Educated: A Memoir Summary & Study Guide

Tara Westover
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Educated: A Memoir Summary & Study Guide Description

Educated: A Memoir Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Topics for Discussion on Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover.

The following version of this book was used to create the guide: Westover, Tara. Educated: A Memoir. Random House, 2018.

The memoir opened with Tara reflecting on the mountainous land on which she grew up and the way her childhood was influenced from such isolation from society. Grandma-down-the-hill offered to take Tara to a school in Arizona, but she refused to leave her family. Her father taught his children Bible passages and stories about the Weavers, a family who also lived secluded from society, and their fatal encounter with the federal government. The latter instilled fear in the family along with the motivation to prepare for such a confrontation. Her father suggested her mother midwife to continue his pursuit to self-reliance from the government and medical care. Around this time, Tara, Tyler, Audrey, and Richard were issued delayed birth certificates.

Her parents were attracted to each other because of their differences. Her mother did not speak up, though, when her father ordered the family to drive home to Idaho from Arizona overnight. Tyler fell asleep at the wheel and their mother sustained a brain injury from which she never recovered. Shortly after this incident, Tyler decided to go to college. While he was gone, Tara was recruited to work in the junkyard for her father. She listened to his ill-conceived direction and sustained a knee injury. Her mother learned energy healing since her accident and put it into practice with injuries that happened at home, like when Luke scorched his leg while working with his father. Tara wanted to escape the junkyard, so she found work and began dance classes. Her father deemed the latter immodest, so she took to singing instead.

After Tara’s father’s preparation for Y2K was deemed useless, the family traveled to Arizona to lift his spirits. He ordered the family to travel home at night again, and his driving led to an accident that totaled their van. Shawn returned home after the accident and spent a lot of time with Tara. He eased her neck injury, saved her on horseback, and took her on a long-haul truck ride. After he met a love interest, Sadie, he began exhibiting controlling behavior with both her and Tara. He physically abused Tara when she stood up for herself in one of these instances, pushing her head into their dirty toilet by her hair. He began calling her a whore and getting angry with her for growing into a woman. He punished her for this with more physical abuse, and one day Tyler returned home to see him hurting Tara. Tyler encouraged Tara to study for the ACT and go to college.

Shawn sustained a head injury after falling headfirst onto concrete from a raised pallet, and Tara wanted to believe that his aggression was a result of his accident. She took her ACT and earned a high score. Despite her mother’s encouragement, her father disapproved and actively discouraged her. When Shawn had a motorcycle accident, Tara went against her father’s wishes by bringing him to the hospital. Soon after, Tara began studying for her bachelor’s degree at Brigham Young University and moved in with new roommates. Her ignorance was overwhelming; she did not know about major historical events nor how to study for exams. Once back home, her father forced her to work for him. Tara and Charles struck a romance, but she felt uncomfortable with her feminine and sexual expression. Shawn and her father both made fun of her, and when she returned to school and new roommates, her emotional and financial stress caused ulcers and nightmares.

Tara experienced physical and emotional abuse from Shawn when she continued to return home. He beat her in front of Charles on Thanksgiving Day and in the grocery store parking lot. Despite Tara’s struggles, she did well in school. She was confronted by the bishop about her lack of interest in dating and he gave her moral support at first, then financial support by suggesting she apply for a government grant. Tara learned about bipolar disorder, diagnosing her father as such, and chose to attempt living an average life. She was called back home, though, when her father sustained life-threatening burns. Shawn married Emily before Tara began a semester at Cambridge University. At the suggestion of her professor, she applied for Cambridge’s master’s grant and won. Cambridge was where Tara first learned about feminism.

Tara visited Audrey and received a message from her after returning to Cambridge that described her willingness to confess her experience with Shawn’s abuse. Tara returned home after Grandma-down-the-hill died and Shawn told her he wanted to kill Audrey for speaking out. When she confronted her parents about the threat, her father denied her and called Shawn over, putting Tara in danger. Audrey denied that she had a problem with Shawn and her father gave her a blessing to accept her back into the family, but Tara refused this offer. Tara visited her family once more, but when she found an email from her mother discrediting Tara, she decided to leave home and not return. Tyler and his wife wrote a letter to Tara and her parents, and this show of support motivated Tara to turn around her failing PhD and attend counseling. Tara earned her doctorate, and because her mother would not allow Tara to see her without her father, Tara created bonds with her maternal extended family instead.

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