Why is Gene so opposed to public schooling?

Fueled by his mental illness and an all-consuming religious fervor that blinds him to reality, Gene opposes public schooling because he views it as the government’s attempt to interfere with his life and the way he is raising his kids, thereby drawing them away from God. By homeschooling his children, Gene can maintain control, forcing his worldview onto them.

What obstacles does Tara overcome to get an education?

The main obstacle Tara must overcome to get an education is her father’s oppressive and unyielding authority. He believes public school is a government conspiracy, and Tara believes this too until Tyler goes to college, igniting in her a curiosity that homeschooling can no longer satisfy. Even some of her earliest steps towards education and independence, such as attending dance lessons, have to be hidden from Gene. Once she makes the decision to go to college, she begins studying for the ACT exam but struggles with areas such as trigonometry, demonstrating gaps in her education. Even after getting into college, Tara finds the world overwhelming, and discovers the extremely isolated environment in which she grew up has placed her at a distinct disadvantage; she’s learning about historical events for the first time that her peers have known about their whole lives, and she struggles to bond with friends and roommates, whose upbringing was comparatively secular. Further complicating her quest for education is the fact that the more she learns and studies, the larger the distance between herself and her family.

Why does Tara’s family avoid going to the hospital?

Much like his opposition to public schooling, Gene’s refusal to seek medical aid—and his refusal to allow anyone in his family to do the same, even in dire circumstances—stems from his distrust of the government and need for control. A deeply religious man and staunch survivalist, Gene practices extreme self-reliance and sees the government, or anything he believes to be affiliated with the government, as the enemy.

Why does Shawn kill his dog?

After Tara reports to her parents that Shawn has threatened Audrey, Shawn meets her at the house with a bloody knife, signaling his rage and willingness to threaten her. Not knowing whose blood is on the knife renders the experience doubly terrifying, and Tara renounces her claims. She later learns Shawn had killed his dog Diego with a knife after Gene told him what Tara had said. Faye claims the dog had been put down because it had been killing Luke’s chickens, but Tara knows this isn’t true, and that the bloody knife was a warning.

Why does Tara keep returning to Buck’s Peak even after she moves away?

Tara’s relationship with her family is a complicated one. For much of her life they are her only support system, and life at Buck’s Peak is the only life she knows. Even after she leaves, Tara returns again and again, both because she feels guilty about having left and because she doesn’t want to sever ties completely; in spite of everything, they are still her family, and the only people in the world who know everything about her. She wants to protect them from the circumstances she was able to escape, and holds out hope that they will change. Ultimately, however, she realizes she needs to prioritize her own safety.