Chapters 30–35

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Last Updated on May 7, 2020, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1167

Chapter 30: Hand of the Almighty

Back at Cambridge, Tara's academic and practical education continues. She begins to study feminist theory for the first time, embracing proto-feminist works by Mary Wollstonecraft and John Stuart Mill as validation of her own internal conflict as both a woman and a scholar.

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Returning home to Buck's Peak at Christmas, she finds that the family house has expanded significantly. Gene has been crediting his miraculous recovery to Faye's essential oils, and business is booming. "Our oils are so good," he tells Tara joyfully, "we've started eating into the profits of the large corporate producers. They know all about them Westovers in Idaho."

One particularly cold, snowy evening, Emily turns up barefoot and crying at the Westover home. She tells them that she and Shawn had a fight and that he locked her out of their trailer. Tara, embarrassed that Richard's wife is witnessing this moment, tells her they should leave and let Gene handle it. They do, and Gene calls Shawn and insists that he come get Emily. Gene lectures Shawn and sends them both home.

Chapter 31: Fearfully and Wonderfully Made

Tara returns to Cambridge after Christmas and pushes herself beyond her sphere of comfort. She buys contemporary clothing, actively befriends the other students, and has a very successful academic term. When she hands in an essay on John Stuart Mill, her supervisor encourages her to consider pursuing a Ph.D. At the next break, she even joins several other students for a week in Rome.

She returns to campus to find an unexpected email from her sister, Audrey. With candor, she tells Tara how much she regrets not stopping Shawn before he could do to Tara what he'd done to her. "When my own mother didn't believe me," she says, "I stopped believing myself." She informs Tara that she intends to confront the family, and she hopes they can unite to do it together. Tara agrees but asks Audrey to wait until she can return to Idaho.

Before long, Tara hears from Faye, too. Audrey has shared Tara's confirmation with her. "It's painful to face reality," Faye tells Tara, "to realize that there was something ugly, and I refused to see it." Astonished by her mother's open admission, Tara tells her how worried she is for Emily. Faye is, too, and together they agree to address the situation. 

Chapter 32: A Brawling Woman in a Wide House

Tara returns to Buck's Peak that autumn as Grandma-down-the-hill is losing her battle with bone cancer. Drew, Tara's new long-distance boyfriend, meets her at the airport and takes her to the hospital to see her grandmother one last time. When they arrive at the Westover home afterward, they find it bustling with activity. Faye's remedies are so successful that the family has hired a full complement of staff.

The family receives word that Grandma-down-the-hill has passed. Gene becomes volatile and depressed, arguing constantly with the staff, his children, and Faye. Tara finds her mother crying in the bathroom, and they share an embrace.

Chapter 33: Sorcery of Physics

Tara returns to Cambridge a week later, despite Audrey's protestations. Shawn is too strong to handle alone, she tells Tara. Tara reminds Audrey that Faye is on their side, and Audrey tells her she isn't. Tara brushes her off, insisting that their parents have changed.

Though she feels more and more at home at Cambridge with friends, colleagues, and now Drew, who has moved, Tara is haunted by the nagging feeling that she has somehow betrayed Buck's Peak by leaving. She struggles to reconcile her feelings toward her chosen family with her feelings toward her genetic one. "No natural sister should love a stranger more than a brother," she worries, "and what sort of daughter prefers a teacher to her own father?"

Tara returns to Buck's Peak for Christmas, and Shawn asks her if she'd like to go...

(The entire section contains 1167 words.)

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Chapters 24–29


Chapters 36–40