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.
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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: Attachments by Rainbow Rowell

I realized while scrolling through my extensive ravings for Rainbow Rowell’s books, I’ve failed to include Attachments in the excitement. We’re gathered here today to mend that mistake.

“Or maybe he was just afraid to do something real.”

Funny to consider that Attachments used to be my least favorite Rowell book, maybe a bit above Landline, simply because I could not be bothered to even think about the adult world when I first read those books. And now, Attachments is like my second favorite book of hers right after Fangirl. You know what that is? insecure hbo

Who knew I’d become an adult so soon? They grow up so fast.

If you asked in short, why I love this book, I’d say it’s because of the characters. With Lincoln’s fear of moving forward in life, yet afraid of standing still. Plus, the moms in this book are something to behold. Attachments is full of Rainbow Rowell’s excellent dialogue, thanks to Beth and Jennifer’s email exchanges. Also, it’s an obvious biased reason to love a character, but Lincoln is such a Cath (Fangirl).

“If he didn’t look, he didn’t risk accidental eye contact.”

I guess I really love my introverted representation. For a minute there, I let myself wonder how Cath and Lincoln would get along. But given that they’re both main characters taken from Rainbow’s mind, it feels taboo crossing them over, as if they’re related or something because they were created by the same person.     

Okay, that’s it in short. But you know we don’t do short around here, so let me rave extensively about the beauty of this storyline:

  • I think I secretly love Attachments so much, mainly for the fact that all I ever wanted is a guy to interpret my telepathic gestures at him. So of course, I secretly took joy in Lincoln’s adjusted behavior upon reading Beth’s thoughts on him. It’s like he has insider info. I mean not like – he actually does, but still… It’s kind of a dream not having to actually approach the guy. He knows your opinion, feels the same, and is secretly reciprocating your thoughts to show ‘I’m here. I like you too.’ Mr. Darcy would approve.

“If this were a Jane Austen novel, it wouldn’t be so bad—if you were intercepting my letters, and I was peeking over your garden hedge …Computers make everything worse.”

  • You know it’s a lot to take in the invasion of privacy that happens so I felt a tiny bit relieved when Beth would do the same to him, like trying to follow him home, and planning an imaginative life with him and feeling betrayed when she thinks he’s already settled down

“Wondering what his name is. And whether he’s as nice as he seems. And whether he likes piña coladas and getting caught in the rain …

Would you believe it if I said that song was stuck in my head for hours after…

Also, funny that this isn’t her first rodeo of creeping on a guy. See below how she met Chris, her douche boyfriend, who we all, including Beth, ignore (does it still count as ignoring if he ignores you first?):

“One Tuesday night in November, I saw him at the library. I spent the next four Tuesday nights there, hoping it was a pattern. It wasn’t. Sometimes I’d allow myself to follow him to his 11:30 class in Andrews Hall, and then I’d have to run across campus to make it to my class in the Temple Building.
By the end of the semester, I was long past the point of starting a natural, casual conversation with him. I stopped trying to make eye contact.

I admire her sheer power of will to see something through.

  • The humor in Rainbow’s books remains impeccable. The amount of times I simply wrote “lol” in my notes (the quickest way to keep reading but pinning what made me laugh) is astronomical. Just to state a few examples:

“<<Jennifer to Beth>> Hmmm …I think I’d like to be a stay-at-home mom with no kids.”

Seriously, where does she come up with these gold one-liners?

“Like Lincoln, most of the girls had eyes only for the guitarist.”

Just the wording of that phrase alone is hilarious.

Oh, any and all conversations with any and all of the moms in this book receives an instant five-star rating. Just read this:

“You came to kindergarten with me for the first month.”
“You asked me to.”
“I was five,” Eve said. “You should have told me no.”
“You were scared.”
“I was five.”
“I didn’t send Lincoln until he was seven, and I’m so glad. He was so much more prepared.”
Lincoln had been prepared for kindergarten. He could already read and do some addition and subtraction.”

