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Are you struggling with The Heaven & Earth Grocery Store characters? Get an annotated list of all 100+ characters in James McBride’s bestselling novel (including animals and famous people) with their names, nicknames, descriptions, and the page on which they were first introduced. Plus, get a printable PDF of the list to take away with you.

You’ll read this character-driven novel with ease and be able to focus instead on its literary brilliance and heartwarming themes. Keep reading for the most comprehensive character guide out there.

the heaven and earth grocery store by james mcbride.

The Heaven & Earth Grocery Store: Main Character Names

Page IntroducedCharacter NameCharacter Explained
5Chona (also called Miss Chona)a Jewish woman who was crippled by polio
5Dodo (real name: Holly Herring; also known as Nate Love II)Nate’s and Addie’s nephew; a deaf 10-year-old orphan boy injured in an accident involving an exploding stove when he was nine; talks well and can see again after a period of lost sight
7Moshe LudlowJewish manager of the All-American Dance Hall and Theater in Pottstown, Pennsylvania; Chona’s husband
18Nate Timblin (nickname: Nate Love)worker at Moshe’s theater
25Doc Roberts (real name: Earl Roberts)the town’s well-connected physician, a bookworm with a limp from polio, who was a head marcher in the town’s annual Ku Klux Klan parade

All The Heaven & Earth Grocery Store Characters Explained

highlighted page in the heaven and earth grocery store by james mcbride.

Below are all The Heaven & Earth Grocery Store characters, about whom I took notes while reading it.

NOTES AND TIPS

Page numbers refer to the hardcover edition.

Where a character had a name and a nickname(s), both are listed.

When the reader later learns more important facts about a character, I went back and entered them into the character description. It helps you see how integral they are to several plot points.

The names of animals are included to avoid any reader confusion.

The names of famous people mentioned are included, along with links to their Wikipedia pages, so you can learn more about them and how they relate to the book. It was no coincidence they were named!

Bookmark this link to refer back to The Heaven & Earth Grocery Store characters as you read.

