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Summary: Chapter 11

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 theatre rehearsals. Shortly before Tara turns fifteen, Sean 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.

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.

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.

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.