Raised by deeply religious and survivalist parents on an Idaho mountain, Tara Westover's life was vastly different from other children's. At age seven, she was laboring in her father's junkyard, salvaging scrap metal and operating dangerous machinery. Nobody in the Westover family visited a doctor, relying instead on prayer and herbal concoctions to remedy even the most horrific and life-threatening injuries. Instead of attending elementary school, Westover was "educated in the rhythms of the mountain," with lessons consisting of her father's doomsday lectures about the evils of the "Illuminati" and the impending "Days of Abomination."

By using old textbooks, Westover taught herself trigonometry and science, relating complicated theories to the equations of her life. "What I knew of physics I had learned in the junkyard, where the physical world often seemed unstable, capricious. But here was a principle through which the dimensions of life could be defined, captured. Perhaps reality was not wholly volatile. Perhaps it could be explained, predicted. Perhaps it could be made to make sense." Her determined quest would lead her to entering a classroom for the first time at age 17 and, eventually, to earning a doctorate from Cambridge University.

An astonishingly raw and explosive memoir, Educated is Westover's gritty account of how she exchanged an extreme world of faith, fear, abuse and obstacles for one defined by power, strength and resilience. "My life was narrated for me by others. Their voices were forceful, emphatic, absolute. It had never occurred to me that my voice might be as strong as theirs." In Educated, Westover more than proves that theory. --Melissa Firman, writer, editor and blogger at

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