Keith is the thirty-nine-year-old protagonist of the novel. He is married to Lianne Glenn, with whom he has the seven-year-old son, Justin. Keith and Lianne have been separated for a while, and as the novel begins, Keith lives alone in an apartment. He has worked as a lawyer in the north tower of the World Trade Center for many years. His outer appearance is described through Lianne’s eyes:
He was tall, with cropped hair, and she thought he looked like army, like career military, still in shape and beginning to look seasoned, not in combat but in the pale rigors of this life, in separation perhaps, in living alone, being a father from a distance. (ll. 1-4, p. 18, ch. 3)
On the day of the terrorist attacks on the towers, Keith is inside the north tower and experiences things falling down around him as he makes his way out of the building. He has to leave behind his friend and colleague Rumsey who is severely hurt and dies before Keith is able to do anything.
A man of few words
Keith seems to be a man of few words, even before the trauma of 9/11. We hear that he has talked very little with his mother-in-law, Nina, who refers to him as "reticent" (l. 7, p. 10, ch. 2). While Lianne has always loved having dinners with friends and being social, Keith has never liked this much (p. 190, ch. 10). After his traumatic experience on 9/11, people find it ever harder to approach him (ibid.).
Keith as a husband
Keith and Lianne have met eight years before the novel begins. There is no doubt that Lianne’s mother, Nina, has always had a very negative view of her son-in-law. Thinking back on the time before they married, Lianne recalls her mother’s warning:
There’s a certain man, an archetype, he’s a model of dependability for his male friends, all the things a friend should be, an ally and confidant, lends money, gives advice, loyal and so on, but sheer hell on women. Living breathing hell. The closer a woman gets, the clearer it becomes to him that she is not one of his male friends. And the more awful it becomes for her. This is Keith. This is the man you’re going to marry. (ll. 5- 10, p. 59, ch. 5)
Although we do not know exactly what has brought about this negative attitude, it is clear that Nina blames her daughter for seeking out a wrong kind of man. What it is that, in Nina’s opinion, makes Keith dangerous to women remains unclear, but Lianne has grown unsatisfied over the years leading up to their separation: "And then I threw him out. I had strong objections, building up over time.[…]" (ll. 26-27, p. 12, ch. 2)
Lianne’s and Keith’s relationship was very physical in the early days, and after 9/11 as they get back together they start sleeping together again. We get the impression that Keith was never satisfied with living in twosomeness. The marriage has been full of conflicts. As Lianne and Keith talk about this after hi...