JOSEPH TAYLOR, JR.
A “regular guy,” Joe goes from birth through childhood, college, marriage, and the complex, conflicting situations of adulthood. As a child, Joe dreams of being a doctor like his father, and working with him at their own small-town hospital. Ambition takes him away from his hometown to the big city, but ultimately, he decides to return home and be who he always wanted to be. Like his parents, Joe is devoted, grounded and genuinely compassionate.
Joe's childhood best friend and dream girl to whom he unflinchingly devotes himself. When Joe's mother doesn't approve of her, Jennie accepts the "war" against her, and wins. Raised in an affluent househould, Jennie finds herself fervently unhappy as an impoverished housewife and convinces Joe to leave his father's small-town practice for a cosmopolitan job among the Chicago elite. Life is more exciting in the city – the pace is more “allegro” – and Jennie’s eye wanders.
Joe's college friend Charlie is a gregarious, likeable fellow with a sunny disposition who becomes a football star in his first year in college. Though he relies on Joe for his homework, Charlie is loyal and encouraging, getting Joe out of his head when he needs it most. In their professional years, Charlie helps Joe land an exciting position in the big city.
Dr. Joseph Taylor
Joe's father. A small-town doctor who dreams of one day opening an independent hospital for his town. Dr. Taylor is devoted to caring for his neighbors like family. When his son decides to leave the family practice for the big city, Taylor is patient and does not question his son's journey.
Joe's mother knows him better than anyone. She is quietly principled and determined and cares deeply for her family. She is not proud, but she will fight for what she believes is right, even if it means going to “war” with the girl her son loves. Though she suffers a fatal heart attack, she remains in Joe’s life as the voice of his conscience.
Joe's grandmother. Stoic and wise with deep love for Joe and his happiness. Like Marjorie, she guides Joe even after her death.
Jennie's father. A confident, small-town businessman who wants his business to grow and his daughter to be financially secure. When his business fails due to economic collapse, Mr. Brinker is grateful to Joe for providing a roof for him and his daughter.
Joe's nurse at the Chicago hospital, Emily becomes Joe's confidant. Like Joe, she finds herself out of place among the wealthy hospital clientele. When Joe becomes too distracted by social commitments with hospital trustees, she is quick to catch his mistakes, further protecting the well-being of their patients.
Dr. Bigby Denby
Charlie's uncle and president of the hospital in Chicago. Established and respected, Denby is a "soldier" for the financial trustees of the institution.