full title · A Yellow Raft in Blue Water
author · Michael Dorris
type of work · Novel
genre · Coming-of-age story; tale of conflict among generations
language · English
time and place written · 1984, Minnesota
date of first publication · 1987
publisher · Warner Books
narrators · Rayona, Christine, Ida
point of view · Each section of the novel is told from a different point of view. The first section is told from Rayona’s perspective, the second from Christine’s, and the third from Ida’s.
tone · The tone varies depending on the narrator. Rayona’s voice is both jaded and naïve, Christine’s voice is irresponsible and playful, and Ida’s voice is resentful yet caring.
tense · Rayona speaks in the present tense, and Christine and Ida speak in the past tense.
settings (time) · The three stories overlap, but each story spans a rough time period: the 1980s for Rayona, the 1960s to the 1980s for Christine, and the 1940s to the 1960s for Ida.
settings (place) · The novel opens in Seattle, and then moves to a reservation in Montana. Most of the events in A Yellow Raft in Blue Water take place in one of these two locales, although Ida also spends some time in Colorado.
protagonists · Rayona, Christine, Ida
major conflict · Rayona wants to belong and struggles to connect to her family; Christine wants to raise Rayona better than Ida raised her but struggles to convert her feelings to action; Ida wants to interact with the world only on her own terms.
rising action · Clara gives birth to Christine; Christine finds out that Lee is dead; Christine abandons Rayona at Ida’s
climax · Rayona rides at the rodeo in Havre and finds the courage and confidence to confront her family’s troubled history.
falling action · Christine and Rayona are reconciled; Ida joins them at Dayton’s house for their first cordial dinner in years
themes · Understanding different perspectives; the effect of past events on later generations; finding a true identity
motifs · Pop culture; faith
symbols · Christine’s videos; Ellen’s letter; braids
foreshadowing · Foreshadowing plays a curious role in A Yellow Raft in Blue Water. Because the narrative travels backward in time, we see a foreshadowing of events we have already read about.