Tara moves into her new dormitory at Cambridge and attends classes. Tara finally has the revelation that she has not fully committed to living in the modern, educated world she has chosen, and starts to take steps. One thing she does is get her vaccinations. Tara also becomes interested in feminism, and realizes she is not alone in questioning the doctrine of feminine obedience. When Tara goes back to America for Christmas, she is pleased to see her brother Richard, who is studying chemistry, with his wife and young son.
The holiday seems peaceful enough, until one freezing night, when Emily comes rushing into the family home. Shawn has thrown her into a snowbank and locked her outside barefoot and wearing only light clothing. Tara urges Richard and his wife not to interfere, and to leave the situation to her father. Gene eventually gets Shawn to come to the house, and lectures his son about his behavior. Shawn leaves with Emily, and Tara regrets that she didn't stand up for her sister-in-law.
Before Tara goes back to England, she visits Audrey. Audrey is homeschooling her children, and Tara worries about the fate of her nieces and nephews. Back at Cambridge, Tara eagerly immerses herself again. She excels in her academic work and is encouraged to consider doing a PhD. Over spring break, she travels to Rome with some classmates. The city helps Tara connect to the past and to her work as a historian.
When Tara returns from Rome, she gets an email from Audrey. Audrey confides that Shawn abused her as well, and that Audrey has always blamed herself for not helping Tara. Now, Audrey is going to confront Shawn and their parents, and she wants Tara to help her and share her story as well. Tara replies, agreeing with Audrey, but asks Audrey to wait until she gets back to Idaho before taking any action. However, Audrey shows Faye the email from Tara as confirmation of Shawn's behavior and Faye reaches out to Tara online, indicating that she believes her daughter and blames herself for having lived in ignorance so long. Faye also admits that Gene suffers from bipolar disorder. Tara leaves the conversation feeling relieved and supported.
A week later, Tara hears from her mother that Gene knows about what Shawn has done, and that he is going to get help. Tara feels hopeful about the future for her family, and she begins to be much more transparent about her past with her new friends and colleagues at Cambridge.
Tara returns to Buck's Peak to see her dying grandmother. Her parents' business is thriving, but after the death of his mother, Gene lapses into depression. Tara notices that her mother is being more assertive, but that the relationship between her parents seems to be deteriorating.