The overprotective father of the four Garcia sisters. Carlos also resisted the military dictatorship in the Dominican Republic. As a result of his political activities, the family had to flee to the United States.

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The mother of the four sisters. Laura had to adjust to cultural and material differences in the United States. Her family name and privilege meant much less in the U.S. than it had in the Dominican Republic, though she continued to be proud and supportive of her daughters.

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The oldest of the Garcia sisters. Carla had the most difficulty adjusting to school and the English language after the move to the U.S. She grew up to be a psychologist.

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The second oldest daughter. Sandi felt stifled and frustrated as a child, and lost her artistic vision after she suffered a broken arm. She had a mental breakdown as an adult.

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The rebellious tomboy of the family in the Dominican Republic, though once in the U.S. she developed into a poet. Her difficulties with men and a painful divorce led her into a mental breakdown as well.

Read an in-depth analysis of Yolanda


The youngest daughter of the Garcia family. Sofia's wild and rebellious streak came out during her adolescence, when she challenged her father's authority and ran away to Germany to marry Otto.

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Yolanda's favorite cousin asked her to prove she was a girl in exchange for pink modeling clay when they were children. He later protected Sofia and Manuel from getting into trouble for having sex.


Sofia's boyfriend while she lived on the Island, also her illegitimate cousin on her father's side of the family.

Victor Hubbard

An American CIA operative who arranges for Carlos and his family to escape to the United States. He responds to the code phrase "come get your tennis shoes," and likes to intimidate the local police and sleep with young girls.


Sofia met Otto while traveling in Colombia. They fell in love, he wrote her love letters, and she ran away from home to be with him in Germany.


The Garcia family's Haitian maid in the Dominican Republic. She practices voodoo and sleeps in a coffin.


The family's Dominican maid was fired for accepting a toy bank from Carla as a present.

Dr. Fanning

This friend of the family arranged for Carlos's medical fellowship and helped the family out when they first arrived in the United States.

Mrs. Fanning

Kisses Carlos in the restroom of a Spanish restaurant during a celebratory dinner. She also ruined Sandra's enjoyment of a flamenco act.


Yolanda's husband ceased to make sense to her and spoke only in a babbling gibberish once she realized she did not love him anymore.


Yolanda's first boyfriend became frustrated because she did not want to have sex. She felt very insecure because of her experience with him, until she realized that he had been a jerk all along.

Dona Charito

Sandra's childhood art teacher disciplined her for disobedience instead of encouraging her talent and enthusiasm for art.

Don Jose

Dona Charito's insane sculptor husband terrified Sandra and made her fall and break her arm. He later put her face on a statue of the Virgin Mary.


Within Alvarez's novel, this real life Dominican dictator lived next door to the de la Torre compound, and took walks with his grandson through the adjoining grounds. His secret police also threatened Carlos's and others' lives.