A Dona Althea
Dona Althea is one of the formidable ladies of the Stitch and Bitch Club. She is old, silver-haired, and tiny, and she always dresses in black. She is also strong-willed. Codi regards her as “fierce and miniature like a frightening breed of small dog.” When the Stitch and Bitch Club fights to save the town, Dona Althea becomes their media spokeswoman and is interviewed by CBS.
Carlo was Codi’s lover in Tucson, Arizona, before she moved back to Grace. He is an emergency-room doctor, and he met Codi when they were both in medical school. Shy and preferring to avoid company, Carlo never settles long in one place. He and Codi spent a few years together on Crete.
C Uda Dell
Uda Dell is a widow who sometimes took care of Codi over a period of about ten years until Codi was fourteen. At first, Codi does not remember her. Uda helps Codi explore Doc Homer’s attic and shares her memories of Codi as a child. Uda is also fond of Doc Homer and tries to take care of him.
D Emelina Domingos
Emelina is an old high school friend of Codi, and Codi stays at her guesthouse when she returns to Grace. Emelina married immediately after her high school graduation and has five young sons. She is a practical and capable woman (she slaughters chickens herself) with an earthy sense of humor. She takes to motherhood easily and manages her large family with loving efficiency. She becomes Codi’s confidante.
E Juan Teobaldo Domingos
J. T. Domingos is Emelina’s husband. When he and Codi were toddlers, they were next door neighbors and played together. They also went to the same high school, where J. T. was the captain of the football team. However, they were not friends. J. T. now works on the railroad and is out of town most of the time.
F Viola Domingos
An active member of the Stitch and Bitch Club, Viola Domingos is J. T.’s mother. She is a widow and is close to Dona Althea. Viola is proud of her Hispanic cultural heritage and wants her son and daughter-in-law to raise their children to speak Spanish and know their own culture. At the end of the novel, Viola takes Codi to the alfalfa field where Codi as a three-year-old witnessed the helicopter taking her dead mother away.
G Doc Homer
See Homer Noline
H Codi Noline
See Cosima Noline
I Cosima Noline
Cosima (or Codi) Noline is the sister of Hallie and the daughter of Doc Homer. It is she who narrates most of the story. Codi is tall, just under six feet. She is highly intelligent and well educated, having completed medical school. However, she dropped out of medicine near the end of her first year of residency because she lacked confidence in her abilities. Since that time she has done various research jobs, which she had little interest in, and moved around the country with her lover, Carlo. She also spent a few years on Crete.
When the novel opens, Codi is returning to her hometown of Grace, Arizona, from Tucson, where her most recent job was working the night shift at a convenience store.
Codi is close to her younger sister, Hallie, and wonders why they turned out to be so different in temperament and attitude. Hallie is confident, untroubled by doubt, but Codi feels aimless, not knowing what to do with her life. She is often introspective and indulges in self-criticism. Lacking an inner sense of direction, she goes where the wind blows. In the past, this meant that she went wherever Carlo’s work as an emergency-room doctor took him. Codi doesn’t believe that she fits in anywhere, and she feels timid about approaching life with any gusto. “I feel small and ridiculous and hemmed in on every side by the need to be safe,” she writes in a confessional letter to Hallie.
Codi has no confidence that anyone would enjoy or seek out her company. She feels that she does not deserve love and is incapable of showing any. According to her own analysis, this negative self-image was formed early in her life, in response to the deep losses she suffered. Her mother died when she was three, and Cosima lost a baby to a miscarriage when she was fifteen. This has led her to internalize the belief that “Nothing you love will stay.”
However, Codi is more competent and well liked than she realizes. She has no difficulty gaining the loyal friendship of Emelina or attracting the romantic interest of handsome Loyd Peregrina. She also turns out to be an excellent high school teacher. By the end of the novel, Codi has found her place in life. Teaching school, living with Loyd and pregnant, she is content to be part of the community in Grace.
J Halimeda Noline
Hallie is the younger sister of Codi and the daughter of Doc Homer. She does not appear directly in the novel but is revealed through Codi’s memories of her and her letters from Nicaragua, from which Codi quotes extensively.
Like Codi, Hallie is tall, over six feet. She and Codi are extremely close, although Hallie is Codi’s opposite. She is purposeful and knows exactly what she wants to do in life, giving herself totally to causes she believes in. She feels other people’s pain as if it was her own and wants to do something to alleviate it. She first becomes aware of the political situation in Central America by taking in refugees while she is living in Tucson. Then she travels to Nicaragua to help the development of agriculture, caring nothing about the danger she will be encountering (there is an armed conflict going on).
