Mrs. Richardson / Elena
Mrs. Richardson is a journalist, mother, and Shaker Heights native who embodies several of the novel’s themes: motherhood, altruism, and allegiance to order. Born and raised in Shaker Heights, the prim and proper Mrs. Richardson—who… read analysis of Mrs. Richardson / Elena
Mr. Richardson / Bill
Mrs. Richardson’s husband and the Richardson children’s father. He and his wife met in college, and, though he was not from Ohio, he was easily convinced to move to his wife’s hometown, Shaker Heights… read analysis of Mr. Richardson / Bill
A sophomore in high school, Moody is the first of the Richardson children to befriend Pearl. He develops romantic feelings for her, and attempts to show her the ways in which his family can… read analysis of Moody Richardson
A junior in high school and an athlete, Trip is “roguish” and good-looking, and quickly becomes the object of Pearl’s affections. Though at first it seems as if Trip could just be using Pearl… read analysis of Trip Richardson
The eldest of the Richardson children and the most like her mother, Lexie is a smart and sensitive “girl’s girl” who dreams alternately of escaping to Yale and remaining in Shaker Heights to raise a… read analysis of Lexie Richardson
Mia Warren’s coworker at Lucky Palace, a local Chinese restaurant. Bebe confides in Mia about her life, revealing that a year ago she had a baby, but was forced to leave her at a… read analysis of Bebe Chow
Mirabelle McCullough / May Ling Chow
Left at an East Cleveland fire station as an infant, May Ling Chow becomes the center of a complex, emotional legal case surrounding the legality—and morality—of her transracial adoption by a white family, the McCulloughs… read analysis of Mirabelle McCullough / May Ling Chow
Linda and Mark McCullough
May Ling Chow’s adoptive parents, who have longed for a child for years. They rename May Ling “Mirabelle” and welcome her lovingly into their home—but before the adoption can go through, they are blindsided… read analysis of Linda and Mark McCullough
The tenant in the downstairs apartment of the Richardsons’ rental house—the first tenant Mrs. Richardson had ever taken on. Mr. Yang is an immigrant from Hong Kong, and he works as a school bus driver… read analysis of Mr. Yang
Lexie’s boyfriend, also a high school senior. He has his heart set on Princeton; his parents, who he has nicknamed “Cliff and Clair” due to their “Cosbyish vibe,” met at Princeton as undergraduates. Lexie… read analysis of Brian
The orchestra teacher at the Richardson’s school. Her alcoholism and the hangovers with which she shows up to class are an open secret, and she is cruel to several of her students, most pointedly Deja… read analysis of Mrs. Peters
A famous photographer whose photographs “had been some of the most sought after” of the 1970s, she was Mia’s instructor in college and, eventually, her mentor and closest confidante in New York City. She… read analysis of Pauline Hawthorne
Joseph and Madeleine Ryan
During Mia’s time as an art student in New York City, Joseph Ryan, a wealthy Manhattan lawyer, spotted a young Mia on the subway and was struck by her resemblance to his wife. He… read analysis of Joseph and Madeleine Ryan
Mr. and Mrs. Wright
Mia’s parents, who shunned Mia after learning of her pregnancy, unable to believe that she would “sell [her] own child.” They have been estranged from her ever since her brother Warren’s funeral, which… read analysis of Mr. and Mrs. Wright
Mia’s younger brother, a promising athlete who died at the age of 17 in a tragic car accident. Mia and Warren had been very close and had shared a deep friendship until she asked… read analysis of Warren Wright
A local lawyer who offers to represent Bebe Chow pro bono in her custody case against the state. Ed helps Bebe to file paperwork that grants her visitation rights with May Ling, and attempts… read analysis of Ed Lim
An old college friend of Mrs. Richardson’s and the head of a medical clinic on Shaker Heights’s East Side—the only clinic that provides abortions. Once mousy, “timid,” and an “easy target for mockery,” Mrs… read analysis of Elizabeth Manwill
Lexie’s best friend since the sixth grade. The two girls seem to be on opposite sides of the debate over May Ling Chow, and, perhaps as a result of this tension, Pearl slowly replaces Serena as Lexie’s closest confidante.
One of the Richardsons’ classmates, notorious for her “legend[ary]” house parties. Lexie, Trip, and Pearl, as well as Brian and Serena, attend a costume party at Stacie’s house on Halloween.
A gallery owner in New York City who once represented Pauline Hawthorne, and now sometimes sells Mia’s work.
Izzy Richardson’s classmate who is bullied mercilessly by their orchestra teacher, Mrs. Peters.
Trip’s friend, who allows Trip to use his parents’ basement as a meeting place for his trysts with girls. Trip eventually brings Pearl there as they conduct a hidden relationship.