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.