At the start of A Change In Altitude, Margaret is 28 and has been in Kenya for three months, she has been with her husband Patrick for two years, married for five months. Before moving to Kenya, she worked as a photographer at a Boston alternative weekly. She comes from a middle-class, suburb-north of-Boston, Unitarian background with some history. A dishwater blond, a light brown with hints of brass, she met Patrick on the job and Arthur after her used Peugeot broke down and he brought her back to his house in Langata. Arthur convinces Margaret and Patrick to move into his guest house, a white stucco cottage with a red tiled roof, surrounded by pink and orange bougainvillea.
The same age as Margaret, Patrick is third-generation Irish, his distinctive gene pool noted for its fondness for medicine, black hair, and surprising pale blue eyes. He wears his hair longer than most, but has shaved his beard as a gesture of respect while in Africa. Patrick completed a fellowship in equatorial medicine during medical school and moved to Kenya to study tropical diseases.
A native of London, Arthur, a man in his mid-thirties, works as head of sales at Colgate-Palmolive. He has mud-brown hair and dark eyes, a cleft in his chin, and white teeth inside an easy smile. He has a pallor that seems unusual in Africa, a perpetual five o’clock shadow emerging from his skin. He met his wife, Diana, at a party in London during which he revealed that he secretly yearned to go to Africa to get as far away from London as possible.
In her early to mid thirties, Diana is a breeder of Rhodesian ridgebacks with little time for people. Her skin has the patina of an outdoorswoman. She lives not for the moment at hand, but for the one anticipated. Diana isn’t beautiful, but she is pretty.
James is Arthur and Diana’s servant of Luo descent. He cooks the meals, sets the table, serves the food, clears and washes the dishes. He sleeps in a cement box behind the garage and only gets to spend one week of the year with his wife and children.
The ayah of Arthur & Diana’s two children. She wears a headscarf and is twenty-three or twenty-four. She has a deep scar on her chin and a shy smile that reveals a row of gapped teeth.