The Secret Life of Bees

The Secret Life of Bees Summary and Analysis of Chapters 13 and 14

Lily remains in August’s room alone. Lily tries to force herself to sleep, but she cannot. Lily goes to see Our Lady, bound up in chains, and fights the desire to release her from the chains. She imagines that her mother’s endless love is outside of the honey house. Lily feels angry but also feels that she has no right to be angry. She begins to pace, and in her anger she throws a honey jar against the table—then another and another until there are no more jars and the room is a mess. She moves on to candles and a bucket.

Lily feels tremendous sadness, not so much over her destruction of the honey house but over being behind by her mother. She lies down on her cot and drifts to sleep, waking the next morning to Rosaleen shaking her. Lily explains that she threw the honey, much to Rosaleen’s disappointment. Rosaleen nurses Lily’s self-inflicted wound. Rosaleen tells Lily that she had feared Lily would discover the sad truth, having heard rumors that Deborah had left. Lily is upset that Rosaleen did not explain this to her earlier, but Rosaleen assures her that she did not want to hurt Lily. Rosaleen and Lily clean up the honey house without speaking a word to each other.

The Daughters (including Otis) show up for the second day of the celebration, but Lily isolates herself from the group—even from Zach. Lily notices that August is watching her actions, and she thinks that somehow August knows about the honey house disaster. Lily asks August to tell Zach the true story of Lily’s past, for Lily cannot. While listening to the music of the Our Lady celebration, Lily envisions her mother getting on the bus to leave her in Sylvan.

As the ceremony continues, Neil and Zach carry the Our Lady statue out of the honey house, and August reads Mary’s words from the Bible. August explains that the celebration commemorates Mary rising to heaven. She also emphasizes that Mary was always able to break the chains that have bound her. As a group, the Daughters and others begin removing the chains from Mary. August announces that Mary cannot be cast down, and neither can her daughters.

August then opens a jar of Black Madonna Honey and pours it over the head of the Our Lady statue. The Daughters begin rubbing the honey into the statue, and soon Lily joins in as well. The Daughters explain that churches bathe their statues in holy water, but the Daughters use honey. Honey, as a preservative, symbolizes how Mary’s spirit will be preserved in the hearts of the Daughters. All of the women fall into a rhythm of massaging honey into Our Lady. Lily realizes that this is the first time since she learned the truth about her mother that she has felt content doing anything. After the washing, Lily lays down on a cot attempting not to think.

August enters the honey house with a box full of Deborah’s things. The two of them open the box together and examine the contents. Inside August finds a pocket mirror, which August says would reflect her mother’s face. There is also a hairbrush with a hair attached to it. Despite Lily’s anger at her mother, she is still overcome with emotion at the seeing a part of her mother’s actual body. August hands Lily a whale pin that Deborah wore on her first day in Tiburon. Next, August hands Lily a book of English poetry that she had loaned to Deborah during her stay in Tiburon. The last item in the box is a photo of Deborah leaning toward a baby Lily in a high chair. Lily is obsessed with every detail of the photo, but mostly she considers the photo to be the sign that she was looking for, a sign of love from Deborah herself.

Lily stays to herself after receiving her mother’s belongings. When she puts the hatbox under her bed, Lily finds a pile of mouse bones. She carries the bones around with her for a reason she does not know. Lily obsesses over where her mother may have stepped, may have sat, may have ate… She grieves intensely, and the Boatwrights give her time to soak in her pain.

June sets an October 10 wedding date. Rosaleen offers to bake the cake. One afternoon, Lily sees June and August clinging to each other, crying about how May would have loved the upcoming wedding. The next day, Rosaleen tells Lily that she is going to register to vote. Lily worries that Rosaleen’s name might be recognized as a criminal’s name, but Rosaleen insists. Lily declines to come along but regrets her choice. She particularly regrets not taking the opportunity to tell Rosaleen she is proud of her.

Lily decides to call Zach, and he apologizes for all that she has been through. He reassures her that if she had to go back to T. Ray, he would visit her. He tells her that he will be attending a white high school this coming school year, and Lily determines that both of them are doomed.

Rosaleen calls all of the Daughters to tell them that she has registered to vote. Lily still regrets not going along. Lily ties up her mouse bones and sets them aside, figuring that she may have just needed to nurse something.

The next morning, Lily wears her mother’s whale pin and goes out to the hives with August. August shows Lily a hive with no queen. The bees are lethargic and uninterested in their usual business. August suggests that perhaps Our Lady could be a stand-in mother for Lily in the place of Deborah. August explains that the power of Mary is not constrained within a statue, but rather the power is inside of her. Mary encourages people to pursue the most important purpose in life: to persist in love.

