Summary and Analysis
Lily spends a sleepless night in the honey house. She unleashes all the anger inside her and throws all the jars of honey against the back wall, breaking them in her rage. Then she throws a tin pail and tray of candle molds. She's half-mad, and her arms are bleeding. She feels empty because all the romantic dreams of her mother have been cancelled by the fact that her mother left her. She lies down in a fetal position near Mary. Lily wants to open a door in Mary and climb in for consolation.
The next morning, Rosaleen shakes her awake, demanding to know what happened. She takes Lily to the house and cleans up her cuts. Lily tells her that she found out the truth about her mother's leaving her, and Rosaleen confirms the fact from phone conversations she'd overheard in Sylvan. Lily explains what August told her and discovers a terrible bitterness in her voice. She asks Rosaleen why she didn't tell her before, and Rosaleen gently asks why she would hurt Lily that way. They both revert to silence and clean up the disorder in the honey house.
That afternoon, the Daughters show up and everyone feasts on Rosaleen's corn fritters. Lily doesn't talk to Zach but asks August to tell him about her mother. June plays the cello for the last part of the ceremony. Neil and Zach bring Our Lady out to the yard. They chant about Mary's escape and put their arms in the air with a powerful message of her Daughters' rising. But a brooding Lily doesn't join in. August turns a jar of honey over the head of the statue. Then, like a beehive, the queen's attendants rub the honey all over the statue. This time Lily does participate. August explains that the honey is like holy water and they are preserving the statue for another year. Both ants and bees show up for the honey, and Lily feels content for now.
After eating, they wash off the statue and take it back to the parlor. Lily goes back to the honey house to think. August comes to see her with a hatbox filled with a few of Deborah's belongings, and Lily is so stunned that she asks August to tell her what is in the box, rather than looking at the contents herself.
Lily's heart starts thudding. There's an oval pocket mirror, and Lily gets off her bed to sit closer and see it. August tells Lily that if she looks in the mirror she will see her mother's face. There is also a hairbrush, worn down from holding. In the brush is a long, black, wavy hair. Lily is astonished. She then realizes that no matter how hard she tries, she can't leave her mother behind. Deborah stays in the "tender places in you." August then drops a gold pin shaped like a whale into Lily's hand. Next, August brings out a black book of English poetry she'd given Deborah. Lily's mother had underlined eight lines by William Blake about the destructive nature of love. Finally, August gives Lily a photo of mother and daughter, set in an oval frame. In it, Deborah is feeding Lily with a tiny spoon; suddenly Lily knows this photo is the sign she wanted.
This very important chapter has a rhythm and pace to it that begins Lily's change from an angry young woman to an understanding, loved daughter. It begins with her destruction of the honey house, continues on to the consoling ritual of the Daughters of Mary, and ends with August's amazing revelations to Lily about her mother.
After August explains the past and Deborah, Lily goes back to the honey house to give up her last vestiges of being a victim and murderer. It has been her place in life to be both a punching bag to her father and the murderer of her mother. Now she must acknowledge her rage at herself and her anger with her mother's memory. She flings everything she can find at the wall of the honey house, determined to show the world how badly she's been treated. She doesn't want to let go of her hatred for her father and her sadness because her mother left her. To let go of that after all this time will leave her wondering who she now is. But once she has let out all of her rage, she falls into a fitful sleep.
The next day, Lily doesn't want to be part of the community or even speak with Zach. Everyone leaves her alone, sensing that she is trying to deal with her emotions. But she is drawn into the powerful ritual of the Daughters' covering Mary with life-giving honey. Lily begins to come out of her anger and realize there is a place for her, where people love her and include her in their community. This is the turning point for Lily; the point at which she begins to accept who she is without all the baggage of the past. When the ceremony ends and Mary is washed clean, August wisely leaves Lily to go back to the honey house alone to think. But she has seen that Lily is beginning to once again join the community.
August's visit to the honey house is a perfect extension of the discussion they had in her bedroom. She knows that Lily is whole enough to accept the presents that were her mother's things. Before Lily forgave herself and her mother, the items would have been thrown at the walls with the jars of honey. But now, Lily has had time to understand that she is a woman in her own right and nothing that has happened in the past is going to change that. People will have to respect her for who she is and what she believes. Now is the time August can reintroduce Deborah to her daughter, understanding that Lily is now ready to accept the idea that her mother loved her and didn't abandon her.
It is a poignant moment when Lily sees her mother's hair in the brush and realizes she truly did exist and she had love, dreams, and hopes for her daughter and herself in a new place, away from Sylvan. The underlined words in the book of poetry speak to a young woman who is bitterly disappointed in love, and it shows Lily the state of her mother's mind at that time. If she felt that way, Lily could understand why she was leaving T. Ray but would be coming back for her most precious daughter. The photograph seals that understanding, when Lily sees her mother looking at her with love. It is the emotional turning point and the beginning of healing for Lily.