Coming-of-age story; tale of conflict among generations


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.


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.


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.


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


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


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.