Tara Westover’s new tale of escape, Educated, makes [J.D.] Vance’s seem tame by comparison ... The extremity of Westover’s upbringing emerges gradually through her telling, which only makes the telling more alluring and harrowing ... It is only when the final, wrenching break from most of her family arrives that one realizes just how courageous this testimonial really is. These disclosures will take a toll. But one is also left convinced that the costs are worth it. By the end, Westover has somehow managed not only to capture her unsurpassably exceptional upbringing, but to make her current situation seem not so exceptional at all, and resonant for many others.
Despite the gaps between them, Westover is able to see the mix of good and evil, of pride and hurt, in all these people, including herself. Rather than demonize, she wishes to understand. A brilliant mind so long constricted proves elastic and inventive. Whether narrating scenes of fury and violence or evoking rural landscapes or tortured self-analysis, Westover writes with uncommon intelligence and grace. Educated recounts one of the most improbable and fascinating journeys I’ve read in recent years.
The most powerful section is the first, which Westover writes from the point of view of herself as a girl. She recounts her bizarre life dispassionately, as though it was perfectly ordinary, and it is that sense of normality that gives this section its power ... It is the third section that is the most difficult to read — the least polished, the most painful, perhaps because it is the most recent. It lacks distance, both temporal and emotional ... the rawness of this last section suggests that despite her amazing transformation and this powerful book, Westover’s remarkable education is not yet complete.