Summary: Chapter 12: Fish Eyes

Tara accompanies Shawn when he temporarily takes over his brother Tony's trucking business. During this period of closeness, Shawn playfully nicknames Tara “Siddle Lister.” During one of Tara's rehearsals, Shawn and Tara meet a girl named Sadie, who clearly develops a crush on Shawn. Shawn is sometimes flirtatious with Sadie, but he also seems to be cruel to her. One day, when Shawn shows Tara the same bossy attitude he uses with Sadie, she rebels and dumps a glass of water on his head. Shawn becomes infuriated and physically hurts Tara, forcing her to apologize. Afterward, she concludes that the incident has not affected her, but retrospectively reflects that the incident was deeply traumatic.

Summary: Chapter 13: Silence in the Churches

By this point in the narrative, it is 2001, and Tara's sister Audrey has gotten married, and her father is warning of an impending holy war that he sees approaching in the future. At fifteen, Tara's body is changing, and she becomes increasingly aware of the way her father criticizes women who wear revealing clothes, or do anything to draw attention to themselves. Tara's friend Charles has confided that he has a crush on Sadie, and after Sadie and Shawn break up, Charles and Sadie go on a date. Shawn flies into a jealous rage, threatening Charles. He seems to be displaying increasingly violent and erratic behavior.

The next morning, Tara awakes to Shawn attacking her and calling her terrible names. Her mother tries to defend her, but has difficulty doing so. Unexpectedly, Tyler comes home and intervenes in the conflict between his brother and sister. He helps Tara to flee. When she returns home, Shawn apologizes to Tara and explains that he is just trying to protect her and save her from becoming sinful. Tyler, however, urges Tara to make a plan to leave, and suggests she consider applying to college. The next day, Tara installs a lock on her bedroom door.

Summary: Chapter 14: My Feet No Longer Touch Earth

Tara's father expands his construction business, with Shawn working alongside him. Shawn is often angry about his father's refusal to modernize and use safer and more efficient equipment. Meanwhile, Tara is busy with a job she has taken on with a local salesman, who introduces her to the internet and cellphones. Tyler keeps pressing the issue of his sister going to school, suggesting she could study music. Tara eventually becomes intrigued and starts to study for the ACT exam, which she will need to take as part of the college admissions process. However, Tara struggles with learning trigonometry, and finally Tyler helps her. He is about to graduate from an engineering program, and plans to go on to complete a PhD at Purdue University.

Returning from her study session with Tyler, Tara receives a phone call that Shawn has been in an accident. She later learns from Luke and her brother-in-law Benjamin that Shawn fell more than twenty feet onto a concrete wall. He initially seemed uninjured, but starts behaving strangely and aggressively about twenty minutes later. As Luke, Benjamin, and Gene try to restrain Shawn from attacking them, he hits his head on the ground a second time. Whatever happens at this point is so alarming that someone calls 911, and Shawn is airlifted to a hospital.

Tara is initially hesitant to visit Shawn at the hospital because she fears what emotions will surface, but she feels only pity when she finally visits him. Shawn is rushed home as soon as possible and continues to recover there. He and Sadie reunite, and Tara devotes herself to caring for her brother while also progressing in her studies. However, Shawn shows even more violent and erratic tendencies after his injury.

Analysis: Chapters 12–14

Shawn's abusive behavior toward Tara seems to be triggered by her increasing independence and maturity. Like his father, Shawn needs to have complete control and authority at all times. He seems to be particularly triggered by women disrespecting his authority, since, as his comments to Tara reveal, he does not respect or trust women. Shawn thinks women are inherently sinful and need to submit themselves to masculine authority; as Tara undergoes puberty, she shifts in his mind from a little girl he needs to take care of to a woman whom he wants to control and dominate. The first time Shawn physically lashes out at Tara is because she will not show him the same subservience he has come to expect based on the young woman he is dating. Tara does not feel the need to do everything a man tells her to do; perhaps she resists because of the independence she has gained while performing, or because she has watched her mother develop her own skills. Shawn will not tolerate Tara's assertiveness or rebellion, and he wants to make it clear that he can dominate her physically, while her father has always dominated her psychologically.

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While it is unclear whether it changes his personality, Shawn's accident shows that the Westover siblings are leading a dangerous life. Despite the fact that his initial fall is clearly severe, no one calls for help until Shawn's second collapse, which shows that the other men are more focused on respecting Gene and his values than ensuring Shawn gets the help he needs. Taking Shawn to the hospital represents a desperate compromise which would only be undertaken under very dire circumstances. Tara's uncertainty about whether the brain injury impacted Shawn's behavior reveals that she is unclear about how much responsibility to assign to her brother. She seems to be at least partially tempted to blame Shawn's subsequent violence on the injury he suffered, because that would make Shawn less culpable. At the same time, Tara is forced to admit that Shawn was already being abusive before the injury, which means he likely would have hurt her no matter what.

While one brother is making Tara's life hell, her other brother becomes a force urging her toward independence. Tyler seems to know that he cannot control Shawn's behavior, or change the way his brother treats Tara. Instead, Tyler focuses on supporting Tara's independence, and he knows that the best way for her to break free of her family involves expanding her education. Tyler's choice to urge Tara to go to college and get away—rather than confronting Shawn or their parents—does shift the burden of changing her life onto Tara herself. By this time, Tara is so entangled with her loyalty to her family and their values that she is hesitant to pursue Tyler's plan. Her hesitation about whether to seriously consider college shows that the abuse she is experiencing is eroding her self-confidence, and making her feel unworthy. However, her love for music finally persuades her to start working toward a new goal.

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Tara's road to getting an education does not begin easily. She has some basic knowledge but she has to significantly retrain her mind to take in information in a new way. She also has to grapple with learning skills that have no immediate applicability. Growing up on the farm, Tara has only ever had to learn manual labor and practical tasks. Trigonometry (and other academic subjects) is the first truly intellectual work she has had to do, and this is part of why she finds it so challenging. Nonetheless, Tara also takes a certain satisfaction and pride in the hard work, and building her confidence in what she is capable of.

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