Chapters 12–16

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Last Updated on June 8, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1052

Chapter 12: Fish Eyes

Shawn gets a call from Tony, the oldest Westover sibling, who asks if Shawn will take over driving his truck for a few weeks. Shawn says yes, but only on the condition that Tara can come along. She joins him, and their bond accelerates as they spend time together on the road. Shawn begins to teach Tara martial arts and how to understand the other truckers on the CB radio, and the two of them develop a novelty language of their own to pass the time.

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When it's time for Tara to audition for the next play at the Opera House, Shawn auditions, too. There he meets Sadie, a seventeen-year-old who takes an instant interest in him. He tells Tara that Sadie has "fish eyes"—beautiful but empty. Still, after Shawn sees her talking to Charles, another boy from the cast, he becomes jealous. Shawn begins to flex his influence over her, testing just how cruel he can be before she breaks down.

Before long, Shawn’s manipulative behavior extends to Tara, too. When she disobeys him one day, he grabs her by the hair and forces her head into the toilet, incapacitating her until she apologizes.

Chapter 13: Silence in the Churches

On September 11th, 2001, the Twin Towers are destroyed in a terrorist attack. "I'd never heard of them until they were gone," Tara muses. Gene is certain the event will precipitate the end of the world, so Tara decides it's a good time to forgive Shawn.

Now fifteen, Tara is suddenly aware of her transition into adulthood. As she begins to notice changes in herself, she realizes with fear and excitement that others are noticing her, too. When Shawn sees Tara talking to Charles, a castmate at the Opera House, he bristles. "You don't want people thinking you're that kind of girl," he tells her. When he catches her wearing lip gloss, he calls her a whore.

Shawn and Sadie break up, and Shawn starts seeing his old girlfriend Erin. At first, his temperament seems to improve. But when Sadie accepts a dinner invite from Charles, Shawn is incensed, and he shows up at Tara's job in a rage. She gets in the car, thinking her presence will calm him. It doesn't, and Tara sits in the passenger seat while he spends the next two hours driving around, cursing Charles and playing with the pistol resting on the seat between them.

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Before she knows what happened, Tara is regaining consciousness and discovers that Shawn is choking her. Faye intervenes, and he lets go, but continues his tirade against her. "I see you for what you are," he tells her, calling her a whore and a prostitute. Still arguing with Shawn, Faye tells Tara to take the car and go, but Shawn reveals with a sneer that he has the keys before attacking Tara again. Suddenly, Tara hears an unexpected voice and realizes that Tyler has come home. Tyler advances on Shawn, who retreats, and Tyler tosses Tara his car keys and tells her to leave.

When she returns home in the evening, Shawn is gone and Faye says nothing. Shortly after Tara gets in bed for the night, she hears Shawn return. He's brought her a gift: a black velvet box containing a string of pearls, which he gives her along with a lecture on how to protect herself from the advances of men. The next morning, Tyler strongly encourages her to leave the household for good, suggesting she take the ACT and apply to Brigham Young University (BYU). "There's a world out there, Tara," he tells her, "and it will look a lot different once Dad is no longer whispering his view of it in your ear."

Tara drives to the hardware store in town and buys herself a slide-bolt lock for her bedroom door. When Shawn sees her installing it, she tells him the door keeps blowing open. "You're using the wrong screws," he says, taking over the installation.

Chapter 14: My Feet No Longer Touch Earth

Soon after Tara begins studying for the ACT, Shawn sustains a serious head injury on the job. Tara is reluctant to visit him in the hospital, but Faye insists. "He's asking for you," she tells her. They bring him home, and Tara tends to him for the next two months as he recovers. Eventually, Tara begins to notice a difference in his personality. "He seemed lucid," she notes, "but if you listened carefully his stories didn't make sense." During this time, Sadie starts coming back around to check on Shawn. Before long, they've reconnected in earnest.

Chapter 15: No More a Child

Gene visits Tara in her room one night to deliver a lecture on her future. "The Lord has called me to testify," he says. "He is displeased. You have cast aside His blessings to whore after man's knowledge. His wrath is stirred against you. It will not be long in coming." The next morning, a fearful Tara tells Faye she's decided not to go to BYU. To Tara's surprise, Faye resists. "Of all my children," she tells Tara, "you were the one I thought would burst out of here in a blaze."

After some contemplation, Tara comes to a conclusion: if her passing the ACT is unlikely enough to require an act of God, a passing grade can be interpreted as a blessing. With her sights set on a score of twenty-seven—the minimum it will take to get into BYU—she takes the test. She gets a twenty-two and considers Idaho State instead.

Now recovered, Shawn rejoins the family at work. When Gene makes Tara run an especially violent piece of new equipment, Shawn insists on joining her to ensure her safety.

Chapter 16: Disloyal Man, Disobedient Heaven

Shawn crashes his motorcycle on his way home from their grandmother's house, and sustains another head injury. When Tara finds him, she goes against the family's rules and takes him to the hospital yet again. Despite their anger at Tara for taking him back to a government medical establishment, Gene and Faye arrive and eventually are allowed to take him home.

Tara retakes the ACT, and receives good news a few weeks after the accident: she has scored a twenty-eight. She applies to BYU and is admitted for the winter term.

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Chapters 6–11

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Chapters 17–23