Review: Educated by Tara Westover

“Why did you fight so hard against made-up monsters, but do nothing about the monsters in your own house?”

UPDATE: Warning – Do not read this book before bedtime because it’ll likely give you nightmares. I just woke from one. The impact of this book won’t go unnoticed on your subconscious.
———–
I started this book from part two, knowing I wouldn’t be able to bear reading too much about her family and instead focusing on Westover’s journey to education.

Still, my mind is reeling from the minute I closed this book. It reiterates the scariest of questions: How do you help someone who refuses to receive help? Westover’s family legit scare me, even more so knowing they’re somewhere out there. I felt like I was reading a thriller, but it’s worse because it’s real life.

I can’t stop thinking about only one thing: Get Emily out of there and her two kids far away from Shane. Help them! How is the police not breaking down their doors this very minute to save them knowing this book exists??? Why? Like, it felt wrong closing this book and just moving on. This isn’t just a story, this is someone’s real life.

“I half-wondered if I should return to the bathroom and climb through the mirror, then send out the other girl, the one who was sixteen. She could handle this, I thought. She would not be afraid, like I was. She would not be hurt, like I was. She was a thing of stone, with no fleshy tenderness.”

This is the scene that impacted me the most: when Tara was looking at her reflection in her old bathroom mirror about to face the hardest moment in her life. Her strength at that moment gave me strength.

“And here I was still, and here was the mirror. The same face, repeated in the same three panels. Except it wasn’t. This face was older, and floating above a soft cashmere sweater. But Dr. Kerry was right: it wasn’t the clothes that made this face, this woman, different. It was something behind her eyes, something in the set of her jaw—a hope or belief or conviction—that a life is not a thing unalterable. I don’t have a word for what it was I saw, but I suppose it was something like faith.”

Her ability to face Shawn with no one around her to support her emotionally shocked me. Sure, there were witnesses around, yet there was no support. If she can face him in an effort to give voice to her thoughts on his wrongdoings, I’ll always think back on this moment and draw strength from it.
If she can face that, my own fears pale in comparison. She showed me that there is no limit to what she can face. Still, it’s impossible taking that first step. It brought back to mind this quote I repeat in my mind from Watch Over Me:

“I need you to be brave,” he said. “I need you to face her, even though it hurts.”

It’s so tiring and exhausting being on edge around the people you should feel the most at home with.

The more I sat with the book these past days, the more certain passages kept resurfacing. Like:

“I am doing this with or without you. But without you, I will probably lose.”

Or:

“The wedding was in September. I arrived at the church full of anxious energy, as though I’d been sent through time from some disastrous future to this moment, when my actions still had weight and my thoughts, consequences. I didn’t know what I’d been sent to do, so I wrung my hands and chewed my cheeks, waiting for the crucial moment.”

Experiencing this feeling of seeing your present already from the future is terrifying. You have no idea how to save the future.

Whew. I had no idea I’d ever encounter a book to put into words what I’ve been avoiding. I’m still stuck in this phase:

“I tried to forget that night. For the first time in fifteen years, I closed my journal and put it away. Journaling is contemplative, and I didn’t want to contemplate anything.”

This isn’t something to be read lightly. You’ll leave it with a changed perspective on your own interactions and thoughts.

“But the memory of her saying it is gone: it is as if I wrote in order to forget.”

I feel like the movie version of this would hit as hard as Wild did. I really hope it gets opted for a movie adaptation.

Review: What Language Do I Dream In? by Elena Lappin

The title of this piqued my Freudian interest. I love dreams and I love languages. What Language Do I Dream In? is something I always ask myself. Having moved countries at a young age, I could see myself in these pages. The many countries and languages and immigrations this book follows made for quite the premise.

I love reading about the Russian-Jewish experience because it’s so rare to see in American fiction or nonfiction. The specificity of reading about Soviet jews and the feeling of being seen it grants never fails to amaze me. It’s like that feeling you get inside when encountering someone in real life who shares the same roots, like “good to see us.” This is what this book felt like, for me.
Like, it’s reading about the same stories I was told as a child of grandmothers spending years in evacuation.

“When my grandmother and my mother were evacuated to Bashkiria during the war, my grandmother worked in a factory seven kilometers away from where they lived. In winter, as she walked home every evening along an empty road in complete darkness, she saw wolves’ eyes following her from very close by. The wolves were hungry. My grandmother was petrified. But she had no choice, and just kept walking. This is how her generation faced everything in life: by doing what they had to do, despite the ever-present fear.”

I love that last line.

“Having lost our homes, we are jealous of the steadfastness of the homes of others. We need to latch on to their roots and connect with stories that will never be ours.”

This is why I’m so obsessed with nostalgia and looking for things that resemble the past.

Also, capturing the loss of a language while learning a new one. I loved seeing this brought to the page. Especially when she has her own child and notices how easily the language slips away from her. What a moment.

“It was like having a secret language for just the two of us.”

Oh, and the Russian-Jewish humor is so hard to find in other books because it’s so specific to the language. Case in point:

“I emailed him a photo of a similar gun I had found on the internet and asked if he thought they were the same make and period. He shot back in Czech, without missing a beat: ‘I wish I had your problems!’”

