Toni Strauss, née Rosenfeld, a Jewish woman who was divorced by her gentile husband when she was only twenty years old; they had been married three years. A dark, beautiful woman, she has had many lovers. A year after an elderly lover dies and leaves her a legacy, Toni decides that she and her son must return to her birthplace. She is short on education and academic knowledge, which leads her son to think that she is a stupid woman, yet people fall in love with her wherever she goes. Toni almost dies of typhus when they are in Buszwyn. Throughout the book, Toni experiences an ever-growing fear. It is an oppression that grows greater as she and Rudi near her parents’ village, just as her craving for coffee increases. In the end, she is taken by the Nazis, along with her parents, to the concentration camps.
Rudi Strauss, Toni’s son by her gentile husband, August Strauss. Rudi loves his mother but cannot stand the way that her mind seems to be a jumble of thoughts clouded with fear. His connection with animals emphasizes the difference between his mother’s hypersensitivity and his insensitivity. After a drunken binge, he recovers to find that his mother has gone to see her parents without him. He follows, but a day behind, to the railway station. Along the way, he meets Arna and takes her with him.
Rosemarie, the dead owner of a tavern, murdered...
(The entire section is 412 words.)