A Survivalist for a Father


Book Review: “Ain’t nothin’ funnier than real life, I tell you what,” opined Tara Westover’s grandmother, and Westover’s compelling description of her early years bears that out. Giving Hillbilly Elegy and The Glass Castle a run for their money in the weird, hardscrabble childhood department, Westover’s memoir, Educated, makes for a compelling read.
     Her father, Gene, is a religious fundamentalist who believes that Big Government is out to get everyone. Increasingly paranoid, Gene decides to outsmart the authorities by going completely off the grid, not registering his children’s births, taking them of out or never entering them in school, staying away from hospitals and stockpiling gasoline and food so he and his family could survive the End of Days. Despite their early educational deprivation, three of the children miraculously passed the college entrance exams, graduated from college, and went on to obtain Ph.D.’s – Tara studying at Cambridge and Harvard, no less. Four of them didn’t even get high school diplomas. Although she exceeded her goals in the real world, Tara paid a high price for both growing up in a strange, abusive household and for striking out on her own.

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