Paul Bowen is the last of the major characters in this novel. A good share of Bobbi’s life story has to do with lack of stable community, so a lot of people come and go. That rootlessness characterized the Great Depression of the 1930s. People moved from place to place, as families and often as individuals, in order to make any living they could find.
Paul Bowen suffers more complete devastation from the hard times of the 1930s than any of the other characters in this novel. He’s been accustomed to mingling with Cleveland’s movers and shakers, familiarly greeting the guests in his up-scale restaurant–until the bottom falls out of the economy. When the restaurant closes and he loses his job, he flounders from day job to day job, making a little extra at the racetrack and bearing the criticism of his wife, who fears that he’ll lose more than he wins.
Paul’s a sturdy six footer at about 180 pounds. He’s a green-eyed red-head and a flirt, which also drives his wife to distraction. An orphan raised by Catholic nuns, he tends to repress his emotions and he’s embarrassed by the shabbiness poverty forces on him. He’s always conscious of that shabbiness and constantly adjusts his clothing, particularly tucking his shirt. Although he’s a math savant, he flunked out of school and that embarrasses him, too. Sometimes his feeling of inadequacy leads him to make decisions that make his family’s condition worse.
Though he’s a born extrovert, he’s learned to be cautious around people he doesn’t know well–and there aren’t many he does know. He grumbles a lot, with occasional minor flare-ups. He withdraws from any kind of emotional loss or conflict, but embraces change because anything has to be better than his current circumstances.
He’s unable to think of a future beyond just getting by, but if he could change anything, he’d make enough to comfortably support his family. His daughter’s good opinion of him is the most important thing in his life, but he can’t believe she thinks him worthy.