Author: Dorothy Allison
First published: 1992
Locale: Greenville County, South Carolina
Time: Late 1950's and early 1960's
Bone, the protagonist and narrator, whose real name is Ruth Anne Boatwright. She is called Bone because at birth she was “no bigger than a knuckle-bone.” Her mother, Anney, was fifteen years old and unmarried when she gave birth to Bone, following a car accident brought about by her brother Travis' drunk driving.
Anney Boatwright, Bone's mother. Hardworking and poor, Anney hates the “illegitimate” stamp placed on Bone's birth certificate. To her, it puts authority behind the labels of “no good,” “lazy,” and “shiftless” that others have attached to her and her family all her life. When Bone is four, Anney marries the sweet, pretty Lyle Parsons and has another daughter, Reese. After Lyle dies when his truck spins off the road, she takes a job as a waitress in the White Horse Café. She meets her third husband, Glen Waddell, at the café when he comes in to eat with her brother Earle.
Glen Waddell, Anney's third husband. the youngest son of the well-off Waddell family, owners of the Sunshine Dairy, Glen is full of insecurities and self-doubt. Although his oldest brother is a respected lawyer and another brother is a dentist, Glen can barely hold a job and moves from one low-paying truck-driving position to another. Glen is neglected by his father, whom he wants to shock and, paradoxically, earn respect from by marrying into the disreputable Boatwright family and proving himself as a man who carries a knife and embraces violence. Despite a small, thin appearance, Glen is known for his enormous hands and his extreme, sudden temper.
Reese, Bone's younger sister. A pretty child who is never mishandled or abused by Glen, Reese is Bone's sometime ally and playmate.
Shannon Pearl, Bone's friend. A short, fat, half-blind albino, Shannon carries with her a rage and resentment not unlike Bone's. Although her parents pet and adore her, most others find her repulsive.
Raylene Boatwright, Bone's aunt. A short, stocky, broad-shouldered woman with closely cropped hair and an affinity for masculine dress, Aunt Raylene lives apart from the rest of the family, alone in a house on the river outside town. the one love of her life, a woman she met while working at the carnival, left Raylene for the sake of her child.