Although she has a serious attitude toward life, Hallie possesses a lighter side. She is playful, vivacious, and popular, and she knows how to enjoy herself. “She could moonwalk like Michael Jackson,” Codi observes. Codi has a boundless admiration for Hallie. She contrasts Hallie’s clarity of mind and purpose with her own indecisiveness. According to Codi, Hallie just charges ahead in life, doing the right thing to save the world.
Hallie vehemently denies that she is doing anything as grandiose as saving the world. She explains her far more modest goal in a letter to Codi: The very least you can do in your life is to figure out what you hope for. And the most you can do is live inside that hope. Not admire it from a distance but live right in it, under its roof. What I want is so simple I almost can’t say it: elementary kindness. Enough to eat, enough to go around. The possibility that kids might one day grow up to be neither the destroyers nor the destroyed.
Hallie has always been lucky. She has walked away from car wrecks and bike wrecks, and refers to herself as “the luckiest person alive.” But Hallie’s luck runs out in Nicaragua, where she is kidnapped by the Nicaraguan rebels, the contras, who eventually shoot her in the head and leave her body by a roadside.
K Hallie Noline
See Halimeda Noline
L Homer Noline
Doc Homer, whose full name is Dr. Homer Noline, is the father of Codi and Hallie. For many years he has been Grace’s only physician, but at the age of 66, he is showing signs of the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease. He forgets easily, and his mind often cannot distinguish between past and present.
Doc Homer is proud of his independence and self-sufficiency and of the fact that he is like no one else. He lives his life with a careful, well-ordered routine. He has always tended to pursue certain notions to the point of obsession, such as requiring Codi and Hallie as children to wear orthopedic shoes so they would not develop fallen arches.
Emotionally, Doc Homer is withdrawn and does not easily reveal his feelings to people, not even his daughters. One reason for this is the devastating loss he suffered when his wife Alice died a few days after giving birth to Hallie. Driven into himself, Doc Homer has never been able to outwardly show his affection for his daughters, although it is clear from his internal monologues that he loves them deeply. However, he is a difficult man to have a conversation with, even when he is lucid and in full possession of his faculties. If he does not wish to discuss something with Codi, he simply acts as if the subject had not been raised.
His hobby is a kind of eccentric photography in which he creates pictures of things that do not look like what they are-landscapes that look like clouds, for example. On the surface, this seems an odd thing to do, and yet it seems appropriate for Doc Homer because part of his life is based on deception. He has spent a lifetime covering up the fact that he is descended on his father’s side from the Nolinas family, which was regarded as trash by the inhabitants of Grace. Although he married a woman from a more respectable family (her family opposed the marriage), he felt he had to escape the stigma of his name, so he joined the army and settled in Illinois with his wife. When he returned to Grace, he changed his name to Noline and pretended he was from Illinois, a myth that his two daughters automatically accepted.
M Loyd Peregrina
Loyd Peregrina has a mixture of Apache, Pueblo, and Navajo blood. He briefly dated Codi when they were both in high school, where he had a reputation as a ladies’ man (he is strikingly handsome) and a heavy drinker. It was Loyd who got Codi pregnant when she was fifteen, although Codi never told him. Loyd remained in Grace and now works on the railroad. He meets Codi again when she returns to Grace. Their relationship begins in a casual fashion, and Codi is wary of becoming involved with him, but eventually their friendship grows into mutual love. Codi gradually learns that Loyd is a far more admirable man than she would have expected him to be from her memories of their earlier relationship. Loyd himself admits that in high school he was a “jerk,” and he regrets having hurt a lot of people.
Loyd is an expert in cockfighting and owns a number of fighting birds. He takes Codi to a cockfight but agrees to give up the sport when Codi and his mother ask him to. Loyd is well grounded in Native American myth and culture. He takes Codi to Native American sacred places and explains their significance to her. It is Loyd who is instrumental in giving Codi a sense of the importance of community and an identity rooted in traditional values and cultural heritage.
Loyd had a twin brother, Leander, who was killed in a bar fight at the age of fifteen. Although they were close (like Codi and Hallie), the loss of his brother did not have the long-term devastating effect on Loyd that the loss of her child did for Codi at the same age. Loyd has a loving extended family, including his mother, sisters, aunt and a niece, and he is secure in the beliefs and traditions of his Native American culture. This gives him an emotional balance that Codi lacks.
N Shawn Rideheart
Amusing and charming, Shawn Rideheart is an art dealer from Tucson who tells the ladies of the Stitch and Bitch Club that they can save their town by placing it on the National Register of Historic Places.