Hannah “Sissy” McKarkle
Hannah “Sissy” McKarkle, a writer based in New York City. Unconventional and highly intelligent, Hannah searches for truths and in so doing alienates almost everyone with whom she comes in contact. In her hometown of Canona, West Virginia, and to a large extent in her own family, Hannah is seen as an outsider and a troublemaker because she refuses to accept the restrictions that others would place on her. In this sense, she is a rebel and a lover of liberty and thus inextricably linked to other historical figures who defied popular conventions of the day. As the novel opens, Hannah has returned to her hometown to uncover the reasons for her brother Johnny’s death.
John (Johnny) McKarkle
John (Johnny) McKarkle, Hannah’s older brother. Rich, charming, and self-absorbed, Johnny, unlike Hannah, superficially takes on the roles expected of him, from loving son to rich playboy. In so doing, he loses himself and becomes a tragic victim, a seeming sacrifice to powers beyond his control. He loves Hannah more than their parents do and virtually rears her. One night, during a fight in a jail cell, he receives a blow to the head that proves fatal.
Sally Brandon McKarkle
Sally Brandon McKarkle, Hannah’s mother. Hard, cold, and manipulative, she is a society lady in a coal-rich town. Mrs. McKarkle tries to cast her children according to her wishes and succeeds with Melinda and Johnny. After Johnny’s death, she disowns Hannah for refusing to stay at home and tend to her.
Preston (Mooney) McKarkle
Preston (Mooney) McKarkle, Hannah’s father. An ambitious man, he leaves his family farm and achieves success running a coal mine and a law practice. He meets Sally Brandon when she is a little girl, just after...
(The entire section is 751 words.)