Chapters 24–29

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Last Updated on June 8, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1041

Chapter 24: A Knight, Errant

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Tara attends Psychology 101 and is shocked to hear the professor explain bipolar disorder. The symptoms overlap with her father's erratic behavior. When another student asks whether mental illness might explain certain separatist movements, "like Waco, Texas, or Ruby Ridge, Idaho," she is astonished yet again. After some research, she realizes the conflict she grew up hearing about is a famous one. She had been taught there was a government cover-up of the Ruby Ridge incident, but the evidence suggests the opposite—not only do people know about the siege on the Weaver family, but coverage of the event is predominantly sympathetic to the family.

She becomes transfixed by the effects of mental illness, focusing her elective Psychology coursework for the term on the effects of bipolar disorder on the children of those afflicted. The more she learns, the angrier she gets about her own experience as such a child. When she returns home to Buck's Peak one weekend, she and her father have an argument. For the first time in her life, she yells at him.

This time, when summer break comes around, Tara elects to stay in Utah. Now nineteen, she begins to "experiment with normality." She starts dating Nick, a “gentile” from her new church and sees a doctor when she comes down with a sore throat. For the first time, she even takes antibiotics.

Chapter 25: The Work of Sulphur

Gene is badly injured in an explosion on the mountain, and the family assumes he's unlikely to survive. Faye attempts to take him to the doctor, but he refuses. "I'd rather die than see a doctor," he tells her.

Tara rushes home to say goodbye, and the rest of the family gathers as well. Gene is so badly burned that he's barely recognizable, and together they keep watch as he continues to refuse traditional medicine. They tend him with Faye's salve, which he insists is good enough. "This is the Lord's pain," he tells them, and he intends to "feel every part of it."

Chapter 26: Waiting for the Moving Water

To everyone's surprise, Gene survives. His injuries have an unexpected effect on the family dynamic: speech is difficult during his recovery, so he begins listening for what seems like the first time. He asks Tara one late-summer morning to tell him more about her classes. "It felt like a new beginning," she muses.

Before the end of the summer, Shawn announces that he and his girlfriend Emily are getting married. Concerned for Emily's welfare, Tara attempts to warn her in private one night. "He's a spiritual man," Emily responds, brushing off Tara's concerns. They wed in fall. A week later, Tara breaks up with Nick, realizing that her world is far too complicated to accommodate him.

Chapter 27: If I Were a Woman

As Tara's studies continue, she focuses her energy on geography, history, and politics. This causes a deep internal conflict, because her intention upon enrollment at BYU had always been to study music. Music, after all, was compatible with her sense of femininity and what it means to be a woman. These unexpected interests were not. "I'd been wondering how I could be a woman and yet be drawn to unwomanly things," she notes.

Seeking insight, she asks her Jewish History professor for guidance. When she tells him she didn't learn of the Holocaust until enrolling at BYU, he is astonished to learn of her background. He encourages her to apply for a study abroad program at Cambridge. Though her question isn't quite answered, she walks away with a conclusion that feels useful: "First find out what you are capable of, then decide who you are."

That Christmas, Tara returns to Buck's Peak. Emily is pregnant, and Gene is slowly recovering some of his physical movement. "God spared my life and extended to me a great calling," he tells Tara over dinner one night, "to testify of His power."

A few weeks after Christmas, Tara receives news of her acceptance to the program at Cambridge. In February, she receives news of another surprise: Emily has given birth to her nephew Peter after just twenty-six weeks. He's alive, but it takes several months of surgeries before they're allowed to bring him home. "He is a gift from God and God gives His gifts in whatever way He chooses," Faye tells them.

Chapter 28: Pygmalion

Tara arrives at Cambridge and is overwhelmed by its beauty. The students are invited to tour the chapel, and Tara is the only one who walks comfortably across the roof in the wind. When her professor remarks on her stability, she's embarrassed. "I wanted the mind of a scholar," she remembers, "but saw in myself the mind of a roofer."

She's assigned to work under Professor Steinberg, a respected Holocaust scholar. She selects historiography as her focus, motivated by her own experience reconciling multiple narratives of history. "I knew what it was to have a misconception corrected," she recalls. "Now I needed to understand how the great gatekeepers of history had come to terms with their own ignorance and partiality."

Professor Steinberg takes a great interest in her writing. When she turns in an essay comparing Edmund Burke and Publius—the shared pseudonym of James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and John Jay—Professor Steinberg tells her something she's completely unprepared to hear: "I have been teaching at Cambridge for thirty years, and this is one of the best essays I've read." He encourages her to apply to graduate school, insisting that he'll sort out the tuition.

Chapter 29: Graduation

Tara returns to BYU after the study abroad program, and soon receives an application packet for the Gates Scholarship from Professor Steinberg. Skeptically, she applies and an interview is scheduled.

Before the interview, Gene and Faye come for a visit. Gene has regained his ability to speak, and he casually rambles on about conspiracies, communism, and how Jewish bankers had orchestrated World War II. From her informed perspective, Tara is amazed that she used to believe his rants.

Tara wins the Gates scholarship. Her Cambridge tuition, if she wants to attend, will be paid in full. Her parents disapprove, but they drive her to the airport after her graduation ceremony and watch as she departs.

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Chapters 17–23

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Chapters 30–35