This novel contains fourteen chapters, each preceded by an epigraph that previews a thematic topic in the chapter to come. Lily is fourteen when the novel begins and when she embarks on her coming-of-age journey. This first epigraph concerns queen bees and the emptiness other bees feel when the queen leaves or dies. Each subsequent epigraph marks a stage in Lily's maturation.
Lily begins her story confused and in search of a connection to her dead mother. She begins recounting interrelated events and characters: the arrival of bees to her house, memories of killing her mother when she was four and being frustrated by others who do not want to talk about her, and Rosaline, a black woman who worked as Lily's nanny. Allusions to the Virgin Mary (who will become significant in August's religion regarding the Black Mary) and angels (which bees resemble) draw the realism of the novel into a symbolic realm as well.
Lily and the novel begin in a state of queenlessness, as the epigraph...
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