Goodreads ratings
4.47 / 5

Estimated read time: 6 min read

One Sentence Summary

A memoir of resilience and self-discovery as Tara Westover recounts her journey from a harsh upbringing in a strict and isolated household to pursuing education and breaking free from her past.


"Educated" is a memoir written by Tara Westover, detailing her journey from growing up in a strict, survivalist family in rural Idaho to eventually earning a PhD from the University of Cambridge. The book explores themes of family, education, and self-discovery, offering a poignant and powerful account of one woman's quest for knowledge and independence.

Brief Synopsis

The memoir opens in Buck's Peak, Idaho, where Tara Westover grows up in a highly conservative and dysfunctional family. Her father, Gene, is a staunch survivalist who distrusts the government and the medical establishment, while her mother, Faye, is an herbalist and midwife. Tara and her siblings are subjected to harsh living conditions and are denied access to formal education, as their parents view public schools as a tool of the government's brainwashing.

Despite her lack of formal education, Tara is determined to learn and eventually leaves home to pursue higher education. She faces numerous challenges and struggles to adapt to mainstream society, but ultimately finds her way to college and beyond. Along the way, she grapples with issues of identity, family loyalty, and the power of knowledge.

Plot Overview and Setting

The story is set in the mountains of rural Idaho, where Tara Westover is raised in a strict and isolated environment. The family's home is filled with extreme beliefs, where her father stockpiles supplies for the end of the world and her mother practices alternative medicine. The setting plays a crucial role in shaping Tara's worldview and her desire to break free from the constraints of her upbringing.

As the narrative progresses, the setting shifts to various educational institutions where Tara seeks knowledge and experiences a world vastly different from her upbringing. From the halls of Brigham Young University to the historic campus of the University of Cambridge, the settings in the book serve as backdrops for Tara's personal and intellectual growth.

Main Characters

The memoir features several important characters who play pivotal roles in Tara Westover's life:

Tara WestoverThe protagonist and narrator of the memoir, she is determined to pursue education despite her upbringing.
Gene WestoverTara's father, a survivalist who holds extreme beliefs and is deeply distrustful of the government and formal education.
Faye WestoverTara's mother, an herbalist and midwife who supports her husband's beliefs and is instrumental in shaping Tara's childhood.
Shawn WestoverTara's older brother, whose abusive behavior has a profound impact on Tara's life and relationships.
Tyler WestoverAnother of Tara's brothers, who initially encourages her to pursue education and offers support as she navigates the academic world.
Charles WestoverTara's brother, who also seeks an education and plays a supportive role in her journey.

Summary of Different Story Points Over Chapters

Part One: Choose the Window

In the early chapters, Tara recounts her childhood in Buck's Peak, focusing on her family's extreme beliefs and their isolated lifestyle. She details her lack of access to formal education and the challenges she faces in seeking knowledge.

Part Two: The Midwife

Tara begins working in her mother's midwifery business, where she witnesses the dangers of alternative medicine and experiences a severe accident that leads her to question her family's way of life.

Part Three: Cream and Sugar

Tara's decision to pursue formal education leads to conflicts with her family, particularly her father and brother Shawn. She experiences the difficulties of adapting to classroom settings and confronts her limited knowledge of the world outside her upbringing.

Part Four: The Family

Tensions within Tara's family escalate, and she grapples with the impact of her brother Shawn's abusive behavior. She seeks support from her other brothers, Tyler and Charles, as she strives to assert her independence.

Part Five: Westover

Tara's experiences at Brigham Young University and her encounters with new ideas and perspectives challenge her deeply ingrained beliefs. She struggles to reconcile her evolving identity with her family's expectations.

Part Six: Instinct

Tara's academic journey takes her to the University of Cambridge, where she encounters classism and elitism. She grapples with imposter syndrome and the weight of her past as she pursues higher education.

Part Seven: Disloyal Man

As Tara delves deeper into academia, she confronts the complexities of her family dynamics and the repercussions of her pursuit of knowledge. She reflects on the meaning of loyalty and the sacrifices she has made to transform her life.

Main Events

  1. Tara's decision to pursue formal education against the wishes of her family.
  2. The severe accident she experiences while working in her mother's midwifery business.
  3. The conflicts and tensions within her family, particularly with her brother Shawn.
  4. Tara's experiences at Brigham Young University and the University of Cambridge.
  5. Her struggle to assert her independence and forge her own identity.

Themes and Insights


  1. Family Dynamics: The memoir delves into the complexities of family relationships, exploring the impact of extreme beliefs and abuse on Tara's upbringing.
  2. Education and Empowerment: Tara's journey highlights the transformative power of education and the pursuit of knowledge in overcoming adversity.
  3. Identity and Self-Discovery: The book examines Tara's struggle to reconcile her personal identity with the expectations of her family and society.
  4. Resilience and Determination: Through her journey, Tara demonstrates resilience and determination in the face of significant challenges.


  • The memoir offers insights into the psychological and emotional toll of breaking away from deeply ingrained familial beliefs and traditions.
  • It provides a compelling exploration of the complexities of navigating the academic world as a first-generation student with a non-traditional background.

Reader's Takeaway

"Educated" offers readers a compelling and thought-provoking exploration of the power of education, the complexities of family relationships, and the journey of self-discovery. Tara Westover's memoir serves as an inspiring testament to resilience, determination, and the pursuit of knowledge in the face of adversity.


In "Educated," Tara Westover crafts a poignant and powerful narrative that chronicles her journey from an isolated upbringing in rural Idaho to academic success and personal growth. The memoir's themes of family, education, and self-discovery resonate with readers, offering valuable insights into the transformative power of knowledge and the resilience of the human spirit. Tara's story serves as a testament to the enduring pursuit of learning and the pursuit of one's own identity.

Educated FAQ

  1. What is 'Educated' about?

    Educated is a memoir by Tara Westover, detailing her journey from growing up in a strict, survivalist family in rural Idaho to eventually earning a PhD from the University of Cambridge.

  2. What are some key themes in 'Educated'?

    Some key themes in Educated include the pursuit of education, the impact of family dynamics on personal growth, resilience, and the struggle for self-identity.

  3. Is 'Educated' based on a true story?

    Yes, Educated is a memoir, and it is based on Tara Westover's real-life experiences and challenges.

  4. What makes 'Educated' a compelling read?

    Educated is compelling due to its raw and powerful storytelling, the resilience displayed by the author, and the exploration of the transformative power of education.

  5. Who would enjoy reading 'Educated'?

    Readers interested in memoirs, stories of overcoming adversity, and the pursuit of education would likely enjoy 'Educated'.