Catherine "Kya" Clark

The protagonist of the novel. Kya is curious, brave, and stubborn. Informed by early childhood trauma, she generally eschews contact with society. Rather, her insights and passions are connected to the land and water surrounding her. Her love of nature is deep and abiding, and she has a keen understanding of its wonders and dangers.

Tate Walker

Kya’s eventual life partner. Tate is thoughtful, gentle, and bound to the land nearly as closely as Kya. Approaching the marsh from a scientific perspective, he provides a balance to Kya's more intuitive method. He teaches her to read as a child, and provides a regular, if not constant, touchstone to human companionship.


A Black man who periodically provides for Kya and serves as a parental figure. Jumpin' runs the gas station on the wharf that provides many of Kya's necessary supplies. His attentiveness and respectful distance allow Kya to thrive for years after losing her family.

Chase Andrews

Barkley Cove's favorite young man. The investigation and trial surrounding his death is one of the parallel stories taking place throughout the book. His pursuit of and relationship with Kya is connected to his death, for which she is put on trial. He is privileged, thoughtless, and part of a powerful local family.

Jodie Clark

Kya's brother, six years her elder. Jodie leaves when Kya is six years old. Jodie is the first person to teach Kya about the marsh and he encourages her to use her knowledge to protect herself. He returns as an adult with information about their mother's life and death following her departure. Jodie is Kya's closest family member.

Jackson "Pa" Clark

Kya's father, a violent alcoholic who abandons her at age 10. Pa is a disabled veteran who takes out his trauma on his children before and after his wife leaves. His regular absences end with him eventually leaving for good.

Scupper Walker

Tate's father, a fisherman. Scupper is very proud of his son for transcending his social station and becoming a scientist. He enjoys opera as his own escape from the banality of fishing.

Tom Milton

Kya's defense attorney during her trial. Tom is considered to be the best defense lawyer in the area. His work acquits Kya of Chase's murder.

Ed Jackson and Joe Purdue

Sheriff and deputy, respectively. Their investigation into Chase's death culminates in Kya's trial.