The only other author I’ve experienced this feeling with is David Bezmozgis. So I would love any book recommendations if you have them…

The only thing I do wish from this book: To have spent more time inside Elena’s head as each of these progressions in her life happened. I wanted more insight into what she was thinking when she met her future husband or when she had her kids. She has lived quite the life. Quite the rare life. So I wanted more insight into her thoughts. Like, in hindsight, was there some moment of foreshadowing now that she can look on things back? I wanted more of that. One of those moments where you wish you could write the author to talk in detail…

This is the funny thing about reading memoirs, you can actually go check on the people mentioned in it online and feel like you know them. Lurking online like a distant family member, but in reality, you’re just a curious reader…

Review: My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh

I feel like this book succeeded only because of the cover?

“I trusted that everything was going to work out fine as long as I could sleep all day.”

I can see why this would get recommended next to The Idiot. They both feature that period between college and whatever comes after. But whereas The Idiot is focused on a more introverted introspective character, this book is similar to the art in it: living on those in-your-face shocking comments. Like, anyone wanna read about a character taking a shit on a museum floor? Go ahead and check out My Year of Rest and Relaxation.

I saw a reviewer mention HBO’s Girls, and I can definitely see fans of the show eating this kind of writing up. However, this wasn’t my style. It took me about halfway through the novel to realize there would be nothing new in this novel, just this endless rinse and repeat of self-loathing and drug intake. AKA: the point when I realized I do not like this storyline at all.

I just kept waiting for that moment to hit when there would be some introspective insight or some deep connection or moment of realization for the main character. Some growth. It never came. This is just a suicidal pact of taking in as many drugs as possible.

“Nothing seemed really real. Sleeping, waking, it all collided into one gray, monotonous plane ride through the clouds. I didn’t talk to myself in my head. There wasn’t much to say. This was how I knew the sleep was having an effect: I was growing less and less attached to life. If I kept going, I thought, I’d disappear completely, then reappear in some new form. This was my hope. This was the dream.”

When the goal is to disconnect from reality, this numbness can lead to the reader not feeling attached to the story at all. “Life was repetitive, resonated at a low hum.” The book, too. The whole of this book can be summed up as: “I can’t sleep, I need to dissociate, I’m taking this drug and mixing it with this sample from my drug dealer doctor…. and where am I and what happened these three days?” Rinse-repeat. I wish I were exaggerating.

Speaking of, Dr. Tuttle reminded me of that realtor in Broad City. She even has the same cursed neck brace, too.

1.5M ratings 277k ratings See, that's what the app is perfect for. Sounds  perfect Wahhhh, I don't wanna lyndsey · ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ · manhattan Posts rad  Archive sheeb poehler Broad City Amy Sedaris * *broadcity 4,343 notes 4,343  notes Jul 25th, 2014 Open in app ...

My favorite side character in the show. However, in this book the negligence on Dr. Tuttle’s part is too much to bear.

“There was no shortage of psychiatrists in New York City, but finding one as irresponsible and weird as Dr. Tuttle would be a challenge I didn’t think I could handle.”

Too much.

All I wanted from this book was for some emotion or some moment of clarity to shine. To give insight. It was all empty. Head empty, no thoughts. Or many thoughts, let’s drug them out.

– Spoilers from here –
And then the most infuriating is this abrupt ending where the main character (literally can’t even remember her name because all she does is… nothing throughout the whole book) gets up, brushes herself off, and she can seemingly walk away from her addiction with no problem, no withdrawals…. I am confusion.

Also: If I could count the number of times the main character (yep, still can’t remember her name even though I spent five days reading this book) goes out of her way to repeat how pretty she is and, oh, skinny. I wished any side character would be present in the book to condone her actions.

The only thing this book had going for it was the spark it ignited every now and then. That’s the sole thing that kept me going in my reading experience.

“Maybe I’ll ask my dad for money to pay a matchmaker.” “No man is worth paying for,” I told her.” This. “As an art history major, I couldn’t escape them. “Dudes” reading Nietzsche on the subway, reading Proust, reading David Foster Wallace, jotting down their brilliant thoughts into a black Moleskine pocket notebook. Beer bellies and skinny legs, zip-up hoodies, navy blue peacoats or army green parkas, New Balance sneakers, knit hats, canvas tote bags, small hands, hairy knuckles, maybe a deer head tattooed across a flabby bicep. They rolled their own cigarettes, didn’t brush their teeth enough, spent a hundred dollars a week on coffee. They would come into Ducat, the gallery I ended up working at, with their younger—usually Asian—girlfriends. “An Asian girlfriend means the guy has a small dick,” Reva once said.”

Now, I can’t stop spotting these dudes around the city.

“And then there were the dreams about my parents, which I never mentioned to Dr. Tuttle.”
“In a few dreams, I’d answer the phone and hear a long silence, which I interpreted as my mother’s speechless disdain. Or I heard crackling static, and cried out, “Mom? Dad?” into the receiver, desperate and devastated that I couldn’t hear what they were saying.”

These were the kind of moments I wanted more of in this story. Like this next line on her childhood home:

“I wanted to hold on to the house the way you’d hold on to a love letter. It was proof that I had not always been completely alone in this world.”

Moments like this almost made me like the main character. But then it gets drowned in her sea of drugs and numbness.

In all honesty, I think I might favor The Idiot over this any day.