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A Yellow Raft in Blue Water

A Yellow Raft in Blue Water Summary


Here you will find a A Yellow Raft in Blue Water summary (Michael Dorris's book).
We begin with a summary of the entire book, and then you can read each individual chapter's summary by visiting the links on the "Chapters" section.

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Last Updated: Monday 1 Jan, 2024

A Yellow Raft in Blue Water Summary Overview

The narrative unfolds through the experiences of Rayona, Christine, and Ida, three distinct Native American women. It starts with Rayona in the hospital playing cards with her frequently hospitalized mother, Christine. Christine has a drinking problem and often bickers with Rayona's father, Elgin. A particular argument prompts Rayona to wander off into the parking lot only to find Christine attempting to break into their car. Christine intends to crash the car so Rayona can receive the life insurance payout. Rayona thwarts her plan and they both drive off, leaving their home in Seattle heading to Christine's childhood home, a reservation in Montana. The car breaks down near their destination, and they are forced to walk the rest of the way. They are not warmly received by Christine's mother, Ida, who they both call Aunt Ida. Christine abandons Rayona with Ida and leaves. Rayona doesn't like the reservation; she is ridiculed for her dark skin and finds solace only at the local mission where she is persuaded by Father Tom to join a religious youth group, the God Squad. Father Tom invites Rayona to a religious gathering. They stop for a swim in Bearpaw Lake on the way, but things get uncomfortable when Father Tom makes inappropriate advances toward Rayona. They decide to return to the reservation, but Rayona yearns to go back to Seattle. Father Tom arranges a train ticket for her, but Rayona purposely misses the train and spends the night next to the tracks. The following day, Rayona meets Sky, a gas station attendant. Sky's wife, Evelyn, provides Rayona with a janitorial job at Bearpaw Lake State Park. Rayona creates a fictional family history for herself and tells Sky and Evelyn that her parents are away. When Evelyn discovers Rayona's deception, Rayona confesses the truth. Evelyn plans to return Rayona to the reservation, but Rayona is convinced they can find her mother at a local rodeo. Rayona ends up participating in the rodeo, substituting for a drunk participant, Foxy Cree from the reservation. She performs remarkably and earns a prize for her determination. Dayton, the horse owner, and Christine's on-off boyfriend, take Rayona back to his home. There, she confronts Christine, leading to an argument. The next day, Christine shares her story about losing faith when a predicted apocalyptic event didn't occur. The story then transitions to Christine's perspective. Her youth is marked by a close relationship with her brother, Lee, and a fascination with a boy named Dayton who is more interested in Lee. After high school, Christine works for the tribal council and has numerous relationships. When the Vietnam War begins, Lee plans to dodge the draft. Christine persuades him to enlist to protect their reputations and his political aspirations. Christine moves to Seattle where she receives a letter from Dayton announcing that Lee is missing in action. She starts a relationship with army corporal, Elgin, becomes pregnant, and they get married. The marriage is shaky, and shortly before giving birth to her daughter, Rayona, she finds out Lee is dead. Christine leaves Elgin when Rayona is nine months old. After Lee's body is returned to the reservation, Christine is blamed for his death because she encouraged him to enlist. She tries to raise Rayona in Seattle while dealing with serious health issues. When her doctor tells her she only has six months to live, she tries to crash her car again to give Rayona the insurance money. Instead, they run out of gas and decide to return to the reservation. Christine leaves Rayona with Ida and goes to Dayton's house. Her relationship with Rayona is strained but improves slightly when they go on a road trip. The narrative finally shifts to Ida, recounting her earlier life. Clara, Ida's aunt, becomes pregnant with Ida's father, Lecon's, child. To avoid shame, they decide to pretend that the child is Ida's. The child, Christine, is born in a motherhouse in Colorado. Ida takes Christine back to Montana as Clara decides to give Christine up for adoption. Ida refuses and legally becomes Christine's mother. Ida's own family life disintegrates; her mother passes away, her father leaves, and her sister gets married. She enters a relationship with Willard Pretty Dog, a war veteran she had a crush on in high school. They have a son, Lee, who grows up to be more confident than his sister Christine. Christine becomes devoutly religious and fears the apocalypse. Ida indulges Christine's fears, but when the world doesn't end as predicted, Lee mocks them both. The story concludes with Ida and Father Hurlburt sitting on her roof in the darkness while she braids her hair.

