Summary: Chapter 7: The Lord Will Provide

Tara describes an incident which happened during the summer months, almost a month after Tyler left home. Her seventeen-year-old brother Luke spills gasoline on his jeans, and then accidentally sets himself on fire. Panicking, he causes the fire to spread from his clothing to the dry grass of the surrounding area. The incident occurs a short distance away from the house, and Tara is alone when her brother arrives, screaming in pain from his burns. She does what she can to help him, submerging his leg in ice and water. Her mother eventually comes home and treats the burn herself despite the severity of the injury, and Luke's intense pain.

Tara breaks from the memory to tell the reader that writing down the memory causes her to realize something. Since Luke had set the grass on fire shortly after he was injured, she wonders who put out the fire and prevented it from consuming the surrounding area. She wonders whether it is possible that Luke was with their father when he caught on fire, rather than alone as she has always assumed. Tara asks her brother Richard, who tells her that he remembers the story of their father sending his burned son back to the house alone so that he could put out the fire before it spread. In Luke's memory, he was with their father when the injury happened, but Gene took him back to the house and helped him before then going back to deal with the fire.

Summary: Chapter 8: Tiny Harlots

By age 11, Tara is eager to get away from working at the scrapyard, so she begins babysitting in the nearby town. One of her clients, Mary, is a skilled pianist, and Tara learns to play piano in exchange for her services. Mary suggests that Tara also start taking dance lessons, and Tara's mother helps her to do so while hiding the lessons from her father. It is not until the day of Tara's Christmas recital that Gene hears his daughter has been dancing, and both parents go to watch Tara perform. Afterward, knowing Gene will be outraged, Tara's mother pretends to have been shocked by the recital and the costumes.

Since Tara can no longer study dance, her mother takes her to voice lessons instead. When Tara sings a hymn at church one day, she receives a lot of praise, and her father shows real pride in her talents. When Tara's voice teacher suggests she audition for a role in a local production of Annie, Gene is surprisingly supportive.

Summary: Chapter 9: Perfect in His Generations

Tara's role as Annie takes place in summer 1999, shortly before she turns 13. Her father is preoccupied with his belief that January 1, 2000 will create chaos and collapse, and focuses all of the family's energy on preparing and stockpiling. Meanwhile, Tara's success in her role as Annie leads her to continue to act and sing, although she always feels uncomfortable and ill at ease with anyone outside of her family. Through her performing, she meets a boy named Charles who is friendly to her. Gene uncharacteristically gets a cable television for the family, and Tara wonders if this is a sign that he anticipates the end is coming with New Year's. However, on New Year's Eve, Gene is astounded to find that none of his convictions come to pass, and the world continues on as normal.

Summary: Chapter 10: Shield of Feathers

After New Year's, Gene lapses into a depression, so Faye plans another family trip to Arizona. Once again, the family is involved in a car accident on the way home, while driving under dangerous conditions. Tara suffers a neck injury. A short time after the accident, her older brother Shawn moves home again in order to help her father.

Summary: Chapter 11: Instinct

To Tara's surprise, Shawn seems to take an interest in her life. He helps her to tame a horse she plans to ride, and he also drives her to her theater rehearsals. Shortly before Tara turns fifteen, Shawan comes to her aid in a dangerous situation when she is almost thrown off her horse.

Analysis: Chapters 7–11

Luke's burns reveal how much danger and suffering the Westover parents expose their children to. Gene willingly puts his children into harm's way in order to run his business. While injuries could happen to anyone, the way the Westover parents respond to them is really where they show their failing to offer the care they should. Even though Tara is still a child herself, she is left alone to cope with a traumatic situation. On one hand, this experience likely fosters her sense of resilience and independence, which will serve her later in life. On the other hand, it leaves her feeling utterly alone and unprotected. At the moment when Tara most needed help, there was no one there for her, and she had to do the best she could. Even when Faye does come home and find out what has happened to her son, her decision to treat Luke's injuries herself reflects an utter disregard for his safety and well-being. His burns are very severe and he should certainly receive medical treatment as well as pain relief, but Faye and Gene put their own values ahead of their child's well-being.

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Tara's confusion about the day of Luke's injury reflects the complexity of relying on memories to tell stories about the past. The very act of returning to the memory years after it happened causes her to see new angles, and question the interpretation she has always had. Because Tara does not want to blindly assume that her preexisting beliefs are correct, she engages in a process of fact-checking and research to try and learn from the perspectives of others. This choice, and Tara's decision to mention the multiple conflicting accounts of the day, shows the kind of integrity and responsibility she is trying to use in writing her memoir. While her account will always be subjective and primarily driven by what she experienced and felt, Tara attempts to do the best she can to be balanced and fair in the stories she tells.

Read more about the theme of memory and its instability.

Tara's involvement in musical theatre gives her skills that will support her independence and growth, and also allows a new side of Gene's character to be revealed. Because she has not yet gone to school or done any work outside of the family business, Tara's music lessons and performances represent the first time she has significant interactions with people outside of her own family. She starts to see that there are many different kinds of people in the world, and that many of them hold values which are very different from the ones she has seen modeled in her family. Tara's music and performance also shows her that if she works hard, she can achieve her goals and excel at things. Surprisingly, Gene admires his daughter's talents, and wants to help her succeed. These tendencies show that he is not inherently a cruel person, and that he does love Tara; his love is just in tension with his need to be in control, and his limited vision of what an acceptable life for a young woman could look like.

Read an in-depth analysis of Gene Westover.

The focus on Shawn and Tara's sibling relationship hints that Shawn is going to be a significant character in the narrative. Up until this point, Tara has not mentioned much about her interactions with her siblings, and because Shawn initially leaves home when she is quite young, Tara does not seem close to Shawn. When Shawn returns, his attention is flattering to Tara. As the youngest in a large family, she is used to being ignored or not taken seriously. Shawn also initially appears as a protector who easily fulfils his role as elder brother. He supports Tara and keeps her safe. This initial context is important because of what will come later in Shawn and Tara's relationship; it shows that at least for a time, Shawn is mostly kind and caring toward his sister.

Read an in-depth analysis of Shawn Westover.