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Written by Sarah Bachhiesl
Narrator. The story begins with her as a child and follows her through her life. She has extremely poor eyesight, even as a child, and requires glasses to see. She is described as having a round flat face, dark eyes, black hair, and a straight and serious mouth. She's very fond of her father as a child and close with her family. She is stubborn but caring, especially when her family is concerned. She is a regular person, looking back at different memories from her life.
Marie’s brother. He is described as being fair-haired, dutiful, and bookish. As a child, he reads verses of poetry to Marie and their parents every evening. He goes to a seminary school in Long Island and becomes a priest quitting not long after and coming home to work an office job in the city. He spends some time in an asylum in middle age and is treated for depression. Marie's children believe he was gay.
He is the father of Marie and Gabe and dies when Marie is still a teenager, having a deep impact on the whole family. He is an immigrant from Ireland. He works as a clerk in the city and wears a topcoat and hat, to distinguish that he is not a laborer. He is a thin man, smells like newsprint and cigarettes, and served in WWI.
The mother of Marie and Gabe. She is an immigrant from Ireland and is described as having a tall forehead, dark hair, and brown eyes. She keeps the family close-knit and is close with her children, although she butts heads with Marie during Marie's teenage years.
Neighbour of Marie and her family. She is described as having a hunchbacked walk, black hair, narrow dark eyes, fair skin, crooked teeth, bushy eyebrows and a faint mustache. She is half Syrian (her father) and Irish (her mother). She is known to be scatter-brained and clumsy, falling down often. She recently graduated school and has a job in lower Manhattan and talks to Marie when she comes home from work. Her mother calls her “Amadan”, her word for fool. She dies after falling down the basement stairs when Marie is a young child and it is a vivid memory for her.
A blind man who lives on Marie’s street. He was gassed in WWI and is now cared for by his mother. He sits out on the porch every afternoon the weather is nice and all the neighborhood boys on the street look up to him, often relying on him to be their umpire when they place baseball in the streets.
The neighborhood undertaker. Marie works as his assistant for 10 years in her early adulthood. He is described as having once been a redhead but now mostly gray.
Gertrude "Gerty" Hanson
Neighbor and Marie’s best friend since childhood. She is described as being the smartest girl in class, small, gap-toothed, and freckled with dark curly hair. When Marie and Gerty are around 10, Gerty's mother dies giving birth to Gerty's younger sister, Durna.
One of the boys on Marie’s street. He has dark hair, gray eyes, a pale face, and has a limp from one leg being shorter. Him and Marie date when she is 17. He abruptly breaks up with her and goes on to marry a judge’s daughter instead of Marie, stating that there was too much physically wrong with him and Marie (her bad eyes, his gimp) to give any potential children of their's a fair chance in life.
Marie’s husband. He was orphaned as a child. He served in WWII and spent 7 months in a German POW camp. He is described as having a thin, balding and round face. He is very talkative and sincere. Him and Marie go on to have four children.
A young woman on Marie's street when she is a child that gets married. The girls on Marie’s street gossip about her wedding and say that she discovered her husband was a woman on their wedding night.
One of Marie's children and a primary caregiver when she is elderly and having surgeries on her eyes.
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