chapter 1

"A Yellow Raft in Blue Water" begins with a narration by Rayona. She sits in a Seattle IHS hospital, playing cards with her Native American mother, Christine. Their game is interrupted by the arrival of Rayona's father, Elgin, which makes Rayona self-conscious. Elgin, who is there to deliver Christine's car, argues with Christine over her health condition and her insistence that he pick her up when she's discharged. Rayona secretly agrees with Elgin's perception of Christine's health, but their conversation escalates, culminating in Christine sending Elgin away with a racially fueled insult. Left alone, Rayona starts reflecting on Christine's frequent hospital visits, which are typically followed by relentless partying, despite warnings from her best friend, Charlene. Rayona's thoughts then wander to her father, questioning the true reason behind her parents' separation. She longs for her father's attention, but their encounters are scarce. At the parking lot, she discovers her mother, disguised as a nurse, trying to break into the car. Christine declares a plan to intentionally crash the car for insurance money, a similar threat to previous claims of suicide at Elgin's proposal spot. Although skeptical, Rayona joins her mother in the car. Their journey is halted by an empty gas tank, leading to a heated argument, followed by a trek to a nearby gas station. By the time they arrive, Christine's mood has lightened.

chapter 2

Rayona and Christine hastily fuel up their car, planning to visit Aunt Ida. Christine's only connection to Seattle is a lifetime membership at Village Video. This membership, which Rayona owns in her name, was bought during a deal, causing an envious scene at the store by a woman who missed out. The memory of her mother saying "'Till death" as she signed up depresses Rayona, especially since Christine ended up in the hospital soon after. Later that night, they prepare for their journey, packing trash bags with their belongings. They wait for the video store to open to rent some movies for the trip. On the road, Christine tells Rayona about Aunt Ida, her adoptive mother who she treats as biological. Christine dismisses Rayona's connections in Seattle, recognizing their nomadic lifestyle has prevented her from forming meaningful relationships. After a long drive, they reach Montana, but their car breaks down just short of Aunt Ida's home. Aunt Ida is unimpressed with Christine's arrival and demands reasons why she should be welcomed. Christine's crass response prompts her to storm off, leaving Rayona behind. A truck picks up Christine and Rayona is left in the dust. Eventually, Aunt Ida comes to get Rayona and they return to the house together.

chapter 3

Rayona and Aunt Ida struggle to coexist. Rayona occupies her mother’s old room, untouched since her mother’s departure, and often dons her mother's outdated clothes. She discovers an old notebook of her mother's, filled with fantasies of different last names, and a box of old photos. She searches these for similarities between her and her mother but finds her mother to be far more saintly. Aunt Ida spends her days absorbed in TV shows, her disdain for the characters barely disguised. She interacts with Rayona exclusively in her native tongue, which Rayona refers to as “Indian." An old man, Father Hurlburt, visits Aunt Ida, and Rayona learns her mother is living with her ex-boyfriend, Dayton. Hurlburt, a priest at a nearby mission, is familiar with Rayona from her infancy and suggests she join the local youth group at the mission, the “God Squad." Soon, Father Tom Novak, a newly assigned priest at the mission, picks up Rayona for her first God Squad meeting. Two Native American elders poke fun at Tom in their language, stopping only when they realize Rayona can understand them. The only other attendees, Annabelle Stiffarm and Rayona’s cousin Foxy, are cold and dismissive towards Rayona, and they quickly leave. Rayona commences school the following week, feeling awkward in her ill-fitting hand-me-downs. She is teased for her mixed-race heritage. Tom takes Rayona under his wing, teaching her some Indian phrases, unknowingly vulgar ones, as a joke played on him by a tribal council member. Rayona appreciates his care. She becomes the sole regular attendee of the God Squad, which, despite its supposed themes, always centers around "The Wonders of the Human Body," Tom's veiled reference to sex. When driving Rayona home from a meeting, Tom asks if she's had any sexual dreams, leaving her puzzled as he drives away.

