A Yellow Raft in Blue Water, Michael Dorris

A work which grows, as one progresses through it, from anecdote, to story, to fable.  Dorris effectively manipulates the reader by telling first the tale of the youngest of three women – Rayona – inviting us to form opinions (or judgments, given the poor nature of some of her choices) of her character and actions.  He then proceeds to tell first her mother’s – and then her mother’s – stories, overlapping, braiding and, in the process, shattering our neat conceptions about what is good or bad, and who is right or wrong, victim or abuser.

Dorris’ prose is generally straightforward, allowing objects, events and his characters’ thoughts to tell the story.  Only occasionally does it rise to more florid description, but it is the detail and personalities which make the story seem so real, the women totally convincing even when their actions are not ones with which many readers may sympathize.  That, and the author’s even-handed telling, which seems to reflect the moral conviction with which his bio suggests he lived his too-short life.

A work which has its own objectives, neither the quick entertainment of the popular novel, nor the showy intellectualism of the academic, but an honest desire to tell of people too easily forgotten, and thru them reveal a bit of basic human truth.

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