The widow of a famous poet 30 years her senior. They met when she was a 19-year-old college student and he was a married professor. After his death, she has converted their large Berkshires home into an inn, beautifully conceived and decorated. The consummate hostess, she anticipates the needs of everyone around her, while something in her air suggests her own needs may have been sorely neglected.
A book editor in Toronto, married with two young sons. At Kidd Academy, he was the only scholarship student in the crowd, a little bit of a loner, an observer. His athleticism and talents on the baseball field gave him entrée to the popular crowd. He is a solid, good man who carries a burden of regret—regret that during school he never let his feelings for Nora be known until the fateful night his roommate and best friend, Stephen, died. The death is the incident that hangs over the wedding, and the source of Harrison’s guilt.
Stephen was the golden boy of the crowd—the handsome, wealthy, popular class president. More charm than substance, he managed to win every debate or argument whether or not he knew what he was talking about. One night during their senior year, he drank way too much (as was his habit), walked into the ocean, and drowned.
In a sense, Agnes never really left Kidd Academy, having returned to become an English and history teacher there. She is healthy and fit but seems quiet old-fashioned and spinsterish, her face prematurely weathered from standing on the sideline of hundreds of lacrosse games. She’s secretly been conducting an affair with a married man for over 20 years, a man who was once the group’s English teacher at Kidd. They meet periodically and communicate via passionate letters that (just barely) keep her hope alive. She’s writing a short story based on the harbor explosion in Halifax, Nova Scotia, on December 6, 1917.
The bride-to-be who is waging a serious battle against breast cancer. She and Bill have reunited after more than 20 years, a class reunion sparking the affair that would end his marriage. Bridget feels remorse about having broken up another woman’s home, but after losing Bill in high school and suffering through an unhappy marriage and divorce, she can’t resist making a grab for happiness. Now she worries that her happiness will be much too short-lived, and that her 15-year-old son will be left without a mother. She has always been very shy, and the wig and the 12 pounds she’s gained as a result of the chemo make her even more self-conscious. She doesn’t want everyone to feel they have to reassure her that she’s still pretty or skirt around the fact that her condition is grave.
The groom, a quiet and unassuming man who is trying to make this wedding a joyous and beautiful affair despite the circumstances. He owns a software company and had been married to his college girlfriend for years until he encountered Bridget at their reunion. He’s the father of a college-age daughter and longs for her to accept the choices he’s made.
World-famous concert pianist who surprises his classmates by showing up at the inn with his partner, a male cello player. Rob has become elegant and polished, with a European air, but remains the quintessential good egg.
A big-time Wall Street banker, smart and shrewd but a bit of a blowhard. He’s always made canny observations about others that he tucks away and uses later for sport or further advancement. This habit has not changed over the years. He does have a softer side, though, having given away millions to charity.
The hero of Agnes’s Halifax story. A young surgeon trained in Maine who’s arrived one day prior to the explosion to train with a famous eye surgeon. The surgeon has two daughters—Hazel, betrothed to a soldier at war, to whom he is immediately drawn, and Louise, whose mother would obviously love him to marry. After the disaster, Louise is left blind and Hazel, also forever changed by the catastrophe, leaves town for good. Innes’s sense of duty leads him to marry Louise and try to make a happy life together.