Chapter 6: Shield and Buckler
With the family’s scrapping crew down one member after Tyler's departure, Tara is recruited to do grunt work. She begins to help Gene and her brothers sort scrap for recycling, but she soon discovers the work to be more dangerous than she'd realized. When she finds protective gloves and a hard hat, Gene confiscates them, explaining that they are a hindrance. Before long, she sustains an injury due to Gene's carelessness and comes to a harsh realization: her safety is her own responsibility now. "Don't worry, honey," Gene tells her. "God and his angels are here, working right alongside us. They won't let you be hurt."
As Faye's recovery from the car crash progresses, she returns to midwifery. She also begins mixing her own essential oils, developing formulas through "muscle testing," the belief that the body possesses an inherent knowledge of its own needs, which can be understood by monitoring its physical reactions to external stimuli. Soon, Faye begins offering energy work to clients in addition to midwifery and essential oils. Gene, immensely proud of his wife, interprets her success as yet another reason to remain distanced from the government-sanctioned medical establishment.
Tara struggles to come to terms with her brother's departure, and she begins to wonder if Gene might be wrong about school. "I wondered if perhaps school was less evil than Dad thought," she posits, "because Tyler was the least evil person I knew, and he loved school." Despite her increasing curiosity, she's unable to work up the courage to ask her father about trying it herself.
As they're salvaging in the scrap yard one day, Gene asks Tara to help him with a particularly dangerous maneuver. She's worried about her safety, but he insists. Tara is injured, and she finds it difficult to reconcile her feelings about being put in clear danger by her own father. In processing that experience, she finds her nerve: "I want to go to school," she tells Gene later that week. "I've prayed, and I want to go." Despite her insistence, he doesn't relent.
Chapter 7: The Lord Will Provide
Alone in the house one day, Tara hears a scream and finds her brother Luke coming down from the mountain with a serious injury. He has a burn across his entire leg, sustained while operating a cutting torch with Gene after the two of them had drained fuel tanks in the scrap yard. Though she is just ten, Tara is the only one around to treat his injury. Desperate for a solution, she grabs the family's garbage can, hoses it down, and fills it with cold water. Fearing infection, she puts Luke's leg in a garbage bag before allowing him to submerge it.
Over the next few weeks, Faye treats the burn and Luke begins to recover. Tara, in the present-day, reflects on the murky details of this vignette. She remembers it as she has written it, but her brothers remember it differently. "What everyone agrees upon, strangely," she says in a footnote, "is that somehow Luke ended up on the front lawn, his leg in a garbage can."
Chapter 8: Tiny Harlots
In an effort to avoid the junkyard, Tara begins to take babysitting work outside the home. One of her babysitting clients recommends a church dance class, and Tara is excited to participate, but her excitement is soon dampened when she sees the clothes the other dancers wear. Tara and her family adhere to the modesty guidelines of fundamental Mormonism, and so she can't wear them. Faye, after speaking with the teacher, takes Tara shopping...
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for dance clothes in secret. "Keep those in your room," Faye warns Tara.
Eventually, Gene finds out about the dance class and attends a recital. He's infuriated by what he finds, and Tara is forbidden from returning. Faye finds a voice teacher instead, and Tara discovers she has a natural talent—before long, she's leading hymns in church and being courted for roles at the nearby community theater.
Chapter 9: Perfect in his Generations
The summer of 1999, Tara is cast to play the lead in Annie at the Worm Creek Opera House. For the first time, rehearsals bring her in regular contact with people from backgrounds that deviate from hers. As Tara is finally beginning to explore the outside world, Gene has never been so fixated inward. As he prepares for Y2K, he grows more and more certain that digital timekeeping glitches will spark the societal collapse he has been dreading. Despite his obsession, he is incredibly proud of Tara. When the play opens, he is in the front row.
When midnight finally comes on December 31 and the world fails to descend into chaos, Tara senses an air of disappointment in her father. "He seemed smaller to me than he had that morning," she muses.
Chapter 10: Shield of Feathers
En route back from another trip to Arizona, the Westovers suffer another car accident. Tara sustains a neck injury and is bedridden for a month. She recovers slowly but is unable to turn her head until she receives a spontaneous chiropractic adjustment from Shawn—an older brother who has returned home and whom she barely remembers. Shawn has come to help out until Gene can get a crew together, she learns.
Chapter 11: Instinct
Tara, now fourteen, receives a horse as a gift from a great uncle. She is nervous, but Shawn offers to help her break the horse. They begin spending time together in other contexts, too, and before long Shawn is driving Tara to her rehearsals at the opera house. She notices during these trips that his behavior seems to shift depending on the environment. He is mellow and lighthearted when it's just the two of them, but she begins to notice hints of aggression when there are other young men around.
As Tara and Shawn are riding one day, Tara's horse bolts while her foot is tangled in the stirrup. Shawn, in an impressive maneuver, manages to catch up to them, calm her horse, and save her from a potentially deadly accident.