chapter 4

Rayona resolves to leave the Indian reservation and skips school to prepare. However, Father Tom arrives at her home and learns of her plan. Initially, he indulges her but Rayona senses he's planning to dissuade her. To avoid confrontation, she decides to attend school. Father Tom invites her to a Teens for Christ Jamboree, viewing it as an opportunity to leave the reservation. When they depart, Father Tom takes Rayona to Aunt Ida's house to pack. She realizes Christine has visited due to missing items. Feeling increasingly abandoned by her mother, Rayona packs her belongings and takes tapes from Village Video. During their journey, Father Tom inquires about Rayona's family. She lies that her mother is deceased and her father is a pilot. Father Tom reveals he grew up fatherless. Rayona reminds him she does have a father, and questions his choice to join the priesthood. He responds that he felt called to be "God’s helper." They travel late into the night, and Rayona falls asleep. Rayona awakens at a gas station she recognizes from a previous trip with her mother. Father Tom informs her they are early for the jamboree and can relax. They camp at Bearpaw Lake State Park and attempt to have a picnic, but the grill won't light. They decide to swim instead. Rayona jumps into the lake and reaches a yellow raft. Father Tom follows but cramps up mid-swim. Rayona saves him and pulls him onto a dock. They embrace in a socially awkward moment, and Father Tom labels it as an "an occasion of sin." Father Tom insists they return to the reservation, voicing concern about potential misunderstandings about their relationship. Rayona declares she's going to Seattle, which Father Tom supports. He gives her money, arranges a train for her and promises to inform Aunt Ida about her whereabouts. That night, he drives her to the train station, gifts her a bead necklace and says they'll meet again. After he departs, Rayona chooses not to board the train and discards the necklace. She waits out the night, feeling inexplicably content.

chapter 5

Upon waking up, Rayona heads to Bearpaw Lake State Park. She stumbles upon a sign advising lost hikers to remain stationary and chooses to follow it. Soon, she meets a man named Sky, whom she remembers from a gas station. Sky welcomes her into the park office, offers coffee, and shares a joke. Rayona fabricates a story about her background, saying she's from Seattle, her parents are vacationing, her father is a pilot, and she ran away from a priest to avoid conversion. The only truth in her tale is about her Uncle Lee, who was killed in Vietnam. Sky contacts his wife, Evelyn, a park cook, to find a job for Rayona. After feeding Rayona, Evelyn directs her to Mr. McCutcheon, the head of park maintenance. He assigns her the task of trash collection and gives her a uniform, making a comment about her slim figure. There's no mirror in the women's restroom, so Rayona uses the men's room to adjust her uniform and hairstyle. There, she encounters Andy, Dave, and John, fellow workers who envy her assignment in Zone Seven due to a handsome lifeguard there. Rayona is upset with their treatment, feeling more like a fellow guy than a lady, but acknowledges that her mother's beauty didn't do her much good. Trash collection in Zone Seven proves unchallenging as there isn't much litter around. As she prepares to leave, Rayona discovers a crumpled half-letter addressed to an unknown camper from “Mother & Pops,” expressing love and longing. Envious, Rayona intends to trash the letter but can't bring herself to do it. Instead, she keeps it in her wallet. The letter stirs feelings of homesickness in her for the Seattle rains.

chapter 6

Rayona, Sky, and Evelyn return to the pair's trailer as night falls. Evelyn's attire reminds Rayona of her mother, and she falls asleep on the couch, skipping the macaroni dinner. The couple scrutinizes Rayona's pockets while she sleeps, suspecting she's a runaway. However, finding a letter she retrieved during work, they conclude she must be honest. The next morning, Rayona is energetically ready for work, while Sky and Evelyn suffer fatigue. At work, Evelyn again makes breakfast for Rayona, further solidifying their budding friendship. During her work rounds, Rayona encounters the lake where she and Father Tom swam. She considers swimming but spots a girl on the yellow raft, whom she identifies as Ellen. Rayona is envious of Ellen, seeing her as an embodiment of everything she should be. After a brief interaction with someone on shore, Ellen dives into the water. Rayona gradually adjusts to her job, occasionally finding lost items among the trash. Given a three-week claim period for lost items, she starts to accumulate a new wardrobe. She also finds useful items for Sky and Evelyn. One day, she keeps a blanket desired by a college student, Dave, for Evelyn. Haunted by her fascination with Ellen, Rayona attempts to learn about her. Evelyn dislikes Ellen due to her vegetarianism, and Sky only knows about Ellen's red Toyota Celica and her father’s credit card. Andy's comments about Ellen are objectifying, and Dave views her as shallow. Thus, Rayona mostly learns about Ellen from her interactions. On July Fourth, Ellen and her parents join Evelyn and Rayona for breakfast. Ellen surprisingly knows a lot about Rayona and introduces her family’s sponsored Native American child, Rocky. The conversation drifts to Ellen’s affinity for kids and pets, and Ellen’s mother brings up their lonely pet, Rascal. Overhearing, Evelyn recognizes these names from the letter Rayona had found. Panicked, Rayona discards the letter but soon retrieves it, reminiscing about her own family.

chapter 7

As Rayona gazes at the yellow raft, Evelyn approaches her. Rayona shares her story with Evelyn, feeling lighter afterwards. Evelyn, convinced Rayona should return home, plans to drive her there with Sky. After picking up Sky from the gas station and packing her things, Rayona thinks the local Indian rodeo might be the place to find her mother. On arriving at the rodeo, she spots Foxy, who is unpleasant as always. Evelyn and Sky leave Rayona to interact with Foxy, who is too intoxicated to participate in the rodeo. He coerces Rayona to ride for him, lending her his clothing to disguise her gender. During this episode, she encounters Annabelle and is reminded of how her mother might have looked in her youth and of Ellen, though Annabelle outshines her. Rayona displays perseverance in the rodeo, climbing back onto the horse named Babe time and again despite falling off. The experience leaves her feeling transformed and distant from her recent past. Her bravery in the rodeo earns her admiration. Annabelle labels Rayona as "insane" but with a friendly undertone. At the day’s end, Rayona, disguised as Foxy, receives a “hard-luck buckle” award. As she receives the award, Rayona removes her disguise and is met with cheers from Evelyn and the crowd.

chapter 8

After receiving her award, Rayona encounters Foxy, Father Tom, and a burly cowboy, Dayton, who turns out to be Christine's occasional boyfriend and the owner of the horse she rode. Rayona introduces her Bearpaw Lake State Park friends, Sky and Evelyn, to them. Father Tom is taken aback by the mention of the park. Annabelle also arrives, who Rayona tentatively introduces as a friend. Evelyn locks eyes with Father Tom who, realizing she's aware of his interactions with Rayona, escapes into the crowd. Dayton offers to drive Rayona home and she departs with Sky and Evelyn to collect her belongings. She gifts Evelyn with a blanket from the park before saying goodbye. Foxy's anger towards Rayona is interrupted by Annabelle. During the drive to Dayton's ranch, Rayona learns about his friendship with her uncle, Lee. On arrival, Christine is shocked and angry, accusing Rayona of causing her worry and sickness. The heated exchange between mother and daughter ends when Dayton intervenes. They settle down to watch the news, featuring Rayona's rodeo feat which astonishes Christine. After a religious show, everyone retires for the night. The following day, Rayona wakes up sore from the rodeo. She remembers Dayton's comment about riding a broken horse and decides to ride Babe, the rodeo horse, who consequently throws her off. Outside, Christine and Rayona converse. Christine shares her loss of faith due to a rumored letter from the Virgin Mary. She had prepared for the anticipated apocalypse by studying the Bible, but when nothing happened, she was left baffled. Her queries at the mission school were dismissed as a "mystery".

chapter 9

The second part of "A Yellow Raft in Blue Water" now follows Christine, shifting the perspective from Rayona. Christine starts her narration post her anticipated world's end. She feels remorse for missing a party due to her apocalypse preparations and decides not to miss another. Her brother, Lee, is quite popular and good-looking, unlike Christine, who doesn't consider herself attractive. Uncertain if they even share the same father, they are forbidden to call their Aunt Ida “mom” as she was never married. Christine is known for her toughness in their grade school, often being dared by boys to do dangerous tasks. One such dare takes her across a high natural stone bridge, which leaves her paralyzed with fear until Lee rescues her. This moment makes Christine reconsider what risks she should take. As Christine enters high school and gains popularity, a mixed heritage boy named Dayton Nickles moves to their reservation and becomes Lee's inseparable companion. Christine misinterprets Dayton's gaze towards her as attraction, and attempts to seduce him during an event. Dayton rebuffs her, saying he sees her as a sister, which angers Christine and strains their relationship. Lee, deemed the future Indian JFK, excels in rodeo, but their Aunt Ida denies him the chance to pursue it professionally. After graduating, Christine works with the tribal council and frequently dates. She embarks on a two-week road trip with Diamond, a father of two, which angers Ida after Diamond's mother accuses Christine of keeping her from her grandchildren. This prompts Christine to move out and live with Pauline, Ida’s sister. Towards the end of high school, Lee and Dayton join the militant “Red Power” movement. Christine disapproves and expresses her concerns to both Lee and Aunt Ida. Ida assures her that Lee is fine, leaving Christine feeling ignored and forgotten.

chapter 10

The Vietnam War is ongoing and Christine inquires Dayton about his draft status. He's been classified as "4-A", meaning he can't be drafted due to his being the only son to a widow. Christine also questions Lee about his future after his military service, but he reveals he has no plans to enlist and would even evade the draft if necessary. Christine perceives Lee's decision as cowardice, leading to a heated argument that ends with her slapping him. There's speculation about whether Lee will enlist, resulting in a disagreement between Christine and Aunt Ida who supports Lee. One day, Christine spots a poster for tribal elections and realizes that dodging the draft will cost Lee a chance at election. She shares this with Dayton, who had planned for Lee's political career. Accepting Christine's point, Dayton decides to convince Lee to enlist. Lee and Dayton vanish for a few weeks, returning on the night of the Labor Day bazaar with Lee having enlisted and sporting a new haircut. He mingles with a new circle of friends while Dayton maintains his 4-A status but also cuts his hair. Feeling restricted by the reservation, Christine opts to join a job program in Seattle, bidding a formal farewell to Ida and an emotional one to Lee, who leaves for boot camp soon after. In Seattle, Christine befriends many but finds her job dull. Despite frequently switching jobs and apartments, she struggles to find satisfaction. She hears from Lee twice, through a postcard from Hawaii and a letter from Vietnam. Later, Dayton informs her that Lee is MIA (missing in action), leaving her distressed and anxious about receiving more letters. One night, anxious about Lee, Christine seeks solace in a bar. It takes her a while to notice that she's the only non-black patron. A uniformed man, Corporal Elgin A. Taylor, approaches her, buys her a drink, and offers comfort about Lee. They spend the night together at Elgin's hotel room, marking a novel experience for Christine, who requests Elgin to never abandon her, to which he agrees.

chapter 11

After her encounter with Elgin, Christine becomes a different person. She anxiously anticipates his military discharge. Upon his return, despite his tardiness, she's overjoyed to be reunited. The couple spends several intimate weeks in Tacoma, living on Elgin's savings. Christine, wanting a child, stops her birth control. After making love in Point Defiance Park, she is certain she's pregnant. She shares the news with Elgin, leading him to propose. As Elgin's funds dwindle, he lands a job with the post office. Christine quits her habits of drinking and smoking and retires to bed early. She resumes her job, crafting black boxes for airplanes. Her pregnancy becomes more noticeable and she wonders about their wedding. They opt for a courthouse ceremony followed by a club celebration, where they are warmly received as newlyweds. Although Elgin grows distant on their walk home, he carries her the last two blocks to their hotel dispelling her fears. She writes to Aunt Ida about her marriage but receives no response. Elgin begins coming home late, causing Christine to accuse him of infidelity. His sudden disappearances remind Christine of a girlfriend one of her exes had left for her. When Elgin leaves for three days, she doesn't question him upon his return. A week past her due date, Christine gets a letter from Dayton announcing Lee's death. As she processes the news, she goes into labor and rushes to the hospital. Elgin is absent during her labor. Despite her discomfort, Christine gives birth. She originally planned to name the baby Raymond, but it's a girl. Elgin chooses the name Diane, after his mother. Christine, however, prefers "Rayona", and uses Diane as her middle name. She insists on keeping Rayona with her, leading the nurses to provide her with a private room. Initially, Elgin and Christine bond after Rayona's birth. However, Elgin starts staying out late again. When Rayona turns nine months, Christine returns to work and finds her own place. Elgin sporadically calls, expressing his desire to reconnect. Sometimes she entertains his attempts, and sometimes she doesn't.

chapter 12

Lee's body is finally brought back to the reservation for his funeral, which Christine and her daughter Rayona attend. They travel in Christine's new Volaré car through a late-night snowstorm, during which Christine hallucinates seeing Lee on a golden staircase by the road, causing her to swerve off the road. After caring for Rayona, they continue their journey. Upon reaching the reservation, they find Lee's body at Aunt Ida's house. Christine is struck by the resemblance between Ida and Rayona. Lee's wake is heavily attended, but Dayton is absent. Although Christine feels ready to forgive Dayton for his choice not to fight in the war, she recognizes that some people hold her responsible for Lee's demise. Ida, for the first time, shows affection to Rayona when Christine asks her where she can let the baby sleep. The funeral takes place the following day. Father Hurlburt leads the procession to the church. Christine stays at the back, having not attended church since the anticipated end of the world didn't happen. She notices Dayton among the congregation and flaunts her wedding ring at him. As the ground is frozen, the attendees throw potting soil on Lee's casket. Ida sweeps the earth off the casket and decorates it with cedar in a six-point design, where she places Lee's championship buckle. Christine, paralyzed with grief, cannot participate until Dayton prompts her to join in. She then manages to throw earth on the coffin. After the funeral, Pauline hosts a gathering. However, Christine and Dayton opt to dine in town instead, sharing a quiet meal. Christine talks about her life in Seattle. Subsequently, a ceremony is held in Lee's honor at the mission gym, where the veterans, including Ida, and Christine and Dayton with Rayona, dance in remembrance of Lee.

chapter 13

Christine and Rayona's journey back to Seattle from the reservation is unhurried. On reaching, Christine is eager for a night out but a babysitter is unavailable, so she brings Rayona to her regular bar, the Silver Bullet. She bumps into Elgin there, who is with another woman. However, after a conversation, they leave together and he stays with them for two weeks. Though Elgin is inconsistent in Christine's life, she always welcomes him back. She has other relationships and maintains a flow of jobs and friends, but Rayona is her only constant. As a child, Rayona is remarkably self-reliant. A call from Aunt Ida informs Christine of her visit due to Clara's illness. Rayona, who doesn't remember Ida, behaves shyly around her. Ida teases Christine about her single status but is kind to Rayona, even bringing her a doll. During a visit to the sick Clara, Rayona and Christine meet many elderly Native Americans. Sadly, Clara passes away before they can visit again. Christine manages to convince Ida, who planned to return to the reservation, to stay for dinner. Ida takes charge of the meal, and Rayona's use of "Grandma" to address Ida is promptly corrected to "Aunt Ida", which annoys Rayona and she exits the kitchen. Elgin reappears the next day, promising to support Christine. She strives to be a better parent to Rayona than Ida was to her, a goal she feels mostly fulfilled. She is frustrated when Elgin lets Rayona down by his absences. Christine loves Rayona deeply and is determined to prevent her from feeling neglected like she did due to Lee. Her feelings, however, never match those she experienced at Point Defiance with Elgin or anyone else.

chapter 14

Christine is informed by a doctor at Indian Health Services that her liver and pancreas are deteriorating and she has around six months left to live. Instead of responding, she requests a deck of cards. Despite the doctor urging her to prepare her daughter, Rayona, for her passing, Christine insists on the deck of cards. Her antics spark the interest of two Native American women sharing the ward. Christine is expecting a visit from Rayona but is apprehensive about discussing her impending death. When Rayona arrives, Christine braids her hair and teaches her a card game. Even though Christine yearns for Elgin to stay when he arrives to drop off the Volaré, he leaves promptly, leaving her upset. To escape her despair, Christine steals a nurse's outfit and sneaks out of the hospital, where she bumps into Rayona while trying to break into the Volaré. Christine tries to convince Rayona that she plans to crash the car for insurance money, but her bluff is called. Rayona joins her in the car and they drive to Point Defiance in Tacoma. Upon arrival, an argument ensues, ending with the realization that the car is out of gas. Christine acknowledges that whatever she does from this point forward, she must include Rayona, and they head to the gas station. Christine plans to leave Rayona with Aunt Ida when she passes. They pack up and Christine asks her neighbor, a pharmacy worker, to mail her painkillers. Wanting to leave Rayona a meaningful gift, Christine lends her a movie from Village Video for her to remember her by. They then depart for Aunt Ida's place. Their vehicle breaks down a mile away from Aunt Ida’s house, forcing them to walk the final stretch. Upon arrival, Christine is asked by Ida to provide three reasons why she should be welcomed. Christine tells her she is her only living daughter and needs a place to stay. However, she refuses to admit her past mistakes to Ida in front of Rayona, instead choosing to insult her mother before leaving.

