The protagonist of the novel. Subhash is a reserved, thoughtful, and studious young man whose coming-of-age in a post-Partition Calcutta forms the groundwork of his life—a life which will be ripped apart by both… read analysis of Subhash Mitra
Udayan’s widow Gauri is the antagonist of the novel—a smart, aloof, and selfish woman whose unresolved grief over Udayan’s death and feelings of inadequacy as a mother ultimately result in her detaching herself from… read analysis of Gauri Mitra
Bela Mitra is the biological daughter of Udayan and Gauri, though she is raised in Rhode Island by Gauri and Subhash. Bela is, for all of her childhood and much of her adult… read analysis of Bela Mitra
Subhash’s younger brother Udayan is a rascal, a radical, and in many ways a secondary antagonist of the novel—despite the fact that he dies early on and exists only in the collective consciousness of… read analysis of Udayan Mitra
Subhash’s roommate during his first year of graduate school. Richard is a radical and opposed to the war in Vietnam but has never heard of the Naxalites or Naxalbari. Many decades after Richard… read analysis of Richard Grifalconi
Subhash and Udayan’s mother. In the years after her youngest son’s death, Bijoli, her mind addled by age and grief, spends her days carefully tending the post at the edge of the lowland that marks the spot where Udayan died.
A former student of Gauri’s who approaches her years after taking her class to ask if he can interview for a book he is writing on the Naxalite movement. At first, Gauri wants nothing to do with the book, but soon agrees to be interviewed anonymously.
Subhash’s second wife, whom he meets at Richard’s funeral. The two are instantly attracted to one another. Subhash learns that Elise was one of Bela’s high school teachers and now works at the local historical society. They begin a relationship soon after meeting and eventually marry.
A philosophy instructor at the university where Subhash works. Gauri enrolls in one of his classes, and at the end of the semester Otto is so impressed by her work that he offers to help her gain admission to a doctoral program.
A graduate student at UCLA who approaches Gauri to ask if she will help her with her philosophy dissertation. The two experience an attraction to one another, and soon embark on a sexual relationship.
A real-life figure, Majumdar was a Bengali Communist instrumental in forming the CPI(ML). A college dropout from a well-to-do, landowning family, he was eventually arrested after the Naxalites become a veritable terrorist organization and died in police custody in Calcutta.
A real-life figure and a Bengali Communist from an upper-caste family who began as a disciple of Majumdar and eventually rose to power as the head of the radical CPI(ML). Sanyal eventually committed suicide in 2010.
A radical medical student who attends school with Udayan. He runs meetings of the CPI(ML) and believes that revolutionary violence is justified. He is eventually arrested by the police; it is unknown whether he lives or dies in their custody.
An Indian economics professor from the state of Madras. He is a friend to Subhash.
Gauri’s brother, who first introduces her to Udayan.
A Muslim man still living in Tollygunge decades after Partition.
Holly’s young son.
A young Bengali woman who works as Bijoli’s housemaid and caretaker in her later years.
A farmer in Providence who pursues a relationship with Bela. Though she is wary of letting someone into her life, Drew proves himself a loyal and giving partner to her.
The proprietor of the guesthouse Gauri stays in when she returns, at last, to Calcutta.
A policeman whom Udayan’s party conspires to kill.