You can make your life extraordinary, if you have the courage.
Cecilia Howison, the rich and well-known daughter of a prominent east Tennessee family, appears to be the perfect Southern girl: cultured, gracious, virginal. The actual lesbian she is feels restless and ready for something new. She finds it in a high mountain meadow.
Airey Fitch is the mainstay of her family's hard-scrabble hill farm. She has no love for the Howisons or any their kind, who now are evicting the mountain folk to create a new national park. Despite them, she will hang on, despite them, she will seek a life for herself in music.
It's 1931, the Depression is biting hard, and class differences are stark. In the face of everything, Cecilia and Airey find themselves building emotional connections that only Cecilia knows are dangerous.
But as they realise they are bound by more than friendship, more than passion, they are confronted by an agonizing, implacable choice.
Chapter One Begins
How much steam could a radiator give off? Would she be stranded here until she made newspaper headlines? HOPE FADES FOR COLONEL HOWISON'S DAUGHTER. SOCIETY FRIENDS WAIT AND PRAY. She watched a bee fly into the woods. At some point, tragically, FOUND TOO LATE.
No human sound. Only the birds calling, a bee buzzing past her, the hiss of steam. Another bee. Cecilia sat up. Her brother had once told her that bees traveled in straight lines only to water. Water would mean PLUCKY MODERN GIRL RESCUES SELF. And I, thought Cecilia, stripping off her driving gloves, am a very modern girl.
She perched on the Buick's sidemount, empty Thermos in hand, and waited. A bee shot by like a bullet. She was up the steep verge after it into the trees, taking an animal track that threaded its way below the towering oaks and yellow birch, hope and attention fixed on the bees zipping past. Ahead, a bright wink—sunlight on water? Yes. Tom was always right. Now she heard it trickling and quickened her pace, but she stopped abruptly as she stepped out of the woods. Someone was sprawled by the creek, asleep in the meadow flowers.