To Cambridge Ph.D., heard on Fresh Air (Jan. 18, 2019)


Other Perspectives:

A Psychologist’s Take on Tara Westover’s Memoir, Educated


‘Educated’ Should be read with Grain of Salt, says Family’s Attorney


Link to Amazon Review by Tara’s brother “Tylyer”


LaRee Westover’s (mother’s) Facebook Page


About the Author:

Tara Westover is an American author living in the UK. Born in Idaho to a father opposed to public education, she never attended school. She spent her days working in her father’s junkyard or stewing herbs for her mother, a self-taught herbalist and midwife. She was seventeen the first time she set foot in a classroom, and after that first taste, she pursued learning for the next decade. She received a 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.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s