Page IntroducedCharacter NameCharacter Explained
4Malachibought the town bakery
5Chona (also called Miss Chona)a Jewish woman who was crippled by polio
5Dodo (real name: Holly Herring; also known as Nate Love II)Nate’s and Addie’s nephew; a deaf 10-year-old orphan boy injured in an accident involving an exploding stove when he was nine; talks well and can see again after a period of lost sight
7Moshe LudlowJewish manager of the All-American Dance Hall and Theater in Pottstown, Pennsylvania; Chona’s husband
7Chick Webbthe “colored” leader of a twelve-piece band playing at the theater; a tiny man with a hunchbacked, curved spine
7Mickey Katza Yiddish genius of klezmer music who played the clarinet and led a seven-piece ensemble
13David Einhornthe town’s first Rabbi who spoke out against slavery during the Civil War and was run out of town
13IsaacMoshe’s cousin in Philadelphia
13Yakov Flohr (nickname: Reb)Chona’s father and owner of The Heaven & Earth Grocery Store
18Nate Timblin (nickname: Nate Love)worker at Moshe’s theater
19Erskine HawkinsAmerican trumpeter and big band leader
19Anna Morsea “well-dressed Negro woman” who owns “a colored dance hall” in Linfield and Morse’s Funeral Home
24Rabbi Karl Feldman (nicknames: Fertzel, Frabbi)the fumbling, but well-meaning leader of the Ahavat Achim congregation of Pottstown
24Irv Skrupskelisidentical twin (considered to be the better half) who ran the local shoe store; known for being mean and disagreeable
24Marv Skrupskelisidentical twin (of Irv) who ran the local shoe store; known for being mean and disagreeable
25Doc Roberts (real name: Earl Roberts)the town’s well-connected physician, a bookworm with a limp from polio, who was a head marcher in the town’s annual Ku Klux Klan parade
26John Pottsthe town’s founder
29Addie Townsend TimblinNate’s wife, hired to help at The Heaven & Earth Grocery Store and for Sabbath chores
31Bernice DavisChona’s next door neighbor and very quiet “Negro” childhood friend with at least 8 children; known otherwise for being mean and disagreeable; works as a cook for the Skrupskelis brothers
31DarleneChona’s “Negro” neighbor
32LarnellChona’s “Negro” neighbor, who couldn’t read but could do complex math in his head
32CleotaAddie’s sister, who also worked at The Heaven & Earth Grocery Store
33Louis Jordana “Negro bandleader”
37Rusty Davisa handyman; Bernice’s stepbrother
37BagsRusty’s uncle
37Reverend Ed Spriggs (nickname: Snooks)the community leader of Chicken Hill
37Hollywife of Reverend Ed Spriggs/Snooks
42Fatty Davis (real name: Lloyd)a muscular, gold-toothed man who ran Chicken Hill’s only speakeasy; Bernice’s brother
42Yulaa townsperson
42CJYula’s son
42CallieYula’s son
43Mr. Eugenio Fabicelliformer owner of the bakery
65Herb Radomitzowner of the ice house
76Thelma Dodo’s mother who died; Addie’s sister
81Patty Millison (nicknames: Newspaper, Paper)a laundress and the local gossip
83Willard Millstone Pottsthe town’s chief baker; grandson of John Potts
84Big Soap (real name: Enzo Carissimmi)a large and gentle Italian from one of the few white families living on the Hill; a friend of Fatty Davis, who translated for him and worked at local plants with him
86ClemyRusty’s aunt
88Dick Clemensworks at Flagg Industries
91Miggy Floodfrom Hemlock Row; a Lowgod who used to work as a laundress with Paper and also used to work at Pennhurst
93Earl “Shug Davis”second cousin to Bernice; driver for the vice president of Pottstown
93Bobby Davissecond cousin to Bernice; a handyman
93Buck Weaverthe Pottstown native who played baseball for the Chicago White Sox
93Mrs. Traffina Daviswife of Reverend Sturgess and great-niece of Bernice
93Reverend Sturgessa reverend
93Hollis DavisChicken Hill’s only locksmith
93Chulo Davisthe legendary jazz drummer who left Chicken Hill to play with the Harlem Hamfats
94Shad DavisBernice’s father; a friend of Chona’s father, Yakov
96Norman Skrupskelisa homebound shoemaker and father of Irv and Marv
97ThunderShad’s mule
99Yvette Hurlbutt Nezefky SkrupskelisNorman’s mother
100LuluShad’s silent wife
107Emma Goldmana progressive Jew
109Carl Boydkins“the man from the state” looking for Dodo; Doc Roberts’s distant cousin, who was an athletic ladies’ man
112Ed Bole (called himself Lord Earl Blessington of Sussex)an Irish sailor tied to the Roberts family
112Chaing Kai Wuthe Chinese emperor for whom Ed Bole was a manservant in 1774
113“the Blessington sisters”Ed Bole’s widower and the American nanny she fell in love with
114Uma15-year-old wife of the third new partner in the Roberts tract; said to have spent time at the Muncy penitentiary
115Fitz-HughUma’s second husband, who made a fortune in opium and bought out the original owners and made a small one-man mill into two with four workers each
117Della BurnheimerDoc Roberts’s high school date
121Dana AndrewsAmerican film actor
143Monkey PantsDodo’s 11 or 12-year-old friend at Pennhurst in Ward C-1; a white boy who couldn’t talk and “looked as if he had tied himself up in knots and was hiding from himself”
157Lionel Hamptona bandleader; American vibraphonist and pianist
157Machitopart of the Afro-Cubans band
157Louis ArmstrongAmerican jazz legend
157Joe GlaserArmstong’s manager
157Mario Bauzaleader of the Afro-Cubans band
157Gladys HamptonLionel’s wife, who ran his band
159Pedroa member of Hampton’s band
160Duke EllingtonAmerican jazz pianist and composer
168Doc Hinsona “colored” doctor in Reading, Pennsylvania
168Booker T. WashingtonAmerican educator, author, and orator; “one of the Negro’s greatest leaders”
168GeneFatty’s older cousin, who “stumbled into a high-society Negro girl whose father owned a thriving dry-cleaning business” that he took over
170Thomas Sturgisthe Quaker owner of the Chestnut Hill Riding Company
172Stacya horse
172Adolpha half-blind Jewish rag peddler
174David Hynesa devout Christian with a kind heart
174Billy O’Connella lieutenant at the Empire Fire Company; the cop who captured Dodo and took him to Pennhurst
175Son of Manan evil worker at Pennhurst
176DirtPresident of the Volunteer Women’s Association of St. Aloysius Catholic Church in Pottstown
182Mrs. Fioria CarissimiBig Soap’s mother
182Vivana AgnelloGustowskis’s son; the head of the city council
183GuidoFioria’s cousin who wanted to buy the bakery
183Pia FabicelliEugenio Fabicelli’s younger sister; the city council’s janitor
184EnricoVivana’s husband, who pretended to be a foreman at the Enlevra plant
185MatteoPia’s husband, a plasterer
206Junow Farnok (called himself Mr. Hudson)a successful Budapest hatmaker from Buffalo, New York; member of the Ahavat Achim congregation
206John Keasershoemaker
208Hirshel Kofflera young immigrant from Austria; brakeman for the Pennsylvania Railroad; member of the Ahavat Achim congregation
208Yigel Kofflera young immigrant from Austria (and Hirshel’s brother); brakeman for the Pennsylvania Railroad; member of the Ahavat Achim congregation
208Paul Von HindenburgGerman president
208Adolf Hitlera young Austrian chosen by Hindenburg “to serve as chancellor to keep the Nazi party ‘in check'”
210Gustowskis Plitzkasowner of a farm near the top of the Hill
213Gus Plitzkasa man whom Reading gangsters were looking for
230Bunny Hales“a big, hulking Chicken Hill resident”
233Abraham LincolnAmerican president who abolished slavery
243Bullis (nickname: Egg Man)delivers eggs to Pennhurst
244Sankoa man who Reading gangsters were looking for
249John AntesPottstown’s greatest composer
249George Washingtonfirst President of the United States
251FerdiePlitzka’s cousin
251Nig Rosena frightening mobster
260Chief Markuschief of police
299Lavernea woman from the Row who helped Miggy get a job at Pennhurst
315Irene DunneAmerican actress
315Cab CallowayAmerican jazz singer and bandleader
325Sister Rosetta Tharpegreat blues singer
346Titusa horse
356Hal Leopardthe parade director
357Drukerthe Jewish tailor
357Avram Gaisinskya Russian Jew who was a cornet player
357TodrishAvram’s son; a cornet player
357ZusmanAvram’s son; a cornet player
357ZekeAvram’s son; a cornet player
358EliaAvram’s son; a cornet player
361Henry Lita Russian Jew; a former boxer; a gambler
377Uri Guzinskia union boss for the Pennsylvania Railroad

