At a Glance

  • Ruth Stone, the narrator and protagonist, a teenager who decides to become a drifter with her aunt.
  • Lucille Stone, Ruth's sister, who leaves home in order to live a conventional life.
  • Sylvie Foster Fisher, Ruth and Lily's eccentric aunt, who burns down the house before officials can remove Ruth from her care.
  • Sylvia Foster, Ruth and Lily's grandmother, who cares for the girls after their mother's death.
  • Helen Foster Stone, Ruth and Lily's mother, who commits suicide by driving into a lake.
  • Lily and Nona Foster, Sylvia's sisters-in-law
  • Miss Royce, Lucille's unmarried home economics teacher, with whom she moves in.

Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Ruth Stone

Ruth Stone, the protagonist and first-person narrator. An awkward adolescent during much of the novel, Ruth is often silent and likes to read. Like the biblical Ruth, she is destined to follow others; first her sister Lucille in a search for acceptance from the town, then her aunt Sylvie in a search for identity. Ruth, though passive and interior, carefully considers the world around her and is a keen observer. She gradually abandons the conventional world of Fingerbone, Idaho, for the lure of a transient lifestyle with Sylvie. As Ruth recollects the events of the novel, she builds her identity.

Lucille Stone

Lucille Stone, Ruth’s younger sister, who is usually the one to lead her older, more shy sister around. Lucille is more interested in being like everyone else than is Ruth. She attempts to participate in the shadowy forms of housekeeping practiced by Sylvie but eventually abandons the hope that her aunt—and eventually, even Ruthie—will ever conform to any recognizable social conventions. Lucille is not content to drift; she is interested in anchoring and some permanence in her life.

Sylvie Foster Fisher

Sylvie Foster Fisher, Ruth and Lucille’s mysterious aunt. She comes to take care of Ruth and Lucille after Lily and Nona declare themselves unable to do so. Sylvie attempts to overcome her urge to drift and travel without destination in a heroic effort to provide a...

(The entire section is 553 words.)