The story’s older main character. Lucien is an art dealer and Nathaniel’s uncle, the husband of Nathaniel’s mother’s younger sister, Charlie. Lucien was born and bred in New York and has an intimate relationship with the city. He helped arrange for Nathaniel and his friends to live in an apartment owned by a client of his named Matsumoto. Lucien has not fully recovered from the grief of losing Charlie to cancer or from the trauma of 9/11 and feels that he’s growing very old.

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The story’s young protagonist. Nathaniel has come to New York from his hometown in the Midwest because has always envisioned himself living in the Big Apple. He works as an architect in the architectural division of the New York subway system but spends his free time drawing a semi-autobiographical comic that dramatizes the life of his hero Passivityman. He’s lived in Matsumoto’s apartment with his three best friends, Lyle, Amity, and Madison, for about three years.

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Lucien’s wife and the sister of Nathaniel’s mother. Charlie was born in America and met Lucian in New York. She was beautiful and artistic, which made her sister, Rose, jealous. Charlie died of cancer before Nathaniel moved to the city.


Nathaniel’s friend from college. Lyle sublets Matsumoto’s apartment and works as a sound technician in a theater. According to Nathaniel, Lyle’s “superpower” is his ability to arouse pity in anybody.


Nathaniel’s friend from college. Madison sublets Matsumoto’s apartment and recently quit his lucrative job working for a prestigious public relations firm. According to Nathaniel, Madison’s “superpower” is level-headedness. Madison recently learned he has a sister he never knew.


Nathaniel’s friend from college. Amity sublets Matsumoto’s apartment and works at a department store selling beauty products. She recently wrote a book about her experiences called Inner Beauty Secrets. Nathaniel believes her special trait is exploiting the weaknesses of others.


Nathaniel’s mother and the older sister of Lucien’s deceased wife, Charlie. Rose emigrated from Eastern Europe when she was just a child and has never fully recovered from the experience. She lives in the Midwest and is a practicing Jew.


Nathaniel’s father and Rose’s wife. Isaac immigrated to America from Eastern Europe with his family when he was a very young boy and never fully recovered from the traumatic experience. He works for a company that manufactures vacuum cleaners, a financially stable occupation. He is Jewish and a member of his local temple.


Nathaniel’s older, exotic female friend. Delphine is of Armenian decent and doesn’t think of herself as American. She came to New York seeking a romantic experience and dates rich, older men. She is very beautiful and attends Lucien’s fancy art parties.

Yoshi Matsumoto

A wealthy Japanese client of Lucien’s. Matsumoto has allowed Nathaniel and his friends to sublet his apartment while he is living outside New York. The apartment is very close to the site of the World Trade Center.