Husband of Amanda, father of Archie and Rosie, a middle-aged, middle-class professor of English and media studies. Clay is a loving husband and father who wants to be a traditional patriarch but lacks practical skills. He enjoys the status of being a professor but isn’t hardworking or ambitious. His addiction to smoking is an open secret in his marriage.  

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Wife of Clay, mother of Archie and Rose, and an account director with an advertising agency. Amanda takes pride in her career, is more driven than Clay, and likes to be needed at work. She’s a protective mother and loving wife but not above fantasizing about other men. She has difficulty overcoming her racism in her relationship with the Washingtons. To cope with her stress, she drinks and eats to excess.  

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G. H. Washington 

Husband of Ruth, father of Maya, a wealthy, sixty-something Black man who works in private equity and owns the home that Amanda and Clay are staying in. G. H. believes that most world events can be predicted by studying the yield curve. He lives on the Upper East Side, drives an expensive car, and appreciates the finer things in life. He likes to talk and offer advice, especially about his specialty, managing money. He believes that any problem can be solved if you have enough information. He sees himself as a man of his generation, decisive and ready to act in a crisis. He wants to do the right thing in any situation. 

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Ruth Washington 

Wife of G. H., mother of Maya, a wealthy, sixty-something Black woman who is retired from her career in admissions at Dalton, an exclusive Manhattan private school. Ruth is very maternal, thinking constantly about her grown daughter, Maya, and her grandsons, and she strives to be open-minded about Maya’s lesbian relationship. She feels compelled to restore order by washing up and tidying but resists traditional gender roles. Less sympathetic to Amanda and Clay at first, she is unable to withhold support and empathy when Archie becomes ill and Rose disappears. 

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Daughter of Clay and Amanda, sister of Archie, a chubby, plain bookworm who likes to bake. At the beginning of the novel, Rose is obsessed with her rich friend Hazel and wants to spend her spare time watching TV. By the end, she is the most practical of them all, setting off on a mission to do something about their situation.  


Son of Clay and Amanda, brother of Rose, a tall sixteen-year-old who is doted on by his parents. He feels superior to his younger sister but humors her by playing games with her when he’s bored. He considers himself to be much older and wiser than Rose, and enjoys telling her scary stories when they walk through the woods. As a teenager, Archie is interested in sex, but his experience is limited to looking at photos of naked women on his phone. Before spending the day at the beach, he admires his muscles in the mirror. 


G. H. and Ruth’s former contractor, married to Karen, father of four-year-old Emma. Danny is handsome, confident, gun-toting, and unhelpful. G. H. wants a close friendship with Danny, but Danny sees G. H. only as a client and makes no effort to help him when he asks for assistance. He believes war has broken out and Clay considers him a conspiracy theorist.  

Woman on the Roadside 

A Spanish-speaking woman Clay passes while he gets lost on the road. She seems frightened and grips the car door as she talks to Clay, but because he doesn’t understand her, he drives away without her. 


G. H. and Ruth’s daughter, married to Clara, head of a Montessori school, lives in Boston, mother of toddler twin boys. 


Classmate of Rose. Hazel’s father is a director at Lazard, putting her in a higher social class than Rose. Hazel’s family is vacationing in East Hampton, which is far from where Rose’s family will be. 


Friend of Archie. His two dads are divorcing and he is spending his summer in a Bergen Street brownstone smoking pot. 


Amanda’s employee at the advertising agency. Jocelyn is of Korean descent, but she was born and raised in South Carolina, so she has a Southern accent, which Amanda cannot get used to.  


Wife of Danny, mother of Henry and Emma.