Antonio Parr, the narrator, in his middle thirties. Antonio and his friend Ellie Pierce gather information to expose Leo Bebb as a fraudulent promoter of religion. Antonio quickly becomes involved with the Bebb family and marries Sharon Bebb.
Leo Bebb, a heavyset, bald Southerner in his late fifties. He operates a diploma mill, called Gospel Faith College, and an ordination mill, called The Church of Holy Love, Inc., in Armadillo, Florida, and later on Red Path Ranch near Houston, Texas. Leo Bebb has all the traits of a charlatan who takes money in exchange for academic and ministerial credentials. His life is littered with scandals such as exposing himself to children, for which he served time, and exposing himself again at Herman Redpath’s ordination. This latter event helped restore Herman’s potency.
Sharon Bebb, the adopted daughter of Leo and Lucille Bebb. Sharon is a foulmouthed and promiscuous woman who marries Antonio Parr.
Lucille Bebb, the first wife of Leo Bebb. She accidentally killed her first child and attempted suicide out of grief. She spends most of her time trying to drown her sorrows with Tropicana drinks, made of orange juice and gin.
Laverne Brown, called Brownie, a former car salesman whom Leo Bebb raised from the dead and promoted to being the dean of Gospel Faith College. As Leo’s loyal assistant, Brownie functions like a slavishly dutiful wife, maid, and colleague. Brownie’s B.D., S.T.M., Th.D., and D.D. degrees are all from his own correspondence college.
Miriam Blaine, the twin sister of Antonio Parr, the former wife of Charlie Blaine, and the mother of Chris and Tony Blaine. She suffers from myeloma, a cancer of the bone that takes her life.
Charlie Blaine, the hypochondriac former husband of Miriam Blaine who cannot bear to see her before her death and eventually leaves her sons with Antonio and Sharon.
Tony Blaine, the youngest son of Charlie and Miriam Blaine. Tony, along with Chris, comes to live with Antonio and Sharon.
Chris Blaine, the studious elder son of Charlie and Miriam Blaine. He later helps take care of his cousin, Billy, while Sharon and Antonio busy themselves with their careers.