Wow. I had heard about Tara Westover's memoir, Educated, but I had no idea it was going to be such a remarkable, brutal and exhilarating ride. In clear, calm prose, Westover describes growing up in her fundamentalist Mormon family: her uncompromising, paranoid father; her volatile, violent brother; her midwife mother who begins a business supplying homeopathic remedies and essential oils; her other siblings, some of whom escape from the valley and others who choose to stay loyal.

Some of the elements of Westover's story are extreme -- her father probably lives with bipolar disorder, is convinced of the coming Apocalypse, and believes that all western medicine is literally poison; almost all her siblings at some time or other suffer serious injuries working in their father's junkyard without any safety precautions; the children are 'homeschooled' in theory but in practice are self-schooled. But the heart of the story is an all too ordinary family drama -- a domineering father figure who browbeats the rest of the family into submission, conflicted loyalties, love and anger, attempted rebellions which are sometimes successful and which sometimes backfire horrifically.

Educated is a compulsive page turner, not just in a misery-memoir, how-bad-can-this-get way, but for the determined struggle of Westover herself to break free from the shackles of her upbringing. It's also an enlightening exposure of the way a whole community of people truly believe that any government regulation or intervention in their lives can only be evil, the way they honestly value 'freedom' above all else, whatever its cost. It's terrifying but in its own way, educational.

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