The Condor Passes is the epic saga of a wealthy but troubled Louisiana family. In it, the lives of key family members are laid bare as the years and decades go by.
Ninety-five year old Thomas Henry Oliver is the patriarch of the clan. Known simply as Oliver or, at times, The Old Man, he manages to overcome his hardscrabble origins in rural Ohio to accrue great wealth in the New Orleans of the early 20th century. With little formal education, Oliver achieves remarkable success in business seemingly through sheer willpower and a dogged brand of toughness.
Oliver's two daughters Anna and Margaret both display a sense of entitlement when it comes to their father's money. But in other aspects of their lives they couldn't be more different. Anna believes in the importance of hearth and home and later on in the book becomes hyper-religous in very disturbing ways. Margaret is wild and promiscuous, seemingly incapable of bringing focus to her own life.
The fourth of the major characters in The Condor Passes is Robert Caillet, a poor Cajun youth Oliver takes on as his protege. He eventually marries Anna and thereby becomes Oliver's heir apparent. Quite pathetically, Robert's personal life becomes defined by his insatiable need for sexual encounters with many women.