Educated A Memoir by Tara Westover. Random House 2018. 329 pp.
This book is so rich with material that to write about that is hard to know where to begin, but I will do my best. This large family are Mormons living in the hills in Idaho. They are quite controlled by their father and their faith. Their father distrusts about everything in a fairly normal world and especially schools and hospitals. Consequently, the children are homeschooled, but not very well, and they treat all illnesses and even accidents with severe injuries themselves. They stockpile food and supplies to be ready to flee into the hills. Their mother is a midwife and “healer”. Everyone works hard to help the family survive.
Their father’s main form of income is managing a junkyard where they sort, then sell scrap metal and also is into construction Tara, the main character, is expected to work as hard as her brothers and she is as tough and able to take on hard and risky tasks as they are.
Surprisingly, her brother Tyler manages to break away from this family dynamic and goes to college. With his help to study for and pass an exam, Tara gets into Brigham Young University. However, having never been to school before she has no idea how to deal with that kind of learning and is flunking every course. With the help of a roommate she does graduate. She obviously has a brilliant mind and unquenching thirst for knowledge. From there she goes on to study at Trinity College, Cambridge and Harvard. Her professors are aware of her special abilities and encourage her to have faith in herself. And keep moving on.
She has many problems, though, because she cannot forget her life as a child and keeps going home and getting pulled back into that life. One of her brothers Shawn is quite violent at times and often hurts her and, as it turns out, another sister as wll as his wife. It takes many years, a mental breakdown and therapy to finally break away from that destructive life. This is a fascinating story about a remarkable women.
The Republic of Love by Carol Shields. Viking Penguin 1992. 336 pp.
This story takes place in Winnipeg, Manitoba Canada. It isn’t far from the United States, and people will often travel down to places like Minneapolis. The main character is Fay McLeod. She is thirty-five and has been living with a man named Peter, but no longer loves him. She will now live by herself. She loves to travel and is especially interested in the history of mermaids. She often writes articles about them.
There are many other characters in the book, and it seems that few of them are married. Those that are do not seem very happy. Then there is Tom Avery. He was married and divorced three times before he was forty. He is well known because he works five nights a week at a radio station from midnight to 4 AM on a program called “Niteline.”
Fay and Tom meet for the first time at a child’s birthday party. This is just before a long trip Fay is going to take to Europe. There seems to be a strong attraction for the two of them, but Fay will be gone for quite a long time.
When Fay comes back she and Tom get together and they do fall in love. They begin to talk about marriage, but things happen that make life very difficult. Will things finally work out? Read the book!