Starting the weekend with a new bookclub blog post and a little change to my usual format. When I first started blogging about books, I blogged one book a month. Then as I read more and more, I changed to monthly book posts featuring four to five books a month. Now, I'm changing the format again. I'm going back to one book per post, but I'll hopefully be doing a few posts each month.

This change will allow me to delve a little more into each book and hopefully this will make it easier for you to find books you love. I’m starting with a post about my favourite book of the year to date: Educated by Tara Westover. It’s a debut memoir tracing the author’s life from her childhood in Idaho to earning a PhD from Cambridge University.

Westover grew up in a Mormon family that lived off the grid in the Idaho mountains. Her father was a survivalist and her mother an unofficial midwife to other Mormon families. She didn't have a birth certificate. To this date, she’s not sure of her real birthday. She never went to school, her parents choosing to ‘home-school’ her instead. Her parents didn't bring her to doctors when sick or injured. Her father believed that all types of mainstream institutions such as schools and hospitals were agents of the government. His beliefs led to the family being isolated from other families in their communities and even their own extended family.

Westover is one of seven siblings. She suffered emotional and physical abuse at the hands of one of her older brothers while makes for every uncomfortable reading at times. When she confronted her parents about this abuse, they tried to convince her that her recollection of events was in-correct and this eventually led to her estrangement from her parents. This may be one of the most infuriating aspects of this story.

While Westover was officially being “home-schooled”, she spent her days working on her father’s scrapyard. There her father showed a total disregard for her safety as well as her own. Despite Tara’s lack of home schooling, she followed her older brother’s example. He educated himself and he convinced her to do to likewise. She worked part time and bought her own text books and studied in secret, eventually gaining entry to Bingham University. She recounts one episode in the book, where during a lecture, she came across the word holocaust and having never encountered it before, she asked her lecture what it meant. Her classmates through she was a holocaust denier, which led to her isolation. She simply had never heard of it before university.

This story is extraordinary. It feels like the writing of the book is a form of therapy for the author, helping her process and work through all that she’s been through. I finished reading it one sunny evening and when I closed the book I had to take a walk. I felt so many emotions, from sympathy for Westover for all she has been through. I felt anger towards her parents and her brother. It’s clear that her parents love her but at the same time, they just cannot accept the path she has chosen, a path where she achieved things that most parents would be unbelievably proud of. I’m not quite sure a book has stirred these types of emotions in my in so long. Her father’s beliefs and the way his mind works is so hard to understand or rationalise. Her mother, while at times seeming to understand and empathise with Tara’s perspective, always defers to and facilitates her father. It’s quite infuriating. Despite a chaotic upbringing, it’s extraordinary that Tara manages to find herself and her path.

Describe this book in three words: Extraordinary, Unforgettable, Moving.

Books similar to this: Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance