A Yellow Raft in Blue Water: A Novel ePUB ß A Yellow
You know, it's strange, you live in a place half your life and yet the sight of it from an unfamiliar angle can still surprise you, it was as though I had never before seen that building, so small and hollowed out against the treeless land.This quote can be true about a home or a place often visited that we may cherish, or perhaps even abhor, when brought forth from our memories I also think the same can be true about a person, or persons, that we find ourselves inextricably linked to in our lives These are people, often family or close friends that we spend time with, maybe grow up living alongside, and believe we come to know and understand thoroughly Yet, there is always another angle, another side to someone's story that may be hidden when viewed solely from our own perspective In this lovely and contemplative novel by Michael Dorris, we learn about three generations of women, a daughter, a mother, and a grandmother Each of these women has secrets, desires, and insecurities that are kept locked inside Their relationships are complex, as is often the case with mothers and daughters.We begin this story with the youngest, 15year old Rayona's point of view Rayona is a tenacious, bright, partblack, partNative American young woman who struggles with her identity as well as her place in a broken home She loves her mother, despite her late night partying and occasional disappearances, and is confused by her father's absence from the home My brain hums with halftold stories, with pieces that don't seem to fit anywhere, with things I should have said and didn't, and I can't tell the real from the couldbe When she moves with her mother back to the home of her grandmother on a Montana reservation, she will find that she still does not quite fit in with the other Native American teens residing there In need of a friend and someone to really listen to her, she is a vulnerable young woman out of her element here Two of my favorite characters in the book, Evelyn and Sky, were introduced in Rayona's story They were perhaps unlikely heroes, which again goes to show that what we perceive on the outside does not necessarily reflect what lies just below the surface Christine's story was equally absorbing, but also perhaps the most frustrating to me as a mother myself Having lived through a childhood with a mother that refused to be called Mom or some such equivalent endearment and without any knowledge of her father's identity, Christine feels unwanted and unloved As a young girl and a teen, she gives all of her unconditional love to her brother, Lee Christine searches for recognition, popularity, and love outside of the home She ultimately exhibits signs of teenage rebellion With the birth of Rayona, she tries to make up for the childhood she feels she never had And yet, was she really fully there for Rayona? She continues to party often and carelessly.The story of Christine's mother, Aunt Ida as she demanded to be called, finally reveals to the reader a wealth of insight regarding the motivation behind actions that impact a family throughout the generations A woman who on the surface appears cold and even unloving, Aunt Ida is perhaps the most complex character I found her story to be the most compelling of the three I think it was clever of the author to reveal her story last While reading her section first perhaps would have given us clues as to the reasons behind the actions and behaviors of the other two, I think by presenting it last the author has allowed the reader to be a part of the story in some fashion We start with little information and don't know the character's motivations Therefore, we are able to see through both Rayona's and Christine's eyes and understand how lack of communication can lead to wrong interpretations and longlasting effects on personal relationships The only criticism I had with this wellwritten and moving novel was that Ida's story seemed to end too abruptly I wished that her story could have extended a bit beyond the past and delved a bit into the present I recommend this book to anyone that enjoys a thoughtful examination of family relationships and dynamics 4.5 stars. Michael Dorris weaves a moving story of three generations of Native American women, whose lives are complicated and twisted, and whose love for one another is buried beneath misunderstanding and lack of communication At the outset, we are told the story of Rayona’s life, through Rayona’s eyes She is the halfIndian, halfblack daughter of Christine Her mother seems dissociative and somewhat cruel, and my reaction was to have no sympathy and very little understanding of a mother who would behave this way But, even in Rayona’s account there is the hint of trouble between Christine and her mother, Ida, and when we reach book two and see the events through Christine’s eyes we come to understand behavior that seemed so puzzling before And, finally, we are allowed to hear the background story that is Ida’s life and see the roots of all this dysfunction that haunts the lives of each of these women.I was drawn into this book immediately and felt there was momentum that pulled me forward right through to the end All the characters were very realistic and there was enough of mystery surrounding their lives to make you want to unravel the threads of the story for a peek at the past I particularly liked the secondary characters of Dayton and Lee They fleshed out the story and gave it a depth it would have lacked without them There is a clear picture of life on the reservation, the poverty and problems with alcohol and the unique problems that come from living where the ties are so close and intermingled Although I have no first hand knowledge of life on a reservation, the novel feels well researched and accurately portrayed Reading it in the wake of Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI, a nonfiction account of the Osage Indians, gave me a gauge against which to measure it, and it held up well. Three generations of women, the complicated relationships that can be found between mothers and daughters The novel starts in the present and is told backwards Starts with young fifteen year old Rayona, trying to figure out who she is and where she belongs, taking care of her mother Christine Christine who loves too hard and unwisely but tries to be a better mother than she felt hers was Ida, her story pulls everything together, the reader can then put all the pieces together, cause and effect My favorite character is Dayton, steady, asks for little but has a misfortune of his own to overcome Much of this novel takes place on an Indian Reservation and we can see the boredom for the young, lack of opportunities but some of their customs as well.That this was a first novel is astonishing It is very well told and we get to know the key characters very well Secrets and betrayals, hopes and dreams, finding one's way and understanding and reconciliation My only sticking point was that Ida's story was too long delayed, her story was the one that makes the reader understand the rest and I think a little understanding beforehand would have improved my enjoyment of the story Still this is a generational story with interesting characters facing various challenges and shows how what goes on in one generation can adversely affect the next. This is an emotionally dense tale of three generations of American Indian Women It's basically one story told three times from a different POV First we hear 15 year old Rayona 's story, who feels everyone has deserted her and now even the one everpresent person in her life, her Mother has abandoned her Next we hear the version by her mother Christine, who while battling her own demons , basically raises Rayona ,her mixed race daughter, as a single mom alone through difficult times Lastly we hear Ida's story, the seemingly stoic grandmother who stayed on the reservation to raise Christine and her younger brother Lee As they are now grown and have left the reservation , she is portrayed as being nonchalant and cold even towards her family So that's what it look likes on the surface But as the stories are told in turn by the next woman, you come to see there are manyways to look at things Ida , the long suffering Grandmother ( whom they call aunt Ida) , has perhaps the most interesting story which shines a light on her present behavior In fact as the stories begin to build upon one another we gain great insight in to how each of these character's situations came about and how they grow to greatly misunderstand each other's lot in life Moral of the story: Never judge a book by it's cover , or someone's life by merely what you can see.I've heard this is classic assigned reading , but I don't think this should be considered a YA book I think HS students would get very little from this book It'sfor those of us who have journeyed through stuff , and have maybe been both erroneously judged by others or perhaps might even have misjudged others somewhat critically a time or two Jen , Really enjoyed your Feb Selection 5 stars What kept this from being a 4 or better for me is an ending I didn't find satisfying It's a skillfully plotted story with strong writing, wellrounded, sympathetic female characters and a strong sense of place and tradition This is my second time reading this book, the first time was 1015 years ago The strength for me is that it is about 3 generations of mothers and daughters and told in sections from each of their POV It starts with teenage Rayona's POV, moves to her mother, Christine, and ends with Aunt Ida, her grandmother As each section unfolds, we gain insight about character motivation, better understand each characters' flaws and choices and go deeper into the family's history and secrets My quibble about the end is that I wantedabout Aunt Ida and what got her from the Last Day, which I gave to Christine to become the person she is in the present story So, I made it about halfway through this book before throwing in the towel Here's why:1 I'm used to loving a book, or at least being invested in the characters enough that it's hard to put it down That was not the case with this book I read it because I had nothing else to do But stopping at any point was not difficult, and I didn't feel strongly compelled to pick it up again.2 The story was slow moving, without beautiful prose to make up for the lack of plot The writing was only soso.3 There's enough bad stuff in the world without seeking it out in my entertainment The profanity was a big turnoff.Really, just one of those reasons would have been enough to give up on this book and find something better (my toread shelf is big enough!), but I thought because it was both commercially and critically acclaimed I should give itof a chance So much for that.Onejust nitpicky thing It seemed rather uncharacteristic of Christine, the mother, to abandon Ray Granted, she was never the picture of maternal stability, but to just leave without another word, when she hadn't ever done that before was too much of a stretch for me to believe. Next time I’m tempted to wax poetic about how great fiction editing used to be, or to worry that a poorly conceived new release is evidence of the profession’s demise, I’ll remind myself of this book This distinctively 80s mess of unrealized potential and terrible editing choices This is a family saga, beginning in Seattle with a biracial teenager, Rayona, whose mother, Christine, suddenly decides they are going back to Montana, to the reservation where Christine grew up The first large chunk of the book is told from Rayona’s pointofview, the second, slightly larger chunk from Christine’s, and then a small segment at the end comes from the family matriarch, Ida.The first mistake is that it’s all told in the first person It goes almost without saying that all three voices sound the same; firsttime novelists love to do multiple narrators and they always turn out this way But here this isthan a literary criticism; the voice is so jarringly wrong for both Rayona and Christine – who together narrate 80% of the book – that it distanced me from their characters For fifteenyearold Rayona – apparently a cautious, sensitive girl – it’s far too detached, ironic, worldweary, mature And for Christine too – heedless, selfdeluding, emotional – it’s too detached, too selfaware Only for Ida, who really is a tough, bitter, independent, toooldforyourshit type, does it work It took me quite awhile to realize that this disconnect between character and voice was what was throwing me out of their stories But in the end I think I only got to know Rayona or Christine when not in their heads.The second mistake is the pacing At 372 pages, the book is on the longer side for realistic fiction, and it has enough plot for maybe half those pages Mostly Dorris disguises the lack of forward momentum with – or perhaps loses it in – overly detailed but ultimately unimportant scenes And the lack of focus, the unnecessary words and scenes, corrode the story both on a macro level and a scenebyscene one A fivepage scene details Christine’s buying a membership in a video rental club Meanwhile, Christine’s entire 153page POV section contains only 10 pages at the end that don’t overlap with Rayona’s; overwhelmingly, this middle chunk is spent rehashing things we already know or could infer from Rayona’s section And then Rayona’s section spends a lot of time developing her relationships with minor characters and settings which then never appear again I seriously considered quitting the novel in the middle But here’s an example so that you can judge for yourself In this scene, Christine is finally alone with her former nemesis – her brother’s best friend – just after the brother’s funeral:“The waitress arrived to take our order, and I paid her my full attention She must have been sixtyfive, but all the same she gave Dayton the onceover while she waited for us to decide Dayton had a Montanaburger with fries, and I had the meatloaf plate with a tossed salad on the side.“What kind of dressing you want with that, hon?” She peered at me from above her black and rhinestone glasses frames.“What do you have?”“French, Thousand Island, Green Goddess, and Creamy Italian,” she recited.“Italian,” I said, like a city girl who knew her way around.“I need a à la carte Italian,” she called across the serving counter into the kitchen, and tacked the page with our orders on a metal wheel, though we were the only ones eating The cook spun it to see what to fix.Red and green holiday tinsel still lined the doors and a string of colored lights framed the mirror behind the bar The waitress moved from table to empty table, sashaying her hips as she straightened the ketchup bottles She had a high bouffant the color of washedout lace, exactly like the angel hair that swirled beneath the artificial tree with gold ornaments that was balanced on a table at the end of the room She was decorated too Over her beige turtleneck she wore a black felt bolero with MERRY and CHRISTMAS written in green glitter on either side, and around her neck hung a pendant made from a Bic lighter in a gold lamé case It swung like a charm between her low breasts.”Look, I don’t care about this diner or waitress that we’ll never see again I’m here for the interaction between Christine and Dayton – which winds up getting less page time than the exhaustive description of the restaurant and its menu.The third mistake is the ending, and there too, Dorris’s writing is tripped up by lack of proportion – by which I mean, a failure to allocate the most space, and the most important space, to the parts of the story that are important, while compressing the minor details into smaller and less prominent segments There isn’t really an ending here Rayona’s and Christine’s sections end at seemingly random points, and then Ida’s section turns out to be entirely backstory, ending when Christine was an adolescent, and neither giving Ida’s viewpoint on the subsequent bitter conflict between the two women, nor providing any resolution in the present But there’s one aspect of the ending that was particularly curious to me: both Rayona’s and Ida’s sections end on a discussion of Christine’s adolescent religious disenchantment, which doesn’t seem to be important to Christine herself at all At most, this episode supplies a simplistic answer to the question “why is Christine a party girl?”, which isn’t a question I expect to be at the forefront of any reader’s mind (view spoiler)[The questions the novel does raise, and then never answers, in order of importance as I saw it: What does Rayona’s future hold? Where will she live, what sort of understanding will she reach with the other major characters, will she break gender barriers in rodeo, will she ever return those blasted videotapes? Why is Ida so bad at showing her love? Will Christine ever accept responsibility for what she did to Lee? Were Lee and Dayton a couple? (hide spoiler)] Michael Dorris has crafted a fierce saga of three generations of Indian women, beset by hardships and torn by angry secrets, yet inextricably joined by the bonds of kinship Starting in the present day and moving backward, the novel is told in the voices of the three women: fifteenyearold partblack Rayona; her American Indian mother, Christine, consumed by tenderness and resentment toward those she loves; and the fierce and mysterious Ida, mother and grandmother whose haunting secrets, betrayals, and dreams echo through the years, braiding together the strands of the shared past Three women, who are three generations in an American Indian family, tell their perspectives on the same story and reveal secrets.I had technical difficulties for the bulk of the beginning and middle: I didn’t believe the actions of a priest after he committed a nono and I didn’t believe he got away with it without questioning or consequences I could not suspend my disbelief when the 15yearold, who had almost no horse experience, suddenly rode a bucking bronco in a rodeo And I found the voices of the 15yearold’s mother and grandmother in their firstperson sections of the booklike a literary omniscient writer’s voice rather than the characters who had been created; they had selfawareness and sophistication that didn’t ring true Also, I got bored with the repetition of facts from the 15yearold and mother’s sections But then came the last three chapters They were wonderful—taking this story into the realm of the best family dramas So I’m glad I slogged through my incredulity. A high 4.5 stars I am still considering bumping it up to 5 I really enjoyed this book Narrated first by the granddaughter, then the mother and the conclusion by the grandmother, this book depicts the struggles of the three generations of women in this contemporary Native American story Each character's viewpoint contains heartache and secrets The women are all stoic and brave when faced with adversity coping in their own ways I loved them all Rayona, Christine and Ida But, especially Ida What I loved about this book was how the stories overlapped and revealed things I found myself flipping back in the book to Rayona's narration while reading Christine's And, then it happened again when reading Ida's brief tale As a non Native American, I found myself in the unusual, rare situation of working with primarily all Native Americans briefly when employed by IHS (Indian Health Service) The Indian Health Service is required by law to provide absolute preference in employment to American Indians and Alaska Natives Applicants must submit a form supporting their tribal affiliate and blood heritage (50%) I was hired only through written exception I had a skill set that was rare for applicants at that time IHS had employees from various locations and tribes and I learned so much about their cultures the tribal pow wows, their love of football, growing up on a reservation, (because it was a health agency) their primary health risks and issues, how highly they valued education, the beautiful artwork pottery, etc Some of the younger employees in this agency received work study scholarships for nursing and would be obligated to work at an IHS clinic for several years following graduation They were truly remarkable young people and did not take the opportunity for granted I had a lunchtime Thanksgiving feast with my office for several years where we all brought favorite dishes I loved that! I eventually transferred to another agency I was working to pay my children's college tuition as I didn't want them to graduate with huge student loan debts and it seemed like the wise move at the time It would be extremely difficult for me to be promoted at IHS But, I have very good memories from working there I had to smile reading the last name Begay in this book as it is a HUGELY prevalent last name in Arizona for Native Americans For me, this book definitely had a familiarity.Poignant story I loved Ida I'm looking forward to the book discussion for our buddy read ~ great choice!