Printable PDF of The Heaven and Earth Grocery Store Characters List

list of the heaven and earth grocery store characters.

PRINTABLE CHARACTER GUIDE

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Quick Plot Summary of The Heaven and Earth Grocery Store

The Heaven & Earth Grocery Store was:

  • an instant New York Times bestseller
  • a New York Times notable book
  • Barnes & Noble’s Book of the Year
  • a best book of the year by NPR/Fresh Air, Washington Post, The New Yorker, and Time Magazine
  • one of Barack Obama’s favorite books of the year

I rated it a five star read, one of the best books of the 21st century, and one of my favorite books set in Philly. I would give it six stars out of five if I could.

The Heaven & Earth Grocery Store plot is simple: In the suburban Philadelphia neighborhood of Pottstown, Pennsylvania called Chicken Hill, in 1926, immigrant Jews and African Americans live peacefully. A young, deaf, and orphaned boy named Dodo is institutionalized at a local asylum. So, his Jewish Chicken Hill neighbors and extended African American family members plan to rescue him.

Analysis: Why the Characters Are Important

Major themes of this novel include the idea that many different people can happily co-exist and that everyone in a community affects the lives of each other. The author uses 100+ characters to show this.

I was lucky enough to learn this before I started reading it. So, I highlighted it and took detailed notes on the characters to aid my reading experience and share them with you.

Fear not! While some readers have become overwhelmed by The Heaven & Earth Grocery Store characters, you can use this guide to easily understand this book recommendation.

Trust me, it’s so worth it. This novel both breaks your heart and makes it swell. It left me with the biggest and best kind of book hangover.

About the Author James McBride

about

James McBride is a popular African-American author, composer, and musician. He trained at Oberlin Conservatory of Music and Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.

McBride received the 2013 National Book Award for Fiction for The Good Lord Bird, as well as the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award for Nonfiction. He was also awarded a 2015 National Humanities Medal by President Barack Obama. His novel Deacon King Kong was an Oprah’s Book Club pick.

Frequently Asked Questions

Who is Nate in The Heaven and Earth Grocery Store?

In The Heaven & Earth Grocery Store by James McBride, Nate Timblin (also known as Nate Love) works at Moshe Ludlow’s All-American Dance Hall and Theater in Pottstown, Pennsylvania. He is also the uncle of the central character, Dodo, a deaf 10-year-old orphan boy injured in an accident involving an exploding stove.

What happened to Malachi in The Heaven and Earth Grocery Store?

In The Heaven & Earth Grocery Store by James McBride, Malachi disappeared after the hurricane in June 1972 and was said to have “got off clean.” (page 6)

Who is Dodo in The Heaven and Earth Grocery Store?

In The Heaven & Earth Grocery Store by James McBride, Dodo is Nate’s and Addie’s nephew. He’s a deaf 10-year-old orphan boy who was injured in an accident involving an exploding stove when he was nine.

Who is Malachi in Heaven and Earth Grocery Store?

In The Heaven & Earth Grocery Store by James McBride, Malachi is a man who bought the town bakery in the Chicken Hill neighborhood.

Is the book Heaven and Earth Grocery Store a true story?

No. The Heaven & Earth Grocery Store by James McBride is historical fiction set at a real time and place: Pottstown, Pennsylvania, and the local Pennhurst Asylum, in the 1930s and 1940s.

Conclusion

The Heaven & Earth Grocery Store characters total over 100+, which can make reading the book feel daunting. But, it’s not to confuse you. It’s to show that everyone in a community affects each other’s lives and that different people can happily co-exist.

Use this guide to easily track the many fictional and real people named in the story. It’s well worth it, as this book is an award-winning bestseller that has captured the hearts of hundreds of thousands of readers.

Related Post: The Heaven & Earth Grocery Store Book Club Questions (with the Ending Explained)

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