Last Updated on September 4, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 400
Lydia dies at sixteen years old; her body is found at the bottom of a lake. She is quiet and compliant at home but has adventures toward the end of her life with her neighbor Jack. Her parents assumed she was a happy and well-adjusted child but found out she was struggling with school and friends after her death. Her death is ruled a suicide, and in the last scene, we learn that it was not intentional: she jumped in, even though she cannot swim, with the plan of coming back to shore.
James is Lydia's father. His parents were Chinese immigrants and workers at a private school he attended for free. In school at Harvard, he studied cowboys, an American cultural icon. He experiences racism in his job as a professor and from every social community he enters.
Marilyn is a white woman who was a student of James's while she was at Radcliffe. After she became pregnant, she and James married and moved to Ohio. After having two kids, Marilyn had an agitated breakdown and left her family for nine weeks with the plan to go to medical school. However, she found out she was pregnant and returns to James and her two kids.
Jack is a neighbor of the Lee family whom people say "deflowers" girls. Jack was Lydia's main friend in the days leading up to her death. Nath dislikes him and wished Lydia hadn't spent time with him. Nath is also convinced that Jack had something to do with Lydia's death and has an altercation with him.
Hannah is Lydia's younger sister and the youngest of the family. Not much attention is paid to her, so in response, she steals treasures from family members to hide them. She is saddened by Lydia's death and aware of what is happening around her as the mystery unfolds.
Nathan "Nath" Lee
Nath is the oldest child in the family; he does well in school and hopes to study science. He got into Harvard before Lydia died, and she hid the letter.
Doris is Marilyn's mother. She is obsessive about the image of the homemaker and even taught home economics at Marilyn's high school. Marilyn is upset by her mother's wishes and deeply affected by the model her mother sets. Marilyn stopped seeing her when Marilyn did not approve of Marilyn's marriage because of James's race.