What a mom gem.

Another one: “I think they were happier about my breakup than Kiley’s wedding. “I knew it was a mistake to let him be in the family picture,” my mother said.

They don’t make them like this in other books. I want more!

But the thing that hit me most was Lincoln’s mom words on seeing your baby grow up:

“Why do you think I can remember that,” she asked, “when you can’t? Why does nature do that to us? How does that serve evolution? Those were the most important years of my life, and you can’t even remember them.”

Whew.

On a more upbeat point, the humor remains impeccable:

“Doris clucked and choked on her cake. She put her hand on his shoulder. Lincoln hoped that Beth wasn’t about to walk in.”

Ha! So she won’t write about it the next day accusing her Cute Guy of cheating (with an elderly woman)? It’s like he hears Beth’s voice narrating his life. I love it.

  • I also adore this book so much for giving us that “Falling …Was he falling? Or was he just bored?” This hits the spot! Both Lincoln and Beth are on standstill in their personal lives with no way out so they use each other as this safe haven in their head… I want more.

I can’t give him up. What would I have to look forward to?”

Above all, these two represented the way we can let our fantasies take over so we’ll never have to do anything real.

“No, he was just going to kiss her. He wasn’t going to wait. She’d kiss him back. He was absolutely certain that she would kiss him back.
And then he’d tell her that he loved her.
And then he’d tell her his name.
And then and then and then … what?”

Me creating scenarios in my head be like…

  • Reading the email with the phrase “trying not to bite his shoulder.” bookspoils

There’s so much longing present in this book that it only hit me toward the end when they finally kiss that it is the only kiss in the book. They live so vicariously in their head, I almost forgot no one actually instigates anything in their real-life until they do. What a shock that was. I WANT MORE! It was like hitting the play button after being stuck on rewind for so long.

“because I’m not 16 anymore. That’s when it hit me— I’m not 16 anymore.
And I don’t mean that in an offhand “well, obviously” way. I mean it like “Jack and Diane.” Like, “Oh, yeah, life goes on, long after the thrill of living is gone.”

This made me hit the same realization. Help. Oh, to be young and… and what? I love the idea of reverting to my younger self but there’s also so much pain that accompanies those teen years that it’s honestly not worth it. But oh, to think of all the books that await to be read for the first time…

  • Lastly, I’ll indulge in sharing random moments of resemblance to Fangirl because it’s my favorite book and I look for it in everything:

“<<Jennifer to Beth>> Really. I think you’re pathetic. It’s almost painfully embarrassing to read your messages when you’re like this.”

Reagan before Reagan existed.

“<<Beth to Jennifer>> How did he win you over?
<<Jennifer to Beth>> He just wouldn’t leave me alone. He kept sitting behind me in our poetry- writing class and asking me if I had plans for lunch. Like I wanted this muscle-bound blond guy to watch me eat.
<<Beth to Jennifer>> I can just see him. A farm boy with sexy sousaphone shoulders …”

(Puts on best Jeopardy game-voice) What is Levi for 100 points

Also, Lincoln kissing Christine in their college days while studying for a final? What is Cath and Levi for 200 points.

Okay, thank you for letting me indulge in that.  I’ll leave at that, since I don’t want Jennifer calling me pathetic.

This review has been a long time coming. So I’m glad to have it up to revisit time and again, as I commonly do with my reviews for Rainbow Rowell books.

Please indulge in a copy for yourself or your loved ones. Choose your pick of the litter:


Why I Fangirl over Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl

The Perfect Fall Read: Pumpkinheads by Rainbow Rowell, Faith Erin Hicks

Review: Landline by Rainbow Rowell, or Fate, Time, Television and True Love

Review: Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell

Review: Kindred Spirits by Rainbow Rowell

Review: Carry On by Rainbow Rowell


Can we take a moment to admire the beauty of all these books put together: