Rufus Follet, a six-year-old who loves his father and mother but is otherwise fearful about the world of grown-ups. That world is a confusing place where older children ridicule his name (his mother tells him it is a fine old name), adults often use words he does not understand, and his beloved father dies suddenly in a car accident. Rufus compensates for his fears by bullying his little sister. It is a mark of his intelligence that he sometimes understands his motives and usually feels remorseful for tyrannizing her.
Jay Follet, the young husband and father who is killed as he returns home from the bedside of his own mortally ill father. Jay loves his wife, for whom he does many kindnesses, and his children, but he resents his drunken brother Ralph’s weak reliance on him for emotional support. Jay had been a heavy drinker in the past but for the sake of his wife left that behind. A family friend tells Rufus that his father grew up in poverty and against hard odds but turned out to be a man of great kindness and generosity. The priest who conducts the funeral nevertheless notes that Jay was never baptized and thus is not entitled to the full burial rites of the church.
Mary Follet, Jay’s young wife, loving, pious, and naïve. She must begin to face the demands that her new status as widow will place on her. During the few days between her husband’s death and the funeral, Mary leans heavily on her family and her faith as a devout Roman Catholic, but she also exhibits her own strength of character at crucial times. She asks her Aunt Hannah Lynch to spend the first...
(The entire section is 688 words.)