A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius


Dave Eggers

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A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius Characters

Dave Eggers

The narrator and protagonist of A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius. Eggers is twenty-one when both his parents die, leaving him and his sister, Beth, to take care of their seven-year-old brother, Tophread analysis of Dave Eggers

Toph Eggers

Eggers’s little brother. Like Eggers, Toph watches his parents die within five weeks of one another. Since he’s only seven at the time, he’s less involved (or present) during their final days than Eggers… read analysis of Toph Eggers

Eggers’s Mother (Heidi Eggers)

Eggers, Beth, Toph, and Bill’s mother. At the beginning of A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, Heidi Eggers has already undergone multiple treatments for stomach cancer. After several operations and… read analysis of Eggers’s Mother (Heidi Eggers)

Eggers’s Father (John Eggers)

Eggers, Beth, Toph, and Bill’s father. Eggers only provides fragmentary and rather random bits of information about his father, which perhaps indicates how close he was to the man. Still, he… read analysis of Eggers’s Father (John Eggers)

Beth Eggers

Eggers and Toph’s older sister. Like Eggers, Beth takes on childcare responsibilities when their mother and father both die, leaving Toph without any parents. Although Eggers is the one who becomes Toph’s primary guardian… read analysis of Beth Eggers
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Bill Eggers

The oldest of the Eggers children. When Eggers’s mother is in the process of dying, Bill is already twenty-four and working in Washington, D.C. for the Heritage Foundation—Eggers, who has only a vague idea of… read analysis of Bill Eggers


Dave Eggers’s college girlfriend. After several months of dating, Eggers and Kirsten still feel “tentative” about the relationship, but then Kirsten comes home with Eggers for a visit and he tells her that his… read analysis of Kirsten


One of Eggers’s high school friends, and the co-founder of Might magazine. When Moodie and Eggers were teenagers, they ran a “highly successful” fake I.D. company, using brand-new “Macintosh technology” to print false driver’s… read analysis of Moodie


One of Eggers’s friends. John grew up in the same neighborhood as Eggers in Lake Forest, Illinois, and because their parents were friends, they have known each other for a very long time. Even… read analysis of John

Shalini Malhotra

A woman Eggers meets after setting up the Might magazine office in a “filthy corner of a shaky warehouse” where the rent is only $250 a month. Shalini also works in this warehouse, helping “with… read analysis of Shalini Malhotra

Meredith Weiss

One of Eggers’s friends. Meredith lives in LA but frequently visits San Francisco. When Eggers goes out one night while Toph is with a babysitter, he calls Meredith and invites her to come dancing… read analysis of Meredith Weiss

Sarah Mulhern

A woman Eggers has admired since childhood, when they were both on the same swim team. Two years his senior, Sarah was a proficient swimmer and diver, and Eggers never worked up the nerve to… read analysis of Sarah Mulhern

Laura Folger

A producer and “casting person” for MTV’s The Real World. Laura invites Eggers to an interview after he submits an audition tape to be on The Real World: San Francisco. As she asks… read analysis of Laura Folger

Sari Lockers

A sexologist that Eggers interviews for a piece in Might magazine making fun of her book, Mindblowing Sex in the Real World. Although the publication ends up running a disparaging piece about her work… read analysis of Sari Lockers

Lance Crapo

Someone who Eggers and Moodie “recruit” to help develop Might magazine’s business plan. Lance is “an heir to one of the biggest potato-farming families in Idaho” and knows how to handle “the magazine’s business aspects.”… read analysis of Lance Crapo

Skye Bassett

An actress and waitress who lives in New York City and agrees to help Might magazine by taking meetings on the east coast. Skye has appeared in a small role in the movie Dangerous Mindsread analysis of Skye Bassett


Toph’s babysitter. Stephen is from England, Scotland, or Ireland—Eggers can’t remember which. When he comes to babysit Toph one night, Eggers is delighted to have a night of freedom, but this excitement quickly… read analysis of Stephen
Minor Characters
One of Eggers’s friends who works on Might magazine. Like many of his other colleagues, Marny also went to high school with Eggers in Lake Forest, where they even dated for a brief period.
Zev Borow
An overzealous intern who comes to work for Might magazine after graduating from Syracuse University. Zev’s enthusiasm almost exhausts Eggers, who by the time of Zev’s arrival is having doubts about whether or not he wants to continue putting in the work to publish the magazine.
A cartoonist who is cast on The Real World instead of Eggers. While starring on the show, Judd sends his portfolio to Might magazine, and so Eggers and Moodie invite him to show them his artwork in person, hoping he’ll bring the camera crew along.
Adam Rich
A former child actor, who starred in the 1970s ABC dramedy Eight is Enough. Eggers and Moodie convince him to let them publish a fake obituary about him in Might.