17 Oct

Tara Westover's memoir, "Educated," published in 2018, is a poignant and eye-opening exploration of one woman's extraordinary journey from an isolated and abusive upbringing in rural Idaho to the world of academia and self-discovery. This powerful narrative offers readers a firsthand account of resilience, education, and the pursuit of self-empowerment in the face of incredible odds. 

In this comprehensive 2000-word book review, we will delve into the memoir's compelling themes, deeply personal anecdotes, and its enduring impact on the literary world and discussions surrounding education and personal growth.

Plot Summary

Tara Westover was born into a strict and survivalist family in rural Buck's Peak, Idaho. Her childhood was defined by a father who distrusted the government, shunned modern medicine, and demanded unwavering loyalty from his family. Education was an afterthought, and Tara and her siblings spent their days working in their father's scrapyard and, eventually, at a dangerous and unsanitary salvage yard.

Despite her father's skepticism about formal education, Tara's desire for knowledge and a better life led her to seek education on her own. She began by teaching herself to read and write and later pursued higher education, first at Brigham Young University, and ultimately at the University of Cambridge. Her journey was marked by personal and intellectual transformation, as she confronted the beliefs and ideologies she had grown up with.

Tara's path to education was not without its challenges. She faced financial struggles, discrimination, and her family's disapproval. Her father's mistrust of institutions and her upbringing's isolation made it difficult for her to adapt to the social and academic norms of the wider world."Educated" offers an unflinching look at Tara's complex relationship with her family, particularly her abusive brother Shawn. Her struggle to reconcile her loyalty to her family with her pursuit of education serves as a central conflict in the memoir.

As Tara progresses through her academic journey, she discovers that education is not just about acquiring knowledge; it is also a journey of self-discovery, empowerment, and challenging one's deeply ingrained beliefs. Tara's story ultimately illustrates the transformative power of education and the resilience of the human spirit.


Education and Self-Empowerment

The central theme of "Educated" is education as a means of self-empowerment and personal growth. Tara's pursuit of knowledge and formal education becomes her path to independence and self-discovery.

Resilience and Overcoming Adversity

The memoir explores the theme of resilience in the face of adversity. Tara's journey is marked by her ability to overcome significant obstacles, including her upbringing, family dynamics, and the challenges of academia.

Family and Identity

The complex relationships within Tara's family and the impact of her upbringing on her identity are central themes. The memoir delves into the conflict between loyalty to one's family and the need to assert one's individuality.

Mental Health and Abuse

Mental health and the impact of abuse on individuals are important themes in the memoir. Tara's story sheds light on the consequences of abuse and the resilience required to heal from traumatic experiences.

Belief Systems and Ideology

The memoir delves into the theme of belief systems and the challenge of reconciling deeply ingrained ideologies with new knowledge and experiences. Tara's struggle to question and challenge her family's beliefs is a central conflict.

Freedom and Independence

The theme of freedom and independence is woven throughout the narrative. Tara's journey is a quest for personal freedom and the ability to define her own path.


Tara Westover

Tara is the author and protagonist of the memoir. Her character undergoes significant development as she transitions from an isolated and uneducated upbringing to a path of academic and personal enlightenment.

Shawn Westover

Shawn is Tara's older brother and a central figure in her life. His character represents the challenges and complexities of Tara's family dynamics, including the abuse she endured.

LaRee Westover

LaRee is Tara's mother. Her character is marked by her loyalty to her husband and her inability to protect her children from the abuse they suffered.

Gene Westover

Gene is Tara's father and the head of the family. His character embodies the extreme beliefs and mistrust of institutions that defined Tara's upbringing.


Frenchie is a friend Tara makes at Brigham Young University. His character serves as a contrast to Tara's isolated upbringing and represents the diversity of experiences outside her family's world.

Professors at Brigham Young University

The professors Tara encounters at Brigham Young University play important roles in her academic journey. Their mentorship and encouragement contribute to her development and academic success.

Friends and Mentors at the University of Cambridge

Tara's interactions with fellow students and mentors at the University of Cambridge are significant in her academic and personal growth. These characters represent the transformative nature of higher education.

The Impact of "Educated"

Critical Acclaim

"Educated" has received widespread critical acclaim and has garnered numerous awards and accolades, including the Goodreads Choice Award for Memoir & Autobiography in 2018.

Bestseller Status

The memoir's immense popularity has led to it becoming a bestseller, resonating with readers and sparking discussions about education and resilience.

Recognition of Abuse and Trauma

Tara Westover's memoir has shed light on the impact of abuse and trauma on individuals. It has encouraged discussions about the need for support and healing for survivors of abuse.

Discussions on Education and Self-Discovery

The memoir has prompted discussions about the transformative power of education and its role in self-discovery and personal growth. It has inspired readers to consider the value of education in one's life journey.

Inspirational Stories of Resilience

Tara's story has inspired readers and survivors to share their own stories of resilience and determination in the face of adversity.

Advocacy for Education

The memoir has contributed to the advocacy for education and the belief in the transformative potential of knowledge. It has encouraged individuals to pursue education as a means of empowerment and personal growth.


"Educated" by Tara Westover is a compelling memoir that chronicles a journey from the shadows of ignorance to the enlightenment of education, offering readers a poignant exploration of resilience, self-empowerment, and the transformative power of knowledge. The memoir's deeply personal narrative, characterized by its well-drawn characters and exploration of complex family dynamics, continues to captivate readers and inspire discussions about the enduring impact of education on one's life.

Westover's work has left an indelible mark on the memoir genre, encouraging authors to share their own stories of resilience and the pursuit of knowledge. "Educated" is a testament to the human capacity for personal growth and transformation, leaving us eager to celebrate the power of education and the resilience of the human spirit in the face of adversity. 

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