half-black, half-Native American teenager, the daughter of Christine
and Elgin. Rayona is unusually tall and thin, and is very self-conscious
about her physical appearance. A very intelligent girl, Rayona is also
remarkably observant, though sometimes her ignorance of the world
leaves her at a disadvantage. She loves her parents but is repeatedly
disappointed by them, and she often feels unloved and unwanted.
She dreams about having a perfect family, and invents one based
on a letter she finds on the ground while working as a custodian
at Bearpaw Lake. Eventually, Rayona becomes satisfied with her real
family and abandons her fantasy of an ideal family.
in-depth analysis of Rayona.
and Lecon’s daughter. Christine is raised as Ida’s daughter, although
she is actually Ida’s half-sister and cousin. Christine is fickle
in her youth, going from fearless to devoutly religious, but she
loses her faith after an apocalyptic prophecy fails to come true.
After her disillusionment with religion, Christine devotes her time
to being popular and chasing boys. Christine is very protective
of her brother, Lee, and always concerned for his welfare. She is
self-sufficient, but is also hopelessly devoted to Elgin, Rayona’s
father. Christine tries to be a better mother to Rayona than Ida was
to her but nonetheless engages in excessive partying and drinking
that irreparably damage her liver and pancreas.
in-depth analysis of Christine.
daughter. Although she poses as Christine’s mother, Ida is actually
Christine’s half-sister and cousin: they share a father, and Christine’s
mother is the sister of Ida’s mother. Ida is often bitter and attempts
to distance herself from others, as she fears becoming too attached
to or dependent upon anyone. Ida feels she has spent her entire
life being taken by the flow of things. She stands firm only to
maintain custody of Christine.
in-depth analysis of Ida.
father, who has an affair with Clara that results in the birth of
Christine. Lecon runs off shortly after Ida’s mother dies, and does
aunt on her mother’s side, who has an affair with her brother-in-law,
Lecon. Clara is Christine’s biological mother, but the family hides
this fact to avoid disgrace. Ida assumes control of Christine’s upbringing
during the time Clara lives in Denver. When Clara returns to the
reservation and attempts to take Christine away, Ida asserts her
legal rights to the girl, and Clara leaves bitterly.
Lee’s best friend in high school, who shared the entire
reservation’s high hopes for Lee. Dayton and Christine would often
fight for Lee’s affections, and Dayton thinks of Christine as a
sister. After Lee’s death, Dayton shares a connection with Christine
because of their relationship with Lee.
son with Willard Pretty Dog, Lee grows up thinking he is Christine’s
brother. Initially a timid boy, Lee becomes the most attractive
young man on the reservation. Sometimes mocking in his pride, he
is sure that he will have the great future that the entire reservation
imagines for him.
husband and Rayona’s father. Elgin has good intentions but never
follows through. He seems to care for Christine, but never stays
with her for long; he claims to want to be there for Rayona, but
never is. He and Christine have an on-and-off relationship that typically
runs hot for a few weeks and cold for much longer periods.
A priest on the mission who first becomes acquainted
with Ida’s family after the affair between Clara and Lecon. Father
Hurlburt has a unique connection with Ida because, after the death
of her parents, he is the only person on the reservation who knows
the truth of Christine’s lineage. Ida and Father Hurlburt share
a special, though often unarticulated, friendship. He is one of
the few people who seems to understand Ida, and he is always there
when she needs him.
Father Tom Novak
A new cleric at the Holy Martyrs Mission who recruits
Rayona into the God Squad. Father Tom is the only person on the
reservation who seems to think Rayona is worth his time. The two
spend a lot of time together, if only because Rayona has no one
else to whom she can relate. However, their close friendship ends
awkwardly when Father Tom’s friendship turns to lechery at Bearpaw
Willard Pretty Dog
The most attractive boy on the reservation when Ida
is young. Willard comes back from World War II horribly scarred.
After some matchmaking by Father Hurlburt, Willard takes up with
Ida and fathers Lee. After his looks are restored through reconstructive surgery,
Willard is willing to stay with Ida out of duty, but when Ida realizes
his take on their relationship, she sends him home.
owner of a gas station near Bearpaw Lake. Sky is kind and giving,
but also rather simpleminded. He takes things as they come, and
Rayona appreciates his good humor.
wife and a cook at Bearpaw Lake State Park. Evelyn is strong willed,
understanding, and caring. She likes Rayona and tries to look out
sister. Pauline leaves their parents while Ida and Clara are away
in Colorado and goes to work with the nuns at the Holy Martyrs Mission.
Although Pauline cares about Ida and her family, she is often disapproving.
Pauline’s strong religious faith and identity sometimes make her
unbearably confident and self-righteous.
and Dale Cree’s son. Foxy, whose real name is Kennedy, is a cruel
boy. He taunts and even threatens Rayona, and always makes her very