Top critical review
Testimony to following ones dreams and overcoming obstacles
January 8, 2019
I read this book with conflicting sentiments and reactions. It has been compared with The Glass Castle, a memoir which I loved. Educated is a testimony of following one’s ambitions and dreams while overcoming overwhelming obstacles and hardships. It is an inspiring story of the drive for self-realization and while overcoming doubts, guilt, self-worth, and unhealthy family ties and beliefs.
I admit I felt some degree of skepticism. There seemed to be contradictions and gaps which needed further explanation. At times I felt it was documenting a nasty family feud while her recollection of family dynamics and its surrounding radical religious fanaticism and paranoia altered in her thinking.
I believed this was a story of overcoming an upbringing in a family of survivalists and poverty.
From what I thought I knew about survivalism, people lived off the grid, but there was mention of TV, computer, phone, camera, etc. The parents chose to live in an atypical manner, driven by the eccentric father’s belief that Armageddon or Judgement Day was rapidly approaching. I could not classify the family as impoverished. There were vehicles, often wrecked in accidents which needed expensive repairs or replacement. They had expensive heavy duty machinery for construction and the junkyard business they owned.
There was also the fear that the feared government agents would invade the family property and weapons were stockpiled. The father persuaded his wife to concoct natural medicines from herbs to sell as remedies for various illnesses. No medical intervention or hospitals were permitted despite dreadful injuries occurring at the workplace. The mother also worked as a midwife. The family also spent time preserving countless jars of peaches for the ‘end time’.
The children lacked birth certificates and were not permitted to attend school, and forced to work under dangerous conditions in the junkyard and construction. Each youngster slept with a ‘run for the hills’ backpack in case of a standoff by government law enforcement. The author describes herself and the home as often dirty and smelly, and not having soap. In spite of her description of a strict home, she went out on dates, performed in musicals at a nearby theatre and occasionally worked outside the home. Three of the children have PHDs and the parents have become millionaires through their natural medicine business.
I felt detached from the author’s story thinking I was being forced to feel for her hard work and emotional upheavals, and there were parts missing in her recollections and information. We were only getting one side of the dysfunctional family story. There is no doubt that she was emotionally abused and injured by an older brother and the parents and in-laws could not be trusted to uphold her accusations.
Some credibility issues arose in her education. That she was able, with no schooling, to teach herself enough to obtain very high marks on tests and be admitted into prestigious Universities is astounding and admirable. Once at University she soon discovered her knowledge of recent history was woefully inadequate. She had never heard of the Holocaust or the Civil Rights movement. Funding was a mystery. Grants and Scholarships only cover so much, but she did not seem to be a typical impoverished student as there were many return overseas flights from Cambridge University to home, and also vacations in Rome and Paris.
I finished the book feeling disconnected from her, and wanted to know how her life is like now, whether she is completely estranged from her family, and what her goals are for the future.