Kate Vaiden recounts her first-person narrative partly as a means of dealing with her tortured past and partly as a rehearsal of what she will tell her long-lost son, Lee. Price presents Kate as a woman who fears intimacy, who runs from commitment. The people young Kate admits into her life and emotions die: her parents, Gaston Stegall, and Douglas Lee. In her convoluted way, she feels guilt for these deaths. Life for her is easier if she strikes out on her own and shrinks from intimacy, because intimacy— even platonic closeness—threatens her. People are drawn to Kate, but as a part of her self-protective mechanism, she eventually must shun them.
Aunt Caroline Porter is extremely interesting. She is a saintly woman but nobody’s fool. She always steps into the breach when she is needed. She rears the orphaned Kate, she sees Kate through her pregnancy, and she ultimately rears Kate’s child. On the surface, she seems self-sacrificing, but underlying her actions is deep-seated guilt. Caroline has some inkling that Kate’s parents are dead because of her son Swift’s romantic involvement with Frances. This is why she insists that Swift break the news of the murder-suicide to Kate. She also realizes that the intentions of her son Walter are not entirely pure when he takes Douglas Lee from the orphanage to live with him. Her good deeds can be viewed as an expiation for her son’s bad deeds. Readers learn more about Caroline Porter from what she does...
(The entire section is 510 words.)