Nathaniel Price is the hypocritical, boorish patriarch of the Price family: a proud, arrogant man presiding over a family of women. As a Reverend, Nathaniel sets the plot of the novel in motion when he… (read full character analysis)
The quiet, long-suffering wife of Nathaniel Price. Orleanna is a deep-thinking, intelligent woman, but because of her husband’s boorish behavior, she’s often forced to hide her own talents from others—especially in the Congo. Nevertheless… (read full character analysis)
Rachel, the eldest of the Price daughters, is portrayed as a rather narrow-minded, superficial young woman, who dislikes the Congolese more blatantly than anyone in her family except for Nathan Price himself. Unlike her siblings… (read full character analysis)
The daughter of Nathaniel and Orleanna Price, and the twin sister of Leah Price, Adah Price is a highly intelligent young woman who’s been disadvantaged by the symptoms of hemiplegia, a blood disease… (read full character analysis)
The youngest of the Price children, Ruth May is a plucky, adventurous five-year-old when the novel begins. The chapters narrated from her point of view tend to be short and to-the-point, as there are many… (read full character analysis)
Anatole Ngemba is a young, intelligent Congolese man who eventually becomes Leah Price’s lover and husband. Anatole is deeply connected to the history of the Congo: his mother was sent to the Belgian diamond… (read full character analysis)
A missionary in Africa who provides Nathan Price and his family with supplies, shelter, and advice about how to get by in the Congo. Underdown is a useful expository device in the novel: whenever there’s… (read full character analysis)
A resourceful, devious man who provides the Prices with most of their food and supplies during their time in the Congo—albeit at exorbitant prices. It’s strongly implied that Axelroot is involved in the CIA operation… (read full character analysis)
The leader of the village of Kilanga, who often finds himself at odds with Nathaniel Price due to Price’s rigid commitments to Christianity. Ndu is shown to be an intelligent, experienced leader, who is far… (read full character analysis)
A witch-doctor and Kilanga resident who resents Nathan Price and his family for bringing Christianity—in Kuvudundu’s eyes, a dangerous, even poisonous force—to the Congo. Kuvudundu tries to attack the Price family by placing a poisonous… (read full character analysis)
Brother Fyntan Fowles
The jovial, highly educated missionary who preceded Nathaniel Price in Kilanga. Fowles, in spite of their shared religious faith, is everything Nathan isn't: kind, funny, quick-witted, modest, and above all deeply respectful of the Congolese people.
An elderly resident of Kilanga who’s been paid to take care of the Price family, but leaves when it becomes clear that Nathan Price has no respect for her intelligence or experience.
The wife of Reverend Frank Underdown, and a superficial-seeming woman, who makes fun of the Prices for their thick Southern accents.
An elderly resident of Kilanga, who’s survived for many years without her legs.
The elementary school teacher who discovered that Adah Price was extremely intelligent, thereby saving Adah from a lifetime of special education.
A hairdresser who lives in the village of Kilanga.
A young boy who lives in Kilanga, and is later murdered following Joseph Mobutu’s military coup in the Congo.
Lekuyu / Nelson
A young boy who lives in Kilanga.
Orleanna Price’s father, an eye doctor.
The leader of the Lunda tribe, who attempts to secede from the Congo following the Belgians’ decision to pull out of the country.
The Congolese wife of Brother Fyntan Fowles.
An old fisherman who befriends Leah Price and continues to update her on life in Kilanga after she leaves.
Wealthy French diplomat for whom Rachel Price leaves Eeben Axelroot.
Wife of Daniel Dupree before he meets Rachel Price.
Eldest child of Leah Price and Anatole Ngemba.
Child of Leah Price and Anatole Ngemba.
Child of Leah Price and Anatole Ngemba.
Third husband of Rachel Price—a wealthy, elderly businessman, who promptly dies and leaves Rachel in control of a profitable hotel.
Youngest child of Leah Price and Anatole Ngemba.
Son of Tata Ndu.
Nun who works alongside Leah Price.
President Dwight David Eisenhower
The President of the United States from 1953 to 1961, and one of the masterminds of the plan to imprison Patrice Lumumba, and later to assassinate him.
The head of the CIA during the military coup in the Congo.
Dictatorial ruler of the Congo during the 1970s and 80s, sponsored by the U.S government because of his support for capitalism.
American boxer who battled George Foreman in Zaire in the 70s.
American boxer who battled Muhammed Ali in Zaire in the 70s.
Angolan political leader, often seen as a worthy successor to Patrice Lumumba, who was harassed and imprisoned for his political commitments to democracy and socialism.