First time author Tara Westover wrote a memoir in her late twenties titled, Educated. The New York Times named the book one of the Ten Best Books of 2018 and it’s received so many national awards you’d be bored to tears if I listed them all. Had I known her age when I started reading the book I would have presumed that someone so young couldn’t have lived enough life to be able to write a memoir worthy of such critical acclaim but I would have been wrong. Born in Idaho to a separatist Mormon father who didn’t trust the government, schools or doctors and mother who was a self-taught herbalist and midwife, Tara was the youngest of seven children and growing up her days were filled working alongside her brothers in her father’s junk yard and in the evenings she helped her mother stew herbs. Throw some physical abuse and doomsday prepping into the picture along with some screw-ball ways of viewing the outside world, Tara definitely has a story worth writing and reading about.
Tara was seventeen the first time she stepped inside a school, nor did she get a proper home schooling growing up, but she taught herself what she needed to know to pass the ACT test and scored high enough to get into college. Fast forward to her Wikipedia page: Tara “…graduated magna cum laude from Brigham Young University in 2008 and was subsequently awarded a Gates Cambridge Scholarship. She earned an MPhil from Trinity College, Cambridge in 2009, and in 2010 was a visiting fellow at Harvard University. She returned to Cambridge, where she was awarded a PhD in history in 2014.” I stayed up into the wee hours of the night three nights in a row to read this book and when I was finished, I got on YouTube to watch five interviews. I couldn’t get enough.
Two days after closing the last page I was in a group of ten---at a cousin’s luncheon---and was delighted to find out that two of us had read Educated, someone else was at a half way point and another had just finished the first chapter. What are the odds of that? Bottom line: I highly recommend this book but I am standing in line to do it behind people like Barack Obama who said, “It’s one of my favorite books of year” and Bill Gates who put it on his Holiday List and wrote, “Tara’s process of self-discovery is beautifully captured in Educated. It’s the kind of book that I think everyone will enjoy, no matter what genre you usually pick up.”
I’m calling this Culture Week because in addition to finding a haunting book, I also saw the movie Downton Abbey with four of my Gathering Girls pals even though I must be the only person on earth who couldn’t get into the TV series. I multitask when I watch TV but so much of the story-line is carried in the facial expressions and body language that I was missing more than I was getting. After a couple of tries, I gave up. I figured with the movie I’d have to keep my eyes on the screen.
“Lacking the nutritious story lines of the past, the movie is mainly empty calories,” the New York Times movie critic wrote about the film. “For a few fleeting moments, they've returned us to a time of bygone glamor when class trumped crass and even treachery was sweetly done,” wrote Mr. Travers at Rolling Stone. Hummm….which one will turn out to be true for me I wondered before stepping foot inside the theater.
We went on Cheap Tuesday and I expected the place would be packed with women all lined up and itching to get a ticket like the senior version of when the last Star Wars movie came out only without the costumed people in attendance. I was shocked that we were five of only fifteen people in the theater---much less than usually show up on Cheap Tuesdays. Someone said all the seats over the weekend at all the showings were filled so I can only surmise that elderly women don’t have as much patience as I gave us credit for having. My movie companions are all fans of the series and they were thrilled beyond containment to be there. Me? I had to force myself to care about seeing Downton Abbey and after viewing the ten minute “tutorial” for those of us who hadn’t seen the series that played just before the movie began I was totally confused and realized why I couldn’t get into the series. It wasn't just my multitasking habits, it was also the fact that there are just too many characters for me to keep track of.
My bottom line on Downton Abbey? The movie and lunch afterwards with my friends was fun. They loved, LOVED the movie and a couple of them wanted to see it again. I got my six bucks worth just seeing the costumes and antique cars, but I won’t be binge watching the series. ©