Mr. Holtzman is Dennis's stepfather and Sheila's second husband. He adores Sheila and is a good provider for her, but he is stingy to others, always denying that he has much money, even though his shoe business is quite profitable. He asks Dennis and Billy to fix up his Long Beach house, where Billy meets Eva, and later, under Dennis's urging, agrees to lend the $500 Billy wants to bring Eva back to the United States.
Billy is the focus of the novel as his friends and relatives gather at his funeral to mourn him and to try to understand what led him to drink himself to death. While they all show great loyalty and sympathy for his memory, the narrator notes that Billy had "at some point, ripped apart, plowed through, as alcoholics tend to do, the great, deep, tightly woven fabric of affection that was some part of the emotional life" of all of them.
His friends and relatives, however, focus primarily on their fond memories of Billy: his loyalty, his perseverance, his kindness, and his poetic soul, displayed in the poetry he would recite by memory and his romanticism, which, Mcdermott suggests, along with his trusting nature, eventually destroyed him.
Billy charmed people with his affectionate nature and his ability "to find whomever he was talking to bright and witty and better than most." He drew out others' charm "with his own great expectations or simply imagined it, whole cloth." Billy had a "need to keep in touch, to keep talking, to be called by name when he entered the crowded barroom, slapped on the back." Yet, he had "half the life taken out of him" when Eva died. Dennis concludes, "for all the love he'd poured out for friends and family for all the years that he lived, he was never … loved sufficiently in return," at least not by Eva "whose love he most sought."
Daniel Lynch, Dennis's father, has a similar personality to that of Billy, except exaggerated. The narrator notes that from the moment Sheila married him, her home was not her own. He opened it to anyone who had emigrated from Ireland and needed a place to stay. Daniel "had bankrupted himself and estranged his wife and filled their tiny apartment with far-flung relatives from the other side: simply to know this power, this expansiveness" of giving to others something that they desperately needed.
Danny Lynch, another cousin, offers opinions about Billy at the funeral that often provide an alternate view of him. When Rosemary insists, for example, that Billy's alcoholism was caused by genetics and that he would have drunk himself to death even if he had not had his heart broken by Eva, Danny contradicts her, noting how heavy the burden of unrequited love was for Billy.
Dennis Lynch is Billy's cousin and was his best friend. Ironically, he may have destroyed Billy by lying to him about what happened to Eva. When Dennis tells him that Eva died of pneumonia instead of running off with a childhood sweetheart, he helps Billy perpetuate his romantic vision of her and the sense that destiny had cheated him. Dennis tells Billy the lie because of his desire to protect his friend, but he does not think carefully about his inability to recognize reality.
Dennis helps his daughter put the pieces of Billy's story together in an effort to get as accurate a portrait as possible, and also, most likely, to try to assuage his own guilt about telling the lie. He tries to get a clear vision of Billy, but his view inevitably becomes subjective. Dennis admits that he must at times also believe in a romantic vision of reality, which makes the hardships of life so much easier to endure. The narrator concludes that Dennis's and Billy's faith "was no less keen than their suspicion that in the end they might be proven wrong. And their certainty that they would continue to believe anyway."
Kate Lynch, Billy's older sister "whose memory had already proven keen," provides yet another view of her brother. She also offers her...
(The entire section is 1,240 words.)