Summary: Chapter 30: Hand of the Almighty
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.
Summary: Chapter 31: Fearfully and Wonderfully Made
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.
Summary: Chapter 32: A Brawling Woman in a Wide House
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.
Summary: Chapter 33: Sorcery of Physics
Before Tara leaves, Audrey asks her to stay and help her confront Shawn, but Tara refuses. By now, Tara is in a relationship with a man named Drew, who is also studying at Cambridge. She is immersed in her doctoral research, which will focus on the connection between Mormon theology and other intellectual traditions, and she is happy with her close circle of friends. Feeling ashamed at her lack of connection to Idaho, Tara forces herself to spend Christmas with her family. While in Idaho, Shawn confronts Tara and tells her that Audrey is spreading lies.
Analysis: Chapters 30–33
Although Tara seems to be building an independent life, revelations from Emily and Audrey pull her back into the drama of her abusive family. Her English life creates a radically new dynamic between Tara and her family, but Tara has always felt concerned about the fate Emily would suffer while married to Shawn, so she is horrified by the graphic confirmation of Emily's abuse, and even more so by the knowledge that her parents are unwilling to intervene in any meaningful way. Tara is filled with regret and shame at her inability to do more to help Emily, and she therefore reacts even more strongly to Audrey's confession that she was also abused by Shawn. Tara has felt so alone in her shame that it is a revelation to learn that other women have had similar experiences.
Faye's apology and promise of support transform Tara's concept of self-worth. Faye's reaction is long delayed, and doesn't promise much about what will happen in the future, but it still fills Tara with peace and hope. Tara has always longed for her mother to protect and nurture her. Now, at last, Faye shows love and compassion to Tara, and Tara forgives her wholeheartedly. Despite all the abuse and betrayal she has suffered, Tara is not embittered toward her family. If anything, she trusts them too easily, since she rushes to accept Faye's apology without making Faye do anything to earn her trust and show that she has changed the way she intends to behave. Aside from the way it changes her relationship with her family, Faye's apology lifts Tara shame for the first time in her life. Tara has always felt the lingering fear that perhaps the abuse was all her own fault, or that she was imagining everything. Now, Tara can truly know that she hasn't done anything wrong, and doesn't have anything to feel ashamed of.
Paradoxically, Tara's independence and stability sometimes seem to drive her back toward her family. The more her life in England seems to be thriving, the more Tara feels compelled to maintain her ties with Buck's Peak. In comparison with the fate of young women like Audrey and Emily, Tara likely feels guilty that she can travel the world, study, and essentially be free to do whatever she wants. Tara also knows that she has less and less in common with her family members as her life moves steadily in a different direction. While this knowledge might seem liberating, it also terrifies her. Despite everything, Tara does not want to lose contact with her family, and she is always afraid they will cast her off. They are still the only people who truly know everything about her, and Tara is unwilling to let the relationship slip away completely.
Because he can no longer control Tara, Shawn becomes obsessed with controlling the narrative about his behavior. One way Shawn asserts his control over his victims is to gaslight them, or make them disbelieve their own stories. Getting his victims to be complicit and accepting of whatever happens to them gives Shawn the ultimate power thrill. When Audrey speaks out about Shawn's abuse, his power is undermined. Shawn is willing to threaten extreme violence if it allows him to regain a sense of control. Tara has to exercise extreme caution in the face of his anger, and this dynamic reduces her back to being at the mercy of her brother's anger.