Joe Bonham

The protagonist and narrator of the novel. Joe grew up in Shale City, Colorado, then moved to Los Angeles with his family where he worked in a bakery. An infantryman in World War I, Joe sustained serious injuries when a shell exploded near him. Lying in his hospital bed, Joe slowly realizes that he has no limbs, nor a face, and therefore cannot move, smell, see, hear, taste, or speak.

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Bill Bonham

Joe's father, who died before Joe went to war. Bill Bonham was a hard worker and was close with his son and his wife. He kept a large garden that fed his family well, but never made enough money to be a financial success.

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Macia Bonham

Joe's mother, who was very close with Joe's father. Macia would cook and bake delicious meals with the food that he produced on their property.

Regular Day Nurse

Joe's regular day nurse, whom he senses is a heavyset woman with a lot of nursing experience. Joe guesses she is middle-aged and gray-haired. Joe likes her efficiency and her affection for him.

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New Day Nurse

From the vibrations of her steps, Joe senses that the new day nurse is shorter, lighter, and younger that the old day nurse. The new day nurse has a sympathetic connection with Joe and understands that he is trying to communicate.


Joe's nineteen-year-old girlfriend when he left for the war. Kareen is beautiful and tiny, and Joe teases her about her Irish background. Kareen gave Joe her ring the night before he left.


Kareen's father, a crotchety man. Mike worked as a coal miner for twenty-eight years and then worked on the railroad.

Bill Harper

Joe's best friend in Shale City, Colorado.


A boy with whom Joe grew up in Shale City. Howie and Joe were not good friends, but they decided to work on a section gang together one summer when they both learned their girlfriends had cheated on them.


Joe's girlfriend in Shale City until she cheated on him with Glen Hogan.


A Puerto Rican man who was hired to work in the Los Angeles bakery where Joe worked. Jose had been a chauffeur in New York City and was looking for a job in a film studio. He tried to be courteous and generous, especially toward Jody Simmons, who gave him his job.

Jody Simmons

The night shift manager at the Los Angeles bakery where Joe worked.

Pinky Carson

A worker at the bakery in Los Angeles. It was Pinky's idea for Jose to try to get himself fired by being clumsy.

Corporal Timlon

The corporal in charge of the English regiment stationed next to Joe's regiment just before Joe was hit. Timlon was charged, by his superior, with the task of burying and then reburying the body of "Lazarus," the German his regiment shot and left hanging on the barbed wire.


A prostitute at Stumpy Telsa's in Shale City. Laurette and Joe became friends as Joe was finishing high school. Joe imagined that she was in love with him.

Bonnie Flannigan

A woman, younger than Joe, who also grew up in Shale City. Bonnie and Joe met up again in Los Angeles.


One of the American prostitutes in the American House in Paris for soldiers overseas. Lucky and Joe would talk and gossip.