Refuge by Dot Jackson
Thanks to Amazon.com for this book synopsis
Late one night in the spring of 1929, a proper young Charleston woman named Mary Seneca Steele goes to bed while considering what to wear for her suicide. Now, suddenly she arises, steals her children and her husband’s new Auburn Phaeton, and sets out on an impulsive journey—one which begins with learning to drive.
At the moment when Mary Sen makes her escape from the privileged South, her worst transgression so far has been going out without her hat. But there will be no returning to her old life once Mary Sen abandons it.
At the end of the long, bumpy road she travels lies a river-washed mountain cove. Its birch forest shimmers in peculiar light, seductive and haunting in its welcome. Here, Mary Sen finds a family she’s never known. In its grasp, she will discover her enigmatic cousin, Ben Aaron, and her Aunt Panama, the keeper of family secrets.
A disquieting love affair begets a string of tragedies, including murder, some tough and urgent maturing, and a startling salvation—all in the embrace of a big, old unpainted house. Full of songs and echoes, long after their remains lie silent in the birch grove up the hill.