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The Covenant of Water

The Covenant of Water


Character List


The Covenant of Water is the long-awaited new novel by Abraham Verghese, the author of Cutting for Stone. Published in 2009, Cutting for Stone became a literary phenomenon, selling over 1.5 million copies in the United States alone and remaining on the New York Times bestseller list for over two years.

Spanning the years 1900 to 1977, The Covenant of Water is set in Kerala, on South India’s Malabar Coast, and follows three generations of a family that suffers a peculiar affliction: in every generation, at least one person dies by drowning—and in Kerala, water is everywhere. The family is part of a Christian community that traces itself to the time of the apostles, but times are shifting, and the matriarch of this family, known as Big Ammachi—literally “Big Mother”—will witness unthinkable changes at home and at large over the span of her extraordinary life. All of Verghese’s great gifts are on display in this new work: there are astonishing scenes of medical ingenuity, fantastic moments of humor, a surprising and deeply moving story, and characters imbued with the essence of life.

A shimmering evocation of a lost India and of the passage of time itself, The Covenant of Water is a hymn to progress in medicine and to human understanding, and a humbling testament to the hardships undergone by past generations for the sake of those alive today. It is one of the most masterful literary novels published in recent years.

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Character List

Big Ammachi, the twelve-year-old bride, who in time becomes the matriarch of the family and is named “Big” Ammachi by Jojo

Big Appachen, the widower, father of JoJo, who marries Big Ammachi

Thankamma, older sister of Big Appachen

JoJo, son of Big Appachen, born to his first wife, and stepson of Big Ammachi

Baby Mol, Big Ammachi’s first-born, a daughter

Philipose, Big Ammachi’s son

Shamuel, a member of the pulayar caste, whose family has worked for the Parambil family for generations. He is the most senior of the other pulayar.

Sara, Shamuel’s wife

Joppan, Shamuel’s son and classmate of Philipose

Ammini, Joppan’s wife

Damodaran (Damo), an elephant nursed back to health by Big Appachen

The Kaniyan, teacher and astrologer belonging to the kaniya caste

Georgie, Big Appachen’s nephew. He and Ranjan are the identical twin sons of Big Appachen’s oldest brother who cheated Big Appachen out of his inheritance

Dolly Kochamma, Georgie’s wife

Ranjan, Big Appachen’s nephew, twin of Georgie

Decency Kochamma, Ranjan’s wife

Odat Kochamma, a widowed lady who comes to stay with the family. She is Big Appachen’s distant cousin.

Mar Gregorios, born in 1848, a deceased bishop and first saint of the St. Thomas Christians in Kerala. His tomb in the Parumala Church draws worshippers from all over

Koshy Saar, a retired lecturer in English, who introduces Philipose to Moby-Dick and other novels

Broker Aniyan, a marriage matchmaker

Uplift Master, a clerk in Madras who returns to Parambil when his wife inherits her brother’s property

Shoshamma, Uplift Master’s wife and heir to her brother’s land in Parambil after he dies unexpectedly

“Manager” Kora, his father was a distant cousin of Big Appachen and he was given the title of “Manager” by the Maharajah. When Kora’s father was financially ruined by his son’s business failings, Big Appachen gifted the father land at Parambil. On the father’s death his son moved to Parambil to take over the land as “Manager”. He is the husband of Lizziamma (Lizzi) and father of Lenin Evermore.

Lizziamma (Lizzi), an orphaned girl, convent educated, who marries “Manager” Kora. She is Lenin’s mother, and a favorite of Big Ammachi

Lenin Evermore, Lizzi’s son

Baby Ninan, Elsie’s son

Anna Chedethi, a woman who comes to Parambil to help Big Ammachi and stays, becoming Mariamma’s wet nurse and later managing the Parambil kitchen and household

Hannah, Anna Chedethi’s daughter, deeply religious, she becomes a nun

Mariamma, Big Ammachi’s granddaughter

Podi, Joppan’s daughter

Cherian, owner of Cherian’s Tea Shop, located outside the Triple Yem Hospital

Right Reverend Rory McGillicutty of Corpus Christi, Texas. A guest speaker at the Maramon Convention

Digby Kilgour, a Glasgow-born physician, a Catholic, who joins the Indian Medical Services to get surgical experience and starts working in Madras at Longmere Hospital

Banerjee orBanny”, a barrister and high caste Brahmin, a shipmate of Digby’s on his voyage to Madras

Muthu, Digby’s houseboy in Madras

Claude Arnold, an Indian-born, British-educated surgeon, Digby’s boss at Longmere Hospital

Celeste Arnold, Indian-born, a daughter of British missionaries, and Claude’s wife

Toby Arnold, Claude’s younger brother, Chief Secretary to the Viceroy Everett Arnold, governor of Bombay and Claude’s younger brother

Honorine Charlton, matron of Longmere Hospital

Franz and Lena Mylin, owners of a large estate near Chandy’s. Lena is Digby’s patient.

V. V. Ravichandran, brilliant surgeon at Madras Medical College, who teaches Digby to perform more advanced operations

Owen and Jennifer Tuttleberry, Anglo-Indian friends of Honorine’s, and soon of Digby’s—Jennifer is a switchboard operator, and Owen a locomotive driver

Jeb Tuttleberry, Jennifer’s brother, and an Olympic hockey hopeful

Cromwell, works for Franz and Lena Mylin, and later for Digby as his estate manager. He is a member of the Badagas—an indigenous tribe in the Nilgiri mountains

Vadivel Kanakaraj Gurumurthy or “Gurumurthy”, a BA (Failed), an audiologist who coaches Philipose

Mohan Nair or “Nair”, friend of Uplift Master who runs the Satkar Lodge

Jana, bookseller who runs JANAKIRAM BOOKS USED AND NEW

Rune Orqvist, Swedish surgeon who arrives in Cochin and later resurrects and runs the Saint Bridget’s leprosarium

BeeYay Achen, priest and monk who runs Bethel Ashram where Rune and later Lenin will visit

Chandy, estate owner who has an ancestral house near the Saint Bridget’s leprosarium and vast estates in the distant mountains a few hours away

Leelamma, Chandy’s wife

Elsie, Chandy and Leelamma’s second child, a daughter

Professor P. K. Krishnamurthy, or “Gargoylemurthy,” Anatomy Professor at Madras Medical College

Chinnah, or Chinnaswamy Arcot Gajapathy, medical school classmate of Mariamma

Professor Cowper, or Jamsetji Rustomji Cowper, Head of Anatomy at Madras Medical College

Brijee, or Brijmohan Sarkar, external examiner in anatomy

Anita, Mariamma’s roommate in medical school

Uma Ramasamy, Mariamma’s pathology teacher and a leprosy researcher

Senior Staff Nurse Akila, who runs the Labor and Delivery Ward, or L&D at Gosha Maternity Hospital

Dr. Das, a neurologist

Kochu paniyan, a tribal who befriends Lenin and who works for the old Achen in the church where Lenin is posted

Baby, owner of Baby’s tea shop or “Moscow” where Arikkad, Raghu, and Lenin meet

Arikkad, a Communist working for the betterment of the peasants

Raghu, a bank clerk and communist sympathizer

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