Ginny Cook Smith
The protagonist and narrator of the novel, daughter of Larry Cook and wife of Tyler Smith. Ginny is a frustrated farmer’s daughter, full of repressed desires and thwarted ambitions. Along with Rose Cook Lewis… read analysis of Ginny Cook Smith
Rose Cook Lewis
The daughter of Larry Cook, and wife of Pete Lewis. Like her sister, Ginny Cook Smith, Rose is an ambitious, often greedy woman, but Rose is more open about her feelings than… read analysis of Rose Cook Lewis
The youngest of Larry Cook’s daughters, and her father’s favorite. Caroline is the only Cook daughter to go to college and (it’s suggested) the only daughter not to be sexually abused by Larry. Largely… read analysis of Caroline Cook
The patriarch of the Cook family, and the father of Rose, Caroline, and Ginny, Larry Cook is a proud, intimidating farmer who’s risen to own one thousand acres of fertile farmland. As a younger man… read analysis of Laurence Cook
The son of Harold Clark, and the brother of Loren Clark, Jess Clark is one of the most ambiguous characters in the novel. Unlike others in his community, Jess seems relatively uninterested in farming… read analysis of Jess Clark
The son of Harold Clark and the brother of Jess Clark, Loren is a minor character in the text, in spite of his close ties to Jess, Harold, and Larry. Unlike his brother, Jess… read analysis of Loren Clark
While Larry Cook’s wife never appears in the novel, her presence hangs over every page. In flashbacks, we learn that Mrs. Cook was a meek, submissive woman who always gave Larry what he wanted… read analysis of Mrs. Cook
Tyler “Ty” Smith
The husband of Ginny Cook Smith, Ty Smith is a hardworking, ambitious farmer. Over the course of the book, his allegiances are never entirely clear: there are times when he seems to share his… read analysis of Tyler “Ty” Smith
The husband of Rose Cook Lewis, Pete is a talented musician, and not a native of Rose’s community. As an outsider among stoic farmers, he’s often treated like a mere “tourist,” even after he… read analysis of Pete Lewis
Caroline Cook’s husband in Des Moines, who never appears in person in the novel. Frank corresponds to the character of the King of France in King Lear.
The community’s pastor.
Ken La Salle
The community’s resident lawyer, who represents Larry Cook in court when he tries to sue his two eldest daughters. Ken corresponds to the character of Kent in King Lear.
One of Larry Cook’s neighbors, who ended up selling his land to Larry and moving far away.
Cal Ericson’s wife.
Cal Ericson’s daughter, and Ginny Cook Smith’s only real friend as a child.
a woman to whom Jess Clark was engaged.
An elderly woman who knows Larry Cook’s family.
A poor farmer who was forced to sell his land to Larry Cook.
A cashier in town.
An antiques store owner.
The owner of a café in town.
The lawyer who represents Ginny Cook Smith and Rose Cook Lewis in court against their father.
Rose Cook Lewis’s daughter, beloved by Ginny and raised by her after Rose’s death.
Rose Cook Lewis’s other daughter, beloved by Ginny and raised by her after Rose’s death.
Larry Cook’s father, and one of the founders of the Cook farm.
Larry Cook’s mother.