Patchett's first novel, set in rural Kentucky in a castle-like home for unwed mothers--where a good woman finds she cannot lie her way beyond love--has a quiet summer-morning sensibility that reminds one of the early work of Anne Tyler. Within the security of everydayness, minds and hearts take grievous risks. ""May be I was born to lie,"" thinks Rose, who, after a three-year marriage to nice Tom Clinton, realizes that she's misread the sign from God pointing to the wedding: she married a man she didn't love. From San Diego, then, Rose drives--""nothing behind me and nothing ahead of me""--all the way to Kentucky and St. Elizabeth's home for unwed mothers, where she plans to have the baby Tom will never know about, and to give it clean away. But in the home, once a grand hotel, Rose keeps her baby, Cecilia; marries ""Son,"" the handyman (""God was right after all...I was supposed to live a small life with a man I didn't love""); and becomes the cook after briefly assisting that terrible cook, sage/seeress, and font of love, Sister Evangeline. The next narrative belongs to Son, a huge man originally from Tennessee--like Rose, gone forever from home--who recounts the last moments of his fiancÃ‰e's life long ago (Sister Evangeline absolves him of responsibility) and who loves Rose. The last narrator is teenaged Cecilia, struggling to find her elusive mother within the competent Rose, who's moved into her own house away from husband and daughter. Like Rose years before, her daughter considers the benefits of not knowing ""what was going on""...as the recent visitor--small, sad Tom Clinton---drives off, and Cecilia knows that Rose, who left before he came, will never return. In an assured, warm, and graceful style, a moving novel that touches on the healing powers of chance sanctuaries of love and fancy in the acrid realities of living.