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1-Page Summary of Educated
Tara Westover’s memoir, Educated, is an account of her life. In the book, she discusses how she was born in rural Idaho and grew up as a Mormon survivalist. She talks about her family members and how they were raised by their father who ran a scrapyard on their property. Tara recounts that her mother was injured in a car accident and sustained serious brain injuries from it.
Tara grew up with her grandmother, who she called Grandma-over-in-town. She learned from her that the rest of the family was religious and therefore took part in a different lifestyle than normal. Tara also missed one of her brothers when he left to go to college, which caused Tara to learn more about Mormon doctrines on her own. When she became a teenager, she began getting physically abused by another brother, which made Tara want to get away from home as soon as possible. To do this, Tara started taking singing and dancing lessons so people wouldn’t see how much trouble she was having at home. Eventually, after learning some math on her own and doing well on the ACTs (a test for college), Tara decided it would be best if she went off to college herself instead of continuing at home with Gene’s abuse.
In Part Two, Tara goes to BYU (Brigham Young University) for her first year of college. She struggles with the religious differences between herself and her roommates, as well as the gaps in her education that she has to catch up on. However, despite this struggle she manages to get good grades by studying hard and getting help from tutors at school. In addition, she finds a boyfriend while at home over summer break named Charles who witnesses some abuse by Shawn towards Tara; he tells her not to stay with him anymore but Tara doesn’t listen because she feels like it’s normal for him.
Tara’s father, Gene, is injured in an explosion at his junkyard. He survives but needs a lot of medical attention. Tara returns home to help her mother care for him and provide financial support. The bishop from her church provides some money so that she can pay rent and receive dental treatment. Tara hears news that she has been accepted into Cambridge University as part of the exchange program. She decides to stay there for graduate school because the professor whom she met while visiting was very encouraging and inspired her to do better academically.
Tara has a hard time adjusting to university life in Cambridge. She is mostly friends with upper-class students, and she feels like an outsider. After meeting two other women who are also outsiders, Tara gains a feminist perspective that helps her understand why her father treated his wife the way he did. When Tara goes home for Christmas break, she learns that Shawn’s new wife Emily was abused by him when they were dating and decides to tell everyone about it. Soon after this incident, Audrey tells Tara that she too had been abused by their brother before leaving home at sixteen years old. Tara confronts Gene about what happened to Audrey and then realizes how much her mother suffered because of Gene’s paranoia over the years.
For her PhD dissertation, Tara wants to investigate Mormonism. Although she had a bad experience at Buck’s Peak the last time she was there, Tara decides to go home for Christmas anyway. While there, Shawn tells her that he plans on killing Audrey because of how much Audrey hates him and his family. He also tells Tara that if anything happens to him or his family, it would be her fault. Disturbed by Shawn’s threats against Audrey and herself, Tara tries talking with Gene about all this but he doesn’t believe what she has to say about Shawn being dangerous. Instead of believing in what his daughter is saying about their son-in-law being so violent towards them all (especially since they’re Mormon), Gene makes excuses for why things are happening the way they are and denies everything that Tara says as not true or proof enough of these allegations against Shawn. Fearing for her safety after seeing the pocket knife drop from Shawn’s hand into hers when he tried grabbing onto her arm while trying to explain himself (which ended up cutting both of them), Tara runs away from home without telling anyone where she went until now because no one believed any part of what she said before then either…