Summary: Chapter 26: Waiting for the Moving Water
Gene spends two months in bed, nursed by Tara, her mother, and some of her siblings. His weakened condition means that Tara begins to tell him about her life, hopeful that they might enter into a new stage of their relationship. Meanwhile, Shawn announces that he is engaged to a woman named Emily. Tara is convinced that Shawn is already being abusive toward her and will only get worse, so she seeks out a chance to speak with Emily alone. To Tara's surprise, Emily confides that she is frightened of Shawn and his abuse, but also believes that he has a spiritual mission.
When Tara returns to Utah, she considers telling Nick the truth about everything, but she is still too ashamed. She hides the truth about her family from him. In September, Emily and Shawn get married, and Tara breaks up with Nick, because she doesn't believe she will ever be able to be honest with him.
Summary: Chapter 27: If I Were a Woman
In her junior year, Tara switches from studying music to georgraphy, politics, and history. Tara confides in her history professor, telling him about her unconventional schooling. He suggests she consider applying to a study abroad program at the University of Cambridge in England.
When Tara returns to Buck's Peak for Christmas, her father is treated as a hero and prophet for surviving his terrible accident. Meanwhile, Emily struggles with a difficult pregnancy. In the winter semester, Tara learns that her Cambridge application has been rejected, but her professor has intervened on her behalf. In February, Emily gives birth to a tiny, premature baby at home in a snowstorm and has to be rushed to the hospital. Miraculously, both Emily and the baby survive, but the events make Tara further question her family's reliance on trusting God.
Summary: Chapter 28: Pygmalion
Tara is astonished by the world she encounters when she arrives at Cambridge. She plans to work on a research project with Professor Steinberg, who is fascinated by Tara's story of her unconventional educational background. Under his guidance, Tara reaches a new level of critical analysis and writing. Professor Steinberg quickly begins to discuss Tara's plans for graduate school, suggesting she might study at Cambridge and assuring her he will handle the financial details. Noticing her discomfort, Dr. Kerry urges her to believe in herself, but Tara is still fixated on her shame.
Summary: Chapter 29: Graduation
After Tara returns to BYU, she plans to forget about Cambridge, but Professor Steinberg urges her to apply to the Gates Cambridge Scholarship, which could potentially fund her graduate studies. By February, Tara has been awarded the Gates Scholarship. In the press, she never mentions having been homeschooled, and her father tells her he is disappointed in her for hiding her upbringing. Nonetheless, her parents do attend her graduation, and drive her to the airport on the night she flies to England.
Analysis: Chapters 26–29
Emily embodies how other young women also suffer abuse and oppression within the world of Tara's family. Tara has watched Shawn abuse every woman he has ever dated, so she has no doubt that he will abuse his wife as well. Tara's determination to save Emily from a lifetime of suffering shows that she has seen enough of the world to know that what happens on Buck's Peak is wrong. Even though Tara has found it impossible to stand up for herself, she finds the strength to intervene for Emily by warning her. Emily, however, has not developed the critical thinking and strength that Tara has. Emily would rather submit to Shawn's beatings than challenge his claims of holiness. The true damage that has been inflicted on Emily is not just the physical abuse she receives, but the way she has accepted it. Emily represents what might have happened to Tara if she had not found a life outside of the family home. When Faye delivers Emily's baby under dangerous conditions, it also becomes clear that the entire system of tradition and expectation is going to render Emily powerless to change her life.
Tara's experience with the study abroad program at Cambridge pushes her intellectual growth and self-understanding further than she ever could have imagined. College itself was a huge departure, but Cambridge shows her a whole new world where people's entire lives revolve around intellectual pursuits. Despite her desire to drink in as much as she can, Tara also feels totally lost and alienated. Even to herself, she can't fully understand why she always feels like such an outcast. While Tara may struggle with feeling like she doesn't belong, her academic performance indicates otherwise. Tara never explores whether there is any connection between her unconventional upbringing and the quality of the academic work she achieves, but all of the professors she encounters are struck by her.
Tara's decision to attend graduate school tests the limits of how far she can go without breaking from her family completely. Even changing her major from music to history was a big decision because it signaled she was becoming more engaged in intellectual work that might lead her to question and challenge the doctrines she has grown up with. Tara's decision to go to graduate school is even more radical because it means she will be geographically far away from her family, and building networks of relationships totally separate from them. Gene fears that he will not be able to get to Tara if an apocalyptic event takes place. By this point, it is becoming more and more clear that Tara is building a life that will be dramatically different from the one her parents once expected her to lead.