But you know when I missed her the most? The day I was twelve and woke up with the rose-petal stain on my panties. I was so proud of that flower and didn’t have a soul to show it to except Rosaleen.

In the beginning of the story, Lily, the narrator, introduces the reader to her inner world as a motherless daughter. Readers may clearly note that Lily longs for her mother, as she scrutinizes and cherishes the few possessions her mother has left behind in the house. Lily feels she has missed out not having a mother, and she feels a gaping hole in her life without her. As Lily says here, the thing she misses most acutely is not being able to share her first menstruation, an important introduction into femininity, with her mother. Lily’s lack of a mother serves as the underlying theme that drives the novel.

In a matter of seconds I knew what I had to do—leave.

Although Lily lacks a biological mother, she does have a mother-like figure in Rosaleen, the black woman T. Ray has hired to take care of Lily after Lily’s mother dies. By the start of the novel, Rosaleen has transformed from nanny to companion. In fact, Rosaleen is Lily’s closest friend. Lily often looks to Rosaleen for emotional support. The event during which Rosaleen is arrested and Lily saves her leads them both on their journey to finding true female community. In a way, Lily is unwilling to “lose” another mother by losing Rosaleen.

The first week at August’s was a consolation, a pure relief.

Lily has grown up without a mother. For the first time in her life, upon arriving at the Boatwright house, Lily is surrounded by a number of women. There, Lily experiences motherliness for the first time: She sees how strong women support, tend to, comfort, encourage, and love one another as she witnesses the bonds between the Daughters of Mary. Through their examples and by being included in their group, Lily begins to feel empowered as a woman.