Educated by Tara Westover

To be honest, for me Educated started out two strikes against it. 

It's the sort of book to be easily compared to The Glass Castle, which stands so strongly in the field that I'm suspicious of comparison, like comparing any mystery to French

Second, it's set close to home, geographically and culturally. This is often a turn-off for me (I don't know precisely why this is, it just is). 

I read Educated despite these hesitations because it was so highly commended from a couple of bookish sources (I listened to the audiobook, by the way, which has an excellent narrator). Like The Glass Castle, this memoir has a lot of darkness, which should be anticipated from the synopsis. 

I had a not-insignificant issue with Westover's very first words on the page, claiming that the reader should not blame her parent's religion, Mormonism, for the way she was raised (see, told you that stuff close to home immediately stands my scruff on end). Her parents claim Mormonism as their religion but any concise reader will understand long before Westover has the opportunity to do so, that her father clearly has some severity of mental illness driving his actions. However, presenting some of the tenants of a religion such as Mormonism to an already compromised person just kindles those tendencies, fueling paranoia and delusions of grandeur. Even more so, her mother's adherence to such tenants and their justifications of her husband's behaviour is even worse. I believe the two elements are inextricably entwined and there cannot be a lack of culpability on behalf of their religion's role in their lives. 

Despite Westover's admonition and lack of insight into this particular thread (and my ranting paragraph there), her disclaimer was really the only detraction in this gorgeous and devastating memoir. She's clearly a very intelligent woman and skilled at portraying her childhood experiences from the vantage point of adulthood. So often these sorts of narratives end up feeling like, "Yes, sure, I know you realize that now, but you wouldn't have had those insights or thought patterns when you were that age." She distinctly distinguishes between her sometimes complicated and convoluted thoughts that legitimately might have emerged from a child at that age and how she now understands and feels about what happened then. Even when you wanted to rush to her house and shake her for her actions in the past, she can still convince you as to why you might have made the same choices, given the situation. 

So... it's been quite a while since I read Glass and while on one hand I feel confident saying that the comparisons of this to that classic are perfectly justified, I'd like to take it a step further and, perhaps controversially, actually suggesting that if you found yourself in some strange world where you were presented with reading one or the other... you may be well served choosing this one. 

I know! I know. But it's true. Excellent memoir.