Daughter of Rex and Rose Mary Walls, and the second oldest of four siblings in the Walls family. Jeannette is practical, rational, and thoughtful. Unlike Mom, she enjoys adhering to rules—though she is always… (read full character analysis)
Father to Jeannette and her siblings, and the son of Erma and Grandpa Walls. He is primarily referred to as Dad in the narrative. Originally from Welch, West Virginia, Dad left at the age… (read full character analysis)
Mother to Jeannette and her siblings, and the daughter of Grandma Smith from Phoenix. She is primarily referred to as Mom in the narrative. Mom originally wanted to be an artist, but her mother convinced… (read full character analysis)
The eldest of the Walls children. Lori is usually absent from the adventures of Jeannette and Brian, but is cool and calm in the face of crisis, as when she takes Dad’s pistol to… (read full character analysis)
The youngest of the Walls siblings. Maureen’s character is not as well developed as that of the other siblings. Seven years younger than Jeannette, she is a baby for much of Jeannette’s childhood and… (read full character analysis)
Jeannette’s teacher at Welch High School and her namesake. Miss Bivens was also Dad’s teacher when he was in school, and was the first person to really believe in him, he says. Miss Bivens is… (read full character analysis)
Mom’s mother who lived in Phoenix until her death. The reader sees Grandma Smith only through Jeannette’s flashbacks; when the family actually moves to Phoenix as part of the linear narrative, it’s because Grandma Smith… (read full character analysis)
Dad’s brother, he lives in Welch, West Virginia with Erma and Grandpa Walls. While Jeanette and her family are living in Welch, Uncle Stanley attempts to sexually assault her. She escapes but, subsequently, avoids their home as much as possible.
Erma’s husband and Dad’s father, he lives in Welch, West Virginia with his wife and Uncle Stanley.
Mary Charlene Walls
The second daughter that Mom gave birth to after Lori, who lived only to the age of nine months.
Jeannette’s second-grade teacher in Battle Mountain, who is suspicious of the advanced math that Dad has taught Jeannette, and makes Jeanette re-do the homework in the precise way she expects and defined.
A friend of Jeannette’s in Battle Mountain whose family, unlike Jeannette’s, uses a No-Pest Strip to catch insects.
A prostitute at the Green Lantern whorehouse in Battle Mountain, Nevada whom Dad goes to visit.
A teenager who is neighbors with the Walls family in Battle Mountain, and who has a crush on Jeannette that turns violent. Lori defends Jeanette from Billy by threatening him with a gun.
The family’s neighbors in Phoenix, one of whom steals Brian’s pogo stick.
Lady in blue Buick
A well-coiffed woman who picks up the Walls family after their car breaks down on the way to the Grand Canyon.
Welch Elementary principal
The principal at the elementary school in Welch. He can’t understand Jeannette’s accent the first day she arrives (nor can she understand his), so he enrolls her with students who have learning disabilities.
Jeannette’s first teacher in Welch, who goads the other students into making fun of her.
The Walls family’s next-door neighbor in Welch.
Jeannette’s classmate, who tries to recruit her for the Ku Klux Klan.
Initially the leader of a group that bullies Jeannette at school in Welch, but who later becomes her friend.
Jeannette’s first husband. He is wealthy, lives on Park Avenue, and is extremely organized.
Ginnie Sue Pastor
The town prostitute in Welch, and also the mother of nine children.
Ginnie Sue’s husband.
Ginnie Sue’s oldest daughter.
Carrie Mae Blankenship
Jeannette’s classmate, whose father is a hospital administrator, and whose home is equipped with a thermostat, which fascinates Jeannette.
A kid who lives in Welch and torments Brian and Jeannette for living in “garbage.”
Lucy Jo Rose
A woman who works with Mom as a teacher outside Welch and drives Mom to school most days.
A 42-year-old mentally challenged man in Welch who has a crush on Jeannette, for which the other kids make fun of him.
Jeannette’s boss at The Phoenix newspaper in New York who convinces her to go to college.
Jeannette’s favorite college professor. When Professor Fuchs grows distressed at something Jeannette says in class about homeless people, Jeannette feels that she can’t reveal her true background and her own experience with poverty and homelessness.
A friend of Dad’s from a bar in Welch who tries to seduce Jeannette.
Owner of Becker’s Jewel Box in Welch, where Jeannette works part-time.
A teacher for whom Jeannette babysits, and who, in a plan hatched by Jeanette, hires Lori to babysit for her children as she travels with them for the summer. She then buys Lori a return train ticket to New York, rather than Welch.
The first airplane pilot to fly faster than the speed of sound, who gives a speech at Welch High and whom Jeannette interviews for the school newspaper.
The guidance counselor at Welch High.
A friend of Lori’s in New York.
Ken Fink and Bob Gross
Two filmmakers who come to Welch from New York City and who tell Lori she needs to go to New York in order to make it as an artist.
Jeannette’s boss at The Phoenix in New York who convinces her to go to college.
Jeannette’s favorite college professor. When she grows distressed at something Jeannette says in class about homeless people, Jeannette feels that she can’t reveal who she really is.
Jeannette’s first husband. Lives on Park Avenue and is extremely organized.
Jeannette’s second husband, with whom she owns a house in the country and has a happy marriage.
John’s daughter from his first marriage.