Summary and Analysis
Lily spends the early days of August reflecting on what she has learned. Although her heart feels like ice, her head considers why it's so hard for people to forgive. She varies between being angry at her mother for leaving and pondering what she now knows about her. Lily realizes that wallowing in her grief was a tool she used to make her special. It forced everyone to tiptoe around her.
June and Neil set the date for their wedding: October 10. Everyone busily works on cakes, dresses, and themes. June regrets not saying "yes" sooner so May could be there, but August reminds her that regrets don't help.
Everyone seems to be healing. Rosaleen buys a new dress and she is going to register to vote, only this time at a black high school. Everyone goes with Rosaleen to the high school except Lily, who ends up regretting that she didn't go so she could tell Rosaleen how proud she was. Zach calls with the news that he is going to the white high school in the fall, although they both assume Lily will end up going back to T. Ray. That night, Rosaleen reminds everyone she can now vote, and Lily impulsively hugs her and tells her she loves her.
Lily cleans house. Not only does she thoroughly clean the honey house, but she also throws out some of her old things. She puts her mother's items out on display and decides that no one is perfect.
The next day, Lily wears her mother's pin, and she and August attend to one of the hives that is queen-less. August explains that her story about Beatrix (the nun) was supposed to let Lily know that maybe Mary could stand in for Deborah. August quietly but firmly explains that Mary is someone inside of you — you have to find the mother in your own heart. Our Lady was the voice telling Lily not to bow down to T. Ray early in the novel. It's a power Lily has, a confidence to persist. Everyone has it.
That afternoon, when Lily is alone in the house, T. Ray shows up with a nasty smile. Lily tries to stay calm. He explains it was a big mistake to call him from Mr. Forrest's office because that's how he found her. When T. Ray called the number, the gossipy secretary told him everything.
Suddenly, T. Ray sees Deborah's pin. When he finds out Deborah was at August's after she left him the first time, he is shocked. For the first time, Lily can see how much he loved her mother and how it hurt him when Deborah left. She realizes she'd never considered his pain before. T. Ray slaps her hard, and she falls back on the statue of Mary. He kicks her and calls her "Deborah" and says she's not leaving him again. He has his knife out and doesn't realize she's Lily. When she shouts "Daddy," he comes to his senses and drops the knife. Then she says she's sorry she left him.
August and Rosaleen come to the doorway, but Lily waves them away. Her father, with hurt in his eyes, explains that Lily looks like Deborah. She now understands why he treated her so badly. He says, "We're going home," but Lily tells him that she's not leaving.
August comes in and tells T. Ray that Lily can live with her as long as she wants. The Daughters all show up, and T. Ray tries to think of a way to save face. August perceives his confusion and explains to the Daughters that T. Ray is Lily's father who has come to visit. He looks at all the strong women and falters. August says she is teaching Lily beekeeping and she will put Lily in school in the fall. T. Ray leaves, slamming the door. But Lily goes running after his truck. She wants to know if she really did kill her mother. He tells her she did, but that she didn't mean to.
It is November now, and June and Neil are married. Lunelle created a hat for Lily to wear that is fabulous. Clayton Forrest comes by to say that the Sylvan police will be dropping the charges against Lily and Rosaleen. Lily becomes friends with Forrest's daughter, Becca. Zach, Lily, and Becca see each other at school, and Lily doesn't mind that the other teenagers call them "nigger lovers."
Lily keeps her mother's picture beside her. She feels closer to Mary, too, who fills the sadness in her heart. Then she remembers how all the Daughters stood up for her that day; Lily realizes that she is no longer motherless.
The last chapter presents the culmination of many themes in the story and demonstrates the lessons of maturity Lily has internalized. Forgiveness, self-confidence, understanding, and knowledge are all ideas that show Lily's growth as a human being. The chapter also ties up loose ends, such as the question of T. Ray and where he fits in Lily's future.
Lily is beginning to reach some understanding about her parents. Before, she was a cowering victim of her father, but now she faces him down and even considers his perspective and feelings. In most ways, she is a better human than he is. When she realizes that he sees her as her mother, she can begin to understand why he treated her so badly. It must have been a terrible blow to his ego to marry his pregnant girlfriend, and then see her leave him, realizing that the community knew, too.
"Daddy" is the name she could never call T. Ray before, but when she screams it, T. Ray recognizes her and sees that he is hurting her, not her mother. When Lily refuses to bend to him and explains that she, too, is leaving him, she does so fully understanding that she has chosen a community of women over her own father. Even T. Ray seems to recognize that she is different, more grown up, and better off in the company of strong women. She is no longer the traumatized victim.
Lily held up her mother as a symbol of what mothers should be like, and yet her mother abandoned her. Now that Lily knows the true story — that her mother was returning for her — she also can let go of the romanticized ideal of her mother. August has explained that her mother was not perfect and she certainly could not have taken care of Lily in her debilitated state, not until she recovered. Before, Lily had romantic pictures in her head of Deborah's brushing her hair and holding her. She had to be able to forgive her mother before August showed her the photo of Deborah feeding Lily. Now she sees that her mother truly loved her, and by forgiving Deborah, Lily can truly appreciate her mother's love. Lily's cleaning of the honey house is symbolic of throwing out all the old ideas and replacing them with what is true, honest, and strong.
Lily's newfound self-confidence in facing T. Ray down is a product of August's teachings, the power of women represented by the Daughters and Our Lady of Chains, and the model of the Boatright women themselves. When August explains that it wasn't Lily's mother's voice she heard telling her to leave T. Ray but the voice of Mary inside of her, Lily begins to understand that women do not have to be victims. They can be strong advocates for their own lives and ambitions. Just as Our Lady can break her chains, Lily can stand up to the bullies at school who call her a "nigger lover," and to her own abusive father.
However, Lily had to forgive herself before she could stand up for herself and understand she is a human being who deserves to be treated with respect. All the mourning she did following August's revelations about Deborah and all the quiet, introspective time led to this new forgiveness of herself. Lily deserves to be loved and cared for. She may have killed her mother accidentally; she cannot change that. Undoubtedly, there will continue to be times when she will still feel badly about what happened, but Lily now realizes (and T. Ray even admits) that she did not mean to do it and she must forgive herself for the accidental death of her mother. Lily has now found a home in a community that loves and cares for her, and she will continue to heal and see a better future.