Dulcie (Mah) Leong, Lei’s mother. She has worked most of her life as a seamstress and now owns a children’s clothing store. She came to America with her first husband, Lei’s father. After he deserted Dulcie and Lei, leaving to seek better opportunities in Australia, she married Leon.
Leon Leong, Lei’s stepfather, a retired seaman. Leon entered the United States using false papers and a false name, which he adopted. When ashore, he worked a variety of odd jobs, unable to find anything permanent. He lost his investment in a laundry business when his partner cheated him.
Nina Leong, Lei’s half sister. The “End Girl,” the youngest daughter in the Leong family, Nina has rebelled against the traditional demands placed on her by her parents. She has escaped by moving across the continent to New York. Her ties to her Chinese heritage remain intact; she leads tours to Hong Kong and mainland China.
Ona Leong, Lei’s half sister who recently committed suicide. Lei remembers her as the “forward-looking one,” but as the “Middle Girl,” Ona was stuck in the middle of family crises. She had fallen in love with the son of Leon’s cheating business partner and refused to stop seeing him, despite her father’s orders.
Mason Louie, Lei’s husband, a car mechanic. Lei is attracted to Mason not only by his lean good looks but also by his relaxed, confident manner. He, more than any other character, seems comfortable spanning the bridge between Chinese traditions and modern American life. Lei sees him as the one person she does not have to worry about; he can take care of himself.