Lily begins to write in a new notebook from Zach. She outlines the details of everything that has taken place since Mary Day. Upon hearing a knock, Lily opens the front door of the Boatwright house to find T. Ray staring at her. T. Ray threatens to take Lily back home no matter what. Lily asks T. Ray how he found her. T. Ray explains that he was able to track her using the phone bill, and Miss Lacey was happy to provide the rest.

T. Ray notices the pin Lily is wearing and asks where Lily got it. T. Ray says that he gave the pin to Deborah, so Lily explains that Deborah had been at the Boatwrights’ house when she left Sylvan. T. Ray becomes frustrated, saying he looked all over for her. Lily realizes how much he must have loved Deborah and imagines that he turned ugly only after she left.

T. Ray slaps Lily across the face and begins yelling at her as if she is Deborah. He screams about her leaving and even refers to Lily as “Deborah.” Lily finally calls him “Daddy” in order to snap him out of his hallucination. Lily sees August and Rosaleen, but she decides to deal with this on her own. Lily calmly reassures T. Ray that she is fine. T. Ray tells her that they are going home, but Lily insists that she will not be going home with him.

August steps in to mediate. She tells T. Ray that Lily is welcome to stay with the Boatwrights as long as she wants. Lily can tell that T. Ray does not want Lily around to remind him of Deborah anyway. Eventually T. Ray leaves, allowing Lily to stay. As his truck backs out of the driveway, Lily runs after him, demanding to know if she really killed her mother. T. Ray assures her that although she did do it, it was an accident.

Lily wonders if she will hear from T. Ray again. In the fall, she receives her hat from Lunelle, and Clayton works out Rosaleen and her criminal case. At school, Clayton’s daughter Becca and Lily are both friends with Zach despite the bad reputation they get. Lily forgives both herself and her mother. She is responsible for maintaining May’s wall, and she finds Mary’s spirit at unexpected moments. Overall, Lily feels most lucky to have so many mothers who love her.


Lily’s destruction of the honey house is a final outburst of the emotions she has been carrying with her throughout the novel. She felt rage, sadness, confusion, and loss all along, but once she learned the whole truth from August, all of these feelings come to a boil. Throughout the novel, it is clear that besides writing, Lily has very little outlet for her emotions. Therefore, it is fitting that she lets them all out in a completely destructive and arbitrary manner. Ironically, in the process of destroying the honey house, she is crushing what she loves in order to express her feelings.

The building itself remains, however, and this (in addition to the people who knew Deborah) is the key continuity between Lily and her mother. Later, Lily receives additional tokens of her mother’s presence at the house. When August presents Lily with her mother’s hairbrush with a hair attached, Lily’s hardened exterior falls apart, and her soft, tender, vulnerable side is exposed. Despite Lily’s varying feelings about her mother, witnessing an actual part of her body brings new, even stronger feelings into Lily’s heart. Then, when Lily receives the photo of Lily and her mother, her feelings toward her mother completely change. The anger begins to subside, and she begins to feel grief and true loss, for she has seen the sign of motherly love she has been looking for.

Lily even carries the mouse bones, which could be old enough to be from a mouse her mother once saw. It is true that, as Lily says, sometimes people just need something to take care of. At different points in the novel, Lily has been taken care of by various people. Yet, she was rarely given the opportunity to look after others. Nevertheless, the mouse bones might have a distant connection to her mother. Sometimes people do unexpected things because of their emotions. Lily is feeling sentimental enough to do something that might seem crazy, and she seems unclear about why the bones might signify something special about her mother. Remember that unlike May, Deborah has not been properly viewed or mourned by Lily, and perhaps the bones also reflect a kind of presence, like the hair from the brush, that proves that Deborah has moved on.

In any case, Lily finds better solace in rubbing honey into Our Lady. The act of rubbing the honey into the statue symbolizes preservation. Lily had longed to preserve her mother for her entire life, and by preserving Mary, a stand-in mother, Lily is able to feel power over her emotions once again. Additionally, she is not facing this task alone. Rather, she is in sync with the Daughters, her new extended family.

At the end of the novel, Lily truly has an understanding for motherhood. Though she still feels grief over killing her mother, she is reassured that Deborah loved her. Additionally, she has found eight new mothers to care for her and love her with overwhelming passion, kindness, and deep love.

The novel thus ends on a note of promise. Zach is taking steps to integrate with white society, and he is helped along by Lily, who appreciates him for what he is. Lily also has come to terms with who she is; she is not so much her father’s daughter anymore but belongs to her new mothers. She has gone through a catharsis of grief and is ready to move forward.