Summary and Analysis Chapter 11



After May's funeral, August and June begin a week of mourning, staying away from everyone. Lily writes in her notebook but misses her old routine with the family. She roams the woods looking for signs from her mother, and then pulls out her old map to decide what city she and Rosaleen should go to next. During this period, Zach talks with Lily about law school, but she can see that he has changed. His jail stay has turned him into an angry young man, who is drawn to the likes of Malcolm X and the Afro-American Unity group. Lily wishes he were the Zach she remembers, but he tells her they can't change their skin. Instead they have to change the world.

Once the mourning is over, the women have dinner together, say prayers, and August folds May's suicide note up and slips it in a crack in the side of Our Lady's neck. Lily decides to move back to the honey house to be alone. She resolves to tell August her story the next day and slides her mother's things under her pillow. All night she tosses and dreams, fearful of what August's reaction will be.

The next morning, Lily goes to the kitchen and sees the others making cakes for Mary Day. It is August 15, and they are celebrating the Assumption, during which the Daughters will reenact Mary's story. Neil arrives first and asks June to marry him, and she accepts. When they return from a ride, June is wearing an engagement ring. The Daughters come with Zach, and Lily is reminded that she really loves this place and these people. Lunelle offers to make Lily a hat, and Lily requests a blue one.

During that evening's ceremony, they eat honey cakes, bring in Our Lady of Chains, and take her out to the honey house for the night. There is music and a retelling of the promise that those who are cast down will be lifted up and those who are in chains will be freed.

Zach and Lily go for a walk, and Zach admits to his anger. Lily makes him promise he will work on that and not become a bully; Zach agrees. Zach says he will work hard in school, and then go to college. Then he tells Lily he cares about her. Even though they can't be together now, Zach promises they will be in the future. He puts his dog tags around Lily's neck.


This chapter marks a reflective time for Lily. August is tied up with her own mourning and thoughts, which means that Lily is essentially alone. But her newfound maturity has taught her to respect August's space. Lily thinks about her mother and roams the forest looking for a sign of her love; much of the time she is depressed and stays in bed. But each of these actions shows a new Lily who is learning about herself and thinking about what August has taught her. Along with these new and reflective ideas, Lily also realizes she must plot the next move for herself and Rosaleen.

Lily also begins to discover the adult realization that life cannot stand still. People are always changing, and everyone grows up and leaves childhood behind. The world hardens the soft spots in everyone. She recognizes that in Zach there are now hard places that didn't exist before he spent time in jail. He still has a passion, a drive to make his idea of being a lawyer come true. But at the same time, he wants to shape a world where he and Lily can be together without fear.

During this time of reflection, Lily grasps how much she loves this place and these people: the Daughters with their crazy hats; the beekeeping; the sisters and the zany water fight; the wedding plans; and the umbrella over them all (Our Lady). The Mary Day ceremony is a time of remembering, and the Daughters exhort everyone to think about their power, their glory, and the promise that they will be lifted up. On the other hand, Lily does not want to remember her past: killing her mother; living with her father; and the unhappy life she left behind.