chapter 15

Christine catches a ride with her cousin, Foxy Cree, who offers her a trip to her mother Pauline's home. However, Christine instead opts to visit her relative, Dayton, whose mother has passed, but he continues to reside on her property. Despite Foxy's odd reaction to Dayton's name, he complies, setting the journey's mood with Santana tunes from his car stereo. Upon reaching Dayton's home, Christine enters using a spare key. She's surprised to discover a photograph of herself among the displayed pictures. Pretending to be asleep when Dayton arrives, she observes his anxious behavior and attempts to discuss her health issues. Dayton allows her to stay, and she retreats to the guest room for a good rest. Awakening to an empty house and a note from Dayton, Christine sets out to find papers that Dayton had hurriedly concealed. Her search leads her to a laundry room where she uncovers shocking newspaper stories about Dayton accused of misconduct, resulting in a five-year prison sentence. He was later released for good behavior and embarked on an accounting career with the tribe. After learning about Dayton's past, Christine spends the rest of the day exploring his home. With her medication supply dwindling, she contacts her Seattle-based friend, Charlene, who informs her the refill was sent to Aunt Ida's. Christine arranges for Dayton to drive her to Ida's during Rayona's school hours. Upon arrival, an argument ensues with Ida, leading her to reveal that she never wanted Christine. Christine leaves, advising Ida to take care of Rayona, leaving Ida angry and alone.

chapter 16

Dayton and Christine are comfortably settled in each other's company, avoiding discussions about Christine's health, Elgin and Rayona. Father Hurlburt and Aunt Ida visit one day, informing Christine about Rayona's disappearance. Post their visit, Christine becomes obsessed with thoughts of Rayona. In July, Foxy arrives to take Dayton and his horse Babe to a rodeo. Christine spends a quiet evening alone and is eager to hear about the rodeo when Dayton returns. Under the influence of medication, she mistakes Rayona for her brother Lee. After a brief argument, they all watch the rodeo's news coverage. Dayton leaves after comforting Christine at night, and she discovers a newfound control over her pain. She finds Rayona sleeping in Babe's corral the next morning and tenderly embraces her. Christine, Dayton, and Rayona become inseparable, enjoying movie nights and inviting Ida for dinner. Dayton repairs the Volaré and Christine teaches Rayona to drive. Upon seeing a newspaper ad, Dayton decides to lend Babe for stud services. Father Tom visits Christine while Dayton and Rayona are out, leaving hurriedly after giving her painkillers. After their return, Rayona starts learning to drive a stick-shift. Christine insists on fetching Babe herself and shares a heartwarming moment with Rayona at a diner. On reaching the horse ranch, they discover that Babe has grown attached to another horse.

chapter 17

Ida depicts her life as one filled with resentment, wishing she had learned to say "No." She hints that her narrative greatly influences her family's story. As she starts her tale, her mother is unwell, and her aunt Clara has come to assist. Ida is intrigued by Clara but is disturbed by her relief at her mother's illness, which brought Clara. Clara's presence is against Ida's father, Lecon's preferences, who fears the community's scorn for his inability to care for his ailing wife. They pretend Clara is homeless to garner community approval. Ida bonds with Clara, sharing secrets and receiving academic help, while her sister Pauline is distant and busy with the nuns at the mission. A crisis arises when Clara reveals her pregnancy by Lecon, leading to a fierce argument among the adults. Clara suggests the baby could be attributed to Ida to deflect suspicion, and Ida consents before she's even asked. They involve Father Hurlburt, known for his discretion, who arranges for Clara and Ida to stay in a motherhouse in Colorado during Clara's pregnancy. Clara assures Ida that their time in Colorado will be enjoyable.

