It’s time you knew what happened to her, and I want you to hear it from me. Not from people out there talking.
T. Ray sits Lily down to talk about how her mother died. Lily’s mother was accidentally killed by Lily as a child, which exists as a heavy burden that T. Ray and Lily share between them. T. Ray may be an abusive father, but he feels concerned enough for Lily’s well-being to prevent her from being hurt by rumors.
“Not funny?” he yelled. “Not funny? Why, it’s the funniest goddamn thing I ever heard: you thinking your mother is your guardian angel.” He laughed again. “The woman could have cared less about you.”
Things between T. Ray and Lily intensify after Rosaleen goes to jail, and they end up in a tense and violent argument. After Lily screams that her mother will protect her, T. Ray laughs and casually drops a shocking claim that Lily’s mother left her. T. Ray’s harsh words reveal how callous he has become toward his daughter.
“Lileeee!” he shouted, and I saw his shadow plunge toward me across the ground.
Lily describes the moment T. Ray is about to beat Lily, as he has done many times in the past. He suspects she’s outside with a boy when she is actually sitting alone in the grass huddled with her mother’s belongings. T. Ray has no understanding of Lily and makes no effort to: T. Ray just rules Lily with a brutal dominance.
“You look like her,” he said, and him saying that, I knew he’d said everything.
At the end of the novel, T. Ray and Lily have a final confrontation during which he tells Lily she looks like her mother. T. Ray ends up having a fit of rage where he loses touch with reality and mistakes Lily for her mother. At this point we’ve come to understand that T. Ray’s abuse toward Lily is rooted in this resentment. He clearly has not worked through his grief at losing his wife.
I could tell you I did it. That’s what you wanna hear. I could tell you she did it to herself, but both ways I’d be lying. It was you who did it, Lily. You didn’t mean it, but it was you.
After Lily asks T. Ray one last time if she was the one who fired the gunshot that killed her mother, he answers. T. Ray replies that he could lie and say she didn’t, but he won’t. T. Ray tries to soften the blow by reassuring Lily that she didn’t mean to fire the shot, signaling his softening toward her. Readers may infer that perhaps T. Ray’s anger toward Lily stemmed from this tragic accident, placing such a violent and unlikable character in a more human light.