Nathan Price An evangelical Baptist preacher who takes his family into the Belgian Congo in 1959 to do missionary work. His experiences in World War II shape his uncompromising desire to be an instrument of God, even at the expense of his family.
Orleanna (Wharton) Price Nathan's wife. Spirited and beautiful as a young woman, her will has been broken by years of marriage to Nathan. She is desperate to protect her children from the dangers of the Congo.
Rachel Price The oldest of the Price daughters. Beautiful and shallow, she is a product of Western civilization and cares mostly for appearances and fun. She does not hesitate to use her beauty to manipulate others.
Leah Price One of the Price twins. Intelligent and idealistic, she initially worships her father but later learns to think for herself. Her strong sense of justice makes her sensitive to the political, economic, and racial injustices occurring in the Congo.
Adah Price One of the Price twins. Born with a neurological disorder, she limps and moves slowly. Although she can speak, she chooses not to as a child and teenager. She is highly intelligent, but her disability has caused her to view the world cynically and to question her self-worth.
Ruth May Price The youngest of the Price girls. Innocent and strong-willed, she dislikes being the baby of the family and does everything she can not to be left behind. Her pure heart inspires the love of both her family and the villagers.
Anatole Ngemba Kilanga's schoolteacher, who acts as a translator during Nathan's sermons. A supporter of the independence movement, he later marries Leah and is imprisoned multiple times for his political views.
Eeben Axelroot The mercenary airplane pilot who lives in Kilanga and who is involved in a variety of shady activities. He takes Rachel with him to Johannesburg after she leaves Kilanga.
Nelson (Lekuyu) A former student of Anatole's, employed by the Prices to do miscellaneous chores for them. He is protective of Ruth May.
Tata Ndu The chief of Kilanga.
Tata Kuvudundu Kilanga's medicine man, or witch doctor.
Fyntan Fowles The Price's forerunner in the Kilanga Mission. He was removed from the mission for marrying a native African.
Celine Fowles Fyntan Fowles's wife.
Methuselah The parrot left at the Kilanga Mission by Fyntan Fowles.
Reverend Frank and Janna Underdown Missionaries who once served in Kilanga and who leave the Congo after independence is declared there.
Mama Bekwa Tataba An opinionated woman who helps the Price family with cooking and cleaning during their first six months in Kilanga.
Mama Mwanza The Price's neighbor, who lost her legs in a fire. Kind-hearted and generous, she helps the Prices when they are in need.
Pascal A Kilangan boy who is Leah's first friend in the Congo. He is later killed by Mobutu's army.
Tata Boanda An old Kilangan fisherman, who has two wives.
Mama Lo The village hairdresser, who also runs a palm-oil business.
Gbenye Tata Ndu's oldest son. He resents Leah's hunting skill.
Lucien A Kilangan boy whom Nathan baptizes.
Bwanga Lucien's sister, whom Nathan baptizes.
The Templetons An American couple in Johannesburg, with whom Rachel initially stays after leaving Kilanga.
Robine DuPree Rachel's French friend in Johannesburg.
Daniel DuPree The First Attache to the French Ambassador. He is first married to Robine, and then to Rachel.
Remy Fairley Rachel's last husband, who leaves her The Equatorial Hotel when he dies.
Bud Wharton Orleanna's father. He is an eye doctor in Pearl, Mississippi.
Aunt Tess Orleanna's aunt, who encourages Orleanna to marry Nathan.
Pascal, Patrice, Martin-Lothaire, and Nataniel Ngemba Anatole and Leah's sons.
Elisabet Anatole's aunt, with whom he is reunited when he and Leah move to Bikoki.
Sister Terese A Benedictine nun in charge of the hospital laundry at the mission where Leah stays after leaving Kilanga.
Elevee Pascal Ngenba's friend, who leaves school at a young age to become a prostitute.
Wesley and Jane Green A Baptist minister and his wife, who run a hospital mission on the Wamba River.