“I see,” said August. And the thing was, she did. She saw right through it.

When Lily and Rosaleen show up at August’s door, Lily makes up a story about who they are and where they’ve come from, to which August replies, “I see.” Lily, in retrospect, realizes that August saw right through her lies, since she comes to know just how wise a woman August is. Even though August knows Lily is lying, she still accepts her and Rosaleen into her house, demonstrating her openheartedness.

“Everything in time,” August said.

Soon after she arrives, Lily overhears June and August discussing whether Lily and Rosaleen should be allowed to continue to stay at the house. June seems skeptical. She questions if Lily has told them the truth and asks whether it’s dangerous to let them stay. Here, August addresses June’s concerns, imploring June to be patient, sensing that Lily’s appearance means something larger than they realize. August’s words demonstrate a trust in the wisdom of restraint and intuition.

That’s right, May. Let all that misery slide right off you. Just let it go.

August speaks to May after May sees a disturbing news report on television about a Black man who was murdered in a hate crime. In response to the tragic news, May crumbles in a fit of emotion, overwhelmed with pathos over the tragedy. Rather than attempt to steer May away from her grief, August encourages her to let her emotions out. August’s supportive, calm approach allows May the space to let her emotions wash over and out of her safely. August represents the ballast that keeps May alive.

I heard August scolding, “June, what got into you?” but her voice was so distant.

Lily overhears August scolding June for disrespecting Lily during an intense Daughters of Mary ceremony. June stops playing music when Lily touches the Black Mary, signaling her disapproval with Lily’s involvement in the ceremony. Throughout the novel, August serves as wise elder sibling to June, teaching her patience and acceptance and helping to offset some of the harshness of her manner.

Lily, you can talk to me. You know that, right?

August assures Lily that she can be honest after Lily tells her she will leave if August no longer wants her and Rosaleen in her house anymore. In this moment, August pulls Lily down beside her, assures her she doesn’t want her to leave, and tells her it’s safe to talk to her. August’s kind and supportive ways allow Lily the space she needs to grow to trust August. With August’s steady support, Lily begins to thrive at the pink house.

“I loved him enough,” she said. “I just loved my freedom more.”

August shares some of her story with Lily as they discuss marriage and partnership. After Lily asks August if she had ever been in love, August replies that she had been. When Lily wonders why August didn’t marry the man, August explains that she cherishes her freedom too much to marry. In this and other conversations, August teaches Lily a lesson about making choices but also opens Lily’s mind to alternative life paths.

I love May, but it was still so hard to choose Caribbean Pink. The hardest thing on earth is choosing what matters.

Here, August again teaches Lily about making choices, this time about how difficult they can be. August tells Lily that the garish pink color of her house was definitely not her preference, but she painted the house Caribbean Pink because May wanted that color. August put her desires aside for the benefit of her sister, a life lesson in love and sacrifice.

“I used the funnel to drop them in a swarm box,” she said, “then I hived them again.”

August tells Zacharyary about her hives and beekeeping process while he spends time in jail. In telling the story about how she kept searching for a crucial missing swarm in the woods, August tries to send the message to Zacharyary that she is committed to getting him out of jail and bringing him home. August gives Zacharyary emotional support throughout the novel, providing him hope.

You have to find a mother inside yourself. We all do.

Throughout the novel, August serves as a surrogate mother for Lily. In the end, however, August’s ultimate goal is not to replace Lily’s mother but to give Lily a sense of the mother inside herself. In short, August wants Lily to find true independence. August understands that self-reliance is one of the most important things in a woman’s life.

She’s the power inside you, you understand?

These words sum up August’s final, culminating lesson to Lily: The spirit of the Black Mary dwells inside of her, just as this spirit dwells inside everyone else. This final lesson serves as August’s parting gift to Lily as Lily finally is ready to establish a new life for herself of her own making, which likely would not have been possible without August’s steady guidance.