I pictured the turquoise blouse Jeanette had worn that day. The neckline was only an inch below her collarbone, but it was loose-fitting, and I imagined that if she bent it would give a full view. As I thought this I felt anxious, because although a tighter blouse would have made Jeanette’s bending more modest, the tightness itself would have been less modest. Righteous women do not wear tight clothing. Other women do that.

As Tara learns more about the world, wider than the one she grew up experiencing, she begins to think critically about what she’s been taught. Her father’s view of the world is one of absolutes, which renders just about everything immodest in one form or another. This quote demonstrates the extent to which this way of thinking has colored her understanding of the world, and the fact that she’s beginning to see the cracks in her father’s logic. After all, if everything is immodest, does this mean nothing is?

My feelings about the application changed from day to day, almost from minute to minute. Sometimes I was sure God wanted me to go to college, because He’d given me that twenty-eight. Other times I was sure I’d be rejected, and that God would punish me for applying, for trying to abandon my own family. But whatever the outcome, I knew I would leave. I would go somewhere, even if it wasn’t to school.

Familiarizing herself with the concept of education brings more complications for Tara. Religion still provides a framework through which she sees the world, but she is willing to ponder, reflect, and consider, and despite her fear that it isn’t God’s will, she’s determined to leave one way or the other.

I stayed in my seat until everyone had gone, pretending the zipper on my coat was stuck so I could avoid looking anyone in the eye. Then I went straight to the computer lab to look up the word "Holocaust."

Having inadvertently revealed to her entire class that she doesn’t know about the Holocaust is humiliating enough for Tara, just one among many instances in which she comes to see how little she really knows. Worse still is the fact that eventually realizes she had, in fact, heard of it, but the version she learned was very different. This incident exemplifies one of the largest hindrances to Tara’s quest for an education: her knowledge gaps, and the shame she feels when they’re exposed.

It had never occurred to me to talk to a professor—I didn't realize we were allowed to talk to them—so I decided to try, if only to prove to Charles that I could do it.

So often for Tara, something as simple as asking for help just doesn’t occur to her, owing to both her sheltered upbringing and her father’s pathological self-reliance. Such is the case when Charles tells Tara on the phone to ask her algebra professor for help, as she is failing. Had he not offered this piece of advice, it stands to reason that Tara might have remained frozen in fear and shame, without even properly understanding the full scale of the resources that are available to her.

It was in this state that I first heard the term bipolar disorder. I was sitting in Psychology 101 when the professor read the symptoms aloud from the overhead screen: depression, mania, paranoia, euphoria, delusions of grandeur and persecution. I listened with a desperate interest. This is my father, I wrote in my notes. He’s describing Dad.

An introductory psychology course provides for Tara the context she needs to understand to father’s pathology. With this knowledge, she’s able to come to the realization, once and for all, that her father’s delusions are not rooted in reality, and that the framework with which he has governed their family all her life is, to some extent, exaggerated by mental illness.