A Yellow Raft in Blue Water - Michael Dorris I read this as an unabridged audiobook. For some reason I thought it was a young adult novel but then again I'm easily confused. It does feature an adolescent so maybe that's where the confusion began. It's a good thing this was an audio because if I were reading it in its paperback format I probably would have put it down unfinished after the first few chapters. Admittedly, I’m easily bored but this story was just too slow paced and peopled with characters that are, more often than not, difficult to sympathize with. This made it difficult for me to continue turning its pages with any sort of enthusiasm. However, being trapped as I am in my vehicle for long stretches of time I’m content to listen to almost anything if it distracts me from the tedium of driving and thus I finished every CD until I reached the bitter end.

The story is told from the point of view of its three main characters starting with fifteen year old Rayona and working backwards through events which are told by her mother Christine and finally by Christine’s mother “Aunt” Ida. This technique makes one sit back and say “ahhh, so that somewhat explains why “so and so” was such an unlikable witch earlier in the book” but it also makes for tough reading because it’s difficult to sympathize with Christine and “Aunt” Ida for long stretches of the novel. Once we learn their motivation for certain actions they often turn out to be the ones who made poor choices resulting in their current miserable situations.

The novel begins when Rayona is unceremoniously abandoned by her mother Christine at “Aunt” Ida's home on an Indian reservation. Ida is even less caring and nurturing than selfish Christine. Christine hitches a ride and doesn't look back leaving Rayona to deal with grumpy Ida who takes her in but leaves her to fend for herself. Rayona is friendless, lonely and finding it difficult to fit in and becomes a "project" to the local reverend who hovers over her in a somewhat creepy way (if you ask me). This is only a small snapshot of what appears to be a long stretch of instability in Rayona's young life. Rayona tells the story for roughly a third of the book and was the most sympathetic of the three and showed a lot of guts for a kid on her own.

The focus then switches to her mom Christine who shows us a bit of her past. We experience the ups and downs of her wild days as a single gal living on her own after she’s escaped the confines of life on the reservation. Her secret heartache is revealed and we relive her love affair with Rayona’s faithless father. Still, despite all of her pain she always remained a selfish “me, me, me” type of person who I couldn’t warm up to and a lot of her troubles were of her own making.

Next the story switches to Ida whose past I found the most interesting. She fills in many gaps and her past answers a lot of questions that cropped up while I was reading Rayona and Christine’s point of view. Again, though, in the end Ida is too brusque and difficult to warm up to despite the painful choice thrust upon her as a youngster.

Overall this story manages to be both depressing and compassionate but the bleakness left me in a very melancholy mood when I finished. Two of the three characters love deeply but show it in all the wrong ways and I fear the third may follow their footsteps with such guidance. . . This is a book that I won't be reading again any time soon.