This is the story of Rayona, Christine and Ida. Three generations of Indian women whose lives are filled with hardship and abandonment. A wonderfully written story of love, as abstract as that can be at times, and the power it has to hold these broken women together.
The novel starts in the present and is told backwards. Starts with young fifteen year old Rayona, trying to figure out who she is and where she belongs, taking care of her mother Christine.
In this lovely and contemplative novel by Michael Dorris, we learn about three generations of women, a daughter, a mother, and a grandmother. Rayona is a tenacious, bright, part-black, part-Native American young woman who struggles with her identity as well as her place in a broken home. "My brain hums with half-told stories, with pieces that don't seem to fit anywhere, with things I should have said and didn't, and I can't tell the real from the could-be." When she moves with her mother back to the home of her grandmother on a Montana reservation, she will find that she still does not quite fit in with the other Native American teens residing there. Having lived through a childhood with a mother that refused to be called "Mom" or some such equivalent endearment and without any knowledge of her father's identity, Christine feels unwanted and unloved. The story of Christine's mother, "Aunt Ida" as she demanded to be called, finally reveals to the reader a wealth of insight regarding the motivation behind actions that impact a family throughout the generations. A woman who on the surface appears cold and even unloving, Aunt Ida is perhaps the most complex character.
First we hear 15 year old Rayona 's story, who feels everyone has deserted her and now even the one ever-present person in her life, her Mother has abandoned her. Next we hear the version by her mother Christine, who while battling her own demons , basically raises Rayona ,her mixed race daughter, as a single mom alone through difficult times.
But, even in Rayonas account there is the hint of trouble between Christine and her mother, Ida, and when we reach book two and see the events through Christines eyes we come to understand behavior that seemed so puzzling before. And, finally, we are allowed to hear the background story that is Idas life and see the roots of all this dysfunction that haunts the lives of each of these women.
That was not the case with this book. Really, just one of those reasons would have been enough to give up on this book and find something better (my to-read shelf is big enough!), but I thought because it was both commercially and critically acclaimed I should give it more of a chance.
It starts with teenage Rayona's POV, moves to her mother, Christine, and ends with Aunt Ida, her grandmother.
Also, I got bored with the repetition of facts from the 15-year-old and mothers sections.
Narrated first by the granddaughter, then the mother and the conclusion by the grandmother, this book depicts the struggles of the three generations of women in this contemporary Native American story. I found myself flipping back in the book to Rayona's narration while reading Christine's. As a non Native American, I found myself in the unusual, rare situation of working with primarily all Native Americans briefly when employed by IHS (Indian Health Service). I had to smile reading the last name Begay in this book as it is a HUGELY prevalent last name in Arizona for Native Americans. I loved Ida. I'm looking forward to the book discussion for our buddy read great choice!
Instead of giving vague details and leaving plot to later be found by the order of happening, and taking the chance of losing the majority of the readers within the first couple of chapters, Michael Dorris manages his time manipulation by giving certain ideas through the youngest character, Rayona. What the reader may think as Rayona speaks can be completely twisted by Christine.
Dorris worked as a professor of English and anthropology at Dartmouth College. In 1996, Louise Erdrich separated from Dorris.