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Lily leaves Sylvan because T. Ray tells her that her mother, Deborah, left her as a child. She travels to Tiburon in order to learn the truth about her mother. She hopes to find someone who knew something about Deborah in order to answer all of the questions she has. More importantly, however, she is trying to find evidence that T. Ray is wrong and her mother did not leave her. It would be better to find out that she had accidentally killed her mother, for at least this fact would not diminish her perception of her mother’s love for her.
Upon settling into her new life in Tiburon, Lily finds motherly love where she did not expect it. The Boatwright sisters and the Daughters of Mary all love her with different styles, and she turns to them with different needs. August, most of all, allows her to open up and cry to her as if she would to a mother.
When Lily learns the truth about her mother’s actions, she has mixed feelings of anger, pity, and grief. She is angry after finding that her mother left her after all. She feels sorry that her mother never truly escaped from her life with T. Ray, and she grieves her mother’s death.
At the end of the novel, she learns that her mother did love her through a photograph documenting their interaction. She also learns that despite the loss of her mother, she has found the love she sought in her new Tiburon mothers, from Mary, and even from the bees.