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Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 369

Abraham Verghese is the author of the book. He is a man of Indian descent who lived in many places around the world before he came to America, did his medical residency, and moved to Johnson City, Tennesee, where the majority of the book takes place. He's a doctor who specializes in infectious diseases and therefore doesn't make a lot of money or have a great deal of prestige.

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In Tennesee, Verghese works with AIDS patients. At the beginning of the AIDS epidemic, the disease and people with it weren't understood or very accepted by society. Many doctors weren't willing to work with people who were infected. Because Verghese was, he quickly found himself with a large patient list. The nature of his work and the amount of time he spent working isolated him from his wife and family. He describes the breakdown of his marriage and how, though he loved his home in Johnson City, he eventually had to leave. His new job let him work with AIDS patients in a more removed way, so he wouldn't be as affected by their lives.

Rajani Verghese is Abraham's wife at the beginning of the book. Though their marriage is strong at first, things get worse the longer they're in Johnson City. She's nervous about the possibility of him contracting AIDS. She also struggles with the amount of time he spends at work away from his family.

Steven Verghese is the child of Rajani and Abraham.

Essie Vines is a coworker of Verghese's. Her brother is infected with AIDS, and she asks Verghese to find out what's wrong with him.

Gordon Vines is one of the first people Verghese works with who has AIDS.

Ed Maupin is a patient of Verghese's. He's a mechanic. He's been in a relationship with Bobby (below) since they were children.

Bobby Keller works in retail and has been having a sexual relationship with Ed since they were children.

Clyde McCray was molested as a child and got AIDS as a result. He and his wife are patients of Verghese.

Vickie McCray is Clyde's wife. She got AIDS from him. She volunteers with AIDS organizations and helps care for her husband as his health declines.

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