• Nick Shay – The novel’s protagonist and a waste management executive. He spends much of his life trying to come to terms with his father’s disappearance.
  • Marian Shay – Nick’s wife.
  • Rosemary – Nick’s mother.
  • Jimmy – Nick’s father who disappeared when Nick was 11. He and his family lived near Arthur Avenue, Bronx.[4] Jimmy was a small-time bookie who had a reputation for never writing anything down. He went out for a pack of Lucky Strike cigarettes and never returned.
  • Matty – Nick’s little brother. Very skilled at chess in his youth, but then gave it up. He served in the military in Vietnam and then worked for the U.S. government in the development of nuclear weapons. However, he soon finds he is uncomfortable with his choice of career and leaves to join a think tank.
  • Klara Sax – An aspiring artist who has a brief affair with Nick when he is 17 years old and she is in her 30s and married to Albert Bronzini with a young daughter. She and Albert divorce some time later (this is her first marriage). In all, she married three times, but divorced all three men. Nick goes to see Klara in the early 1990s when she’s directing a project to paint decommissioned Cold War era bombers.
  • Albert Bronzini – Klara’s ex-husband and Matty’s former chess instructor.
  • George the Waiter - A middle-aged heroin-addict, a childhood friend of Nick's.
  • Marvin Lundy – An avid baseball memorabilia collector who devoted his life to obtaining the home run ball hit by Thomson. He was obsessed with tracing the ball all the way back to the game, but was unable to do so. He sells the ball to Nick Shay.
  • Cotter Martin - A young boy who finds the oft-mentioned baseball in the prologue.
  • Manx Martin - Cotter's alcoholic father, who sells the baseball for $32.45 to a baseball fan.
  • Ismael Muñoz/Moonman 157 - A mysterious graffiti artist by whom Klara Sax is intrigued. He appears intermittently throughout the novel as an older and semiretired graffiti artist who paints angels around the city with a crew of younger children in order to commemorate children who have been murdered. He and his crew sell junked cars that have been abandoned around an area of the Bronx known as "The Wall" and help Sister Edgar feed the poor.
  • Sister Edgar - An elderly nun; Matty Shay's elementary-school teacher.
  • Lenny Bruce - A comedian.
  • J. Edgar Hoover - The director of the FBI.

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