All Things Cease to Appear
Goodreads ratings
3.71 / 5

"All Things Cease to Appear" Characters Analysis

By Elizabeth Brundage

fiction | 400 pages | Published in 2016

A dark, riveting, beautifully written book—by “a brilliant novelist” according to Richard Bausch—that combines noir and the gothic in a story about two families entwined in their own unhappiness, with, at its heart, a gruesome and unsolved murder.Late one winter afternoon in upstate New York, George Clare comes home to find his wife killed and their three-year-old daughter alone—for how many hours?—in her room across the hall. He had recently, begrudgingly, taken a position at a nearby private college (far too expensive for local kids to attend) teaching art history, and moved his family into a tight-knit, impoverished town that has lately been discovered by wealthy outsiders in search of a rural idyll.George is of course the immediate suspect—the question of his guilt echoing in a story shot through with secrets both personal and professional. While his parents rescue him from suspicion, a persistent cop is stymied at every turn in proving Clare a heartless murderer. And three teenage brothers (orphaned by tragic circumstances) find themselves entangled in this mystery, not least because the Clares had moved into their childhood home, a once-thriving dairy farm. The pall of death is ongoing, and relentless; behind one crime there are others, and more than twenty years will pass before a hard kind of justice is finally served. A rich and complex portrait of a psychopath and a marriage, this is also an astute study of the various taints that can scar very different families, and even an entire community. Elizabeth Brundage is an essential talent who has given us a true modern classic.


Estimated read time: 7 min read

List of Characters

George ClareProtagonist
Catherine ClareProtagonist
Eddy DiehlSupporting Character
Cole HaleSupporting Character
Willis BrewerSupporting Character
Franny HaleSupporting Character

Role Identification

In "All Things Cease to Appear" by Elizabeth Brundage, the characters play various roles that contribute to the overall narrative. George and Catherine Clare are the central protagonists, while Eddy Diehl, Cole Hale, Willis Brewer, and Franny Hale serve as supporting characters.

Character Descriptions

  • George Clare: George is a charismatic and enigmatic character. He is an art history professor who moves with his wife, Catherine, and their daughter to an old farmhouse in rural New York. George is described as handsome, intelligent, and reserved, creating an aura of mystery around him.
  • Catherine Clare: Catherine is a strong-willed and independent woman. She is an artist and an art history scholar. Catherine is initially captivated by George's charm and intellect but later becomes disillusioned with their relationship. She is described as beautiful, introspective, and haunted by her past.
  • Eddy Diehl: Eddy is a troubled young man who becomes intertwined with the lives of George and Catherine. He is a local handyman who harbors a dark secret. Eddy is described as brooding, introverted, and haunted by his own demons.
  • Cole Hale: Cole is Franny's father and Catherine's colleague at the local college. He is a kind-hearted man who tries to protect his daughter from the tumultuous events occurring around her. Cole is described as compassionate, intelligent, and devoted to his family.
  • Willis Brewer: Willis is a local police officer who becomes involved in the investigation of a crime that occurs in the community. He is diligent and determined to uncover the truth. Willis is described as methodical, observant, and committed to justice.
  • Franny Hale: Franny is Cole's daughter and a pivotal character in the story. She is a sensitive and perceptive young girl who witnesses the unfolding events in her community. Franny is described as imaginative, curious, and deeply affected by the darkness that surrounds her.

Character Traits

  • George Clare: Charismatic, intelligent, reserved, mysterious.
  • Catherine Clare: Strong-willed, independent, introspective, haunted.
  • Eddy Diehl: Troubled, brooding, introverted, haunted.
  • Cole Hale: Compassionate, intelligent, devoted.
  • Willis Brewer: Methodical, observant, committed to justice.
  • Franny Hale: Sensitive, perceptive, imaginative, curious.

Character Background

  • George Clare: George grew up in a wealthy family and excelled academically. He has a passion for art and art history, which led him to become a professor. His background remains largely unknown throughout the story, adding to his air of mystery.
  • Catherine Clare: Catherine grew up in a middle-class family and developed a talent for art from a young age. She pursued a career in art history and married George, believing their move to the farmhouse would bring them happiness and fulfillment.
  • Eddy Diehl: Eddy had a difficult childhood and faced various hardships growing up. He has a troubled past that becomes entangled with the lives of the Clare family, ultimately leading to tragic consequences.
  • Cole Hale: Cole is a respected professor at the local college. He is dedicated to his career and his family, striving to provide a stable and nurturing environment for his daughter, Franny.
  • Willis Brewer: Willis is an experienced police officer who has seen his fair share of crime and tragedy in the community. He is dedicated to upholding the law and seeking justice for the victims.
  • Franny Hale: Franny is a young girl who loves art and has a vivid imagination. She is the daughter of Cole and witnesses the events that unfold in her community, which deeply impact her perception of the world.

Character Arcs

  • George Clare: George's character arc revolves around the unveiling of his true nature. Initially seen as a charming and intelligent professor, his dark secrets and manipulative tendencies are gradually revealed, leading to a tragic climax.
  • Catherine Clare: Catherine's character arc centers on her journey of self-discovery and empowerment. She starts as a vulnerable and dependent woman but gradually finds the strength to confront her past and make choices that liberate her from her unhappy marriage.
  • Eddy Diehl: Eddy's character arc is one of redemption and self-realization. Plagued by guilt and haunted by his past, he seeks forgiveness and tries to make amends for his actions, ultimately finding a form of redemption in the face of tragedy.
  • Cole Hale: Cole's character arc revolves around his role as a protector and his struggle to shield his daughter from the darkness that surrounds them. He confronts his own fears and shortcomings, ultimately finding the strength to protect and support Franny.
  • Willis Brewer: Willis' character arc focuses on his determination to uncover the truth and bring justice to the community. He faces challenges and conflicts but remains unwavering in his pursuit of the truth, even when faced with personal consequences.
  • Franny Hale: Franny's character arc is one of innocence lost. She witnesses the dark events unfolding around her and is forced to confront the harsh realities of the world. This experience shapes her perception and understanding of life.


  • George and Catherine Clare: George and Catherine's relationship is initially portrayed as a seemingly happy marriage. However, as the story progresses, it becomes evident that their relationship is fraught with tension, secrets, and lies.
  • George and Eddy Diehl: George and Eddy have a complex and uneasy relationship. Eddy becomes entangled in George's web of deceit, leading to tragic consequences for both characters.
  • Catherine and Cole Hale: Catherine and Cole share a professional relationship as colleagues at the local college. Cole provides support and understanding to Catherine during her struggles, forming a bond built on trust and friendship.
  • Franny and Eddy Diehl: Franny forms an unexpected bond with Eddy, seeing him as a father figure in the absence of her own father. Their relationship is marked by mutual understanding and a shared sense of vulnerability.
  • Willis Brewer and George Clare: Willis and George have a tense relationship as the investigation into a crime unfolds. Willis becomes suspicious of George's involvement, leading to a confrontational dynamic between the two characters.

In conclusion, "All Things Cease to Appear" by Elizabeth Brundage features a diverse cast of characters with complex relationships and intriguing character arcs. George and Catherine Clare, along with the supporting characters, bring depth and mystery to the narrative, making the book a compelling exploration of human nature, secrets, and the consequences of one's actions.