“There is nothing perfect,” August said from the doorway. “There is only life.”

This quotation comes at the end of chapter 12 and represents the relationship August has with Lily, to whom she speaks these lines. Initially, these words seem rather sharp, but, taken in context, they actually encapsulate the kind of invaluable maternal comfort August provides Lily. August teaches Lily about bees and about life. After Lily tells August the truth about her running away and her role in her mother’s death, Lily expects August to provide her with the empty phrases that people usually offer those who are upset. Instead, August offers rough-edged wisdom like the above line. Her words are not drowned in the saccharine sweetness of “it’s all going to be OK.” Rather, August prefers to guide Lily into accepting the realities of life. Lily needs to learn that how to deal with the good and the bad that come with life.

August’s wisdom has been hard-won. She is an African American who has overcome many obstacles in her life to end up an independent land- and business-owning woman. Having just lost her sister May, she knows that nothing is perfect, and she knows that this lack of perfection is, by its very definition, the stuff that life is made up of. Although Lily does not realize it, this is exactly the kind of maternal wisdom Lily needs in order to grow up. These words act as the final statement of Lily’s big confession. With these words echoing in her head, Lily will realize that her mother was human: she loved Lily, but she also made mistakes. At a time when there is the most potential for navel-gazing and feelings of self-pity, August uses these words to keep Lily from getting lost inside her own misfortune. In this way, August functions as the novel’s hero: she rescues Lily, and she shows her a better way to live.