chapter 18

The nuns at the Denver motherhouse, moved by Clara’s assault story, begin to view her as a saint or martyr. Ida, under the guise of Clara's sister, trades manual work for living expenses. The nuns wish for Clara to become a nun and surrender her child for adoption. Ida yearns for a return to normalcy and rest. Pauline's letter informs Ida of family disputes and her unhappiness at home. Clara gives birth to a girl, Christine, named by the nuns. Ida, feigning poor English understanding, is informed she's now "Aunt Ida." Insisting on talking to Clara, she strongly opposes the adoption plan. With the threat of revealing the truth about Christine's paternity, Clara allows Ida to take Christine, promising to follow soon. Father Hurlburt collects Ida after her Colorado journey. Ida discerns his Native American ancestry, explaining her earlier attraction. Ida learns that Pauline has left home due to Lecon's escalating alcoholism. Lecon, disappointed by Clara's absence and his child's gender, meets Ida on arrival. The ensuing two and a half years are routine for Ida. Her mother's health deteriorates and Christine, though not pretty, is fearless. Ida distances herself from Christine by insisting on being called "Aunt Ida," preparing for Clara’s potential return. Father Hurlburt visits regularly, aiding Ida's studies while she helps him with the Indian language. Ida, enjoying his company, hides her feelings, fearing he might stop visiting. He informs Ida of his unavailability the following day, which she brushes off, although he offers to stay for tea. After four years, Clara returns. Barely recognizing each other, Clara wakes up Christine. Distracted by worry, Ida burns her cheek with a hot ladle. Christine, unknowing of the term "mother," accepts Clara's self-introduction. Lecon, returning from work drunk, sobers up on learning of Clara's return. They avoid each other while Lecon takes Ida and Christine to church, followed by dinner with Pauline’s church family. Clara relates her life in Denver with bitterness. Evicted by nuns, she lost multiple jobs. The reservation stop is a hiatus before she starts afresh. Clara reveals a wealthy family wants to adopt Christine, having funded her trip to bring Christine back. Ida consents, after a week's time to bid Christine farewell. However, when Clara arrives to take Christine, Ida refuses. Backed up by Father Hurlburt's legal paperwork naming Ida as Christine's mother, Clara is left powerless and departs. Ida only sees Clara twice more in her lifetime.

chapter 19

Ida's mother passes away, followed by Lecon leaving and Pauline marrying Dale Cree. Improvements are made to Ida's home after she leases her land. Willard Pretty Dog, a formerly handsome and vain boy from the reservation, returns from the war severely disfigured from a landmine. He is so embarrassed by his condition that he paints his car windows to avoid being seen. Father Hurlburt suggests Ida visit Willard, thinking he might feel comfortable visiting her. Father Hurlburt plans to bring Willard to Ida's house. In preparation, Ida spends a lot on groceries and readies her home. When they arrive, Ida coaxes Willard into her house without directly looking at him. Once inside, he becomes more comfortable and they spend the night together. Willard moves in with Ida, causing Pauline to worry about gossip. Ida denies their romantic relationship, but it's evident. During a visit, Father Hurlburt doesn't criticize Ida, and even Willard's mother seems to understand their relationship, treating Ida more like a nurse than a girlfriend. Willard returns to the hospital for more surgery. During his absence, Ida learns about Lecon's death and discovers she's pregnant. She plans to use the pregnancy news to either encourage or comfort Willard post-surgery. To everyone's surprise, the surgery restores Willard's good looks. His mother assumes he would no longer need Ida, but Willard insists on returning to Ida. However, Ida is hurt by Willard's description of her and decides to break up with him. When speculations arise about the father of Ida's unborn child, she neither confirms nor denies them, except when accused of Father Hurlburt being the father. Wanting to be a role model for Christine, Ida no longer pretends to be ignorant or weak. Christine is excited about the baby and wishes to know the name. Despite Pauline's suggestion to honor their parents, Ida names the baby boy Lecon, later simplified to Lee, who turns out to be a remarkably beautiful child.

chapter 20

Contrary to Christine, Lee is meticulous and demands extra attention. Christine willingly assumes the role of his “little mother”. When Father Hurlburt becomes the head of the mission, he no longer has time for his weekly meetings with Ida. Ida dedicates this time to her children instead, who are curious about their roots but Ida evades their questions. Meanwhile, Willard Pretty Dog marries his nurse. Christine occasionally calls Ida “mother” to annoy her, but Ida only responds when referred to as “Aunt Ida”. Ida converses with her children in Indian, while they speak English. She loves both equally, even though they warrant different kinds of attention. Christine becomes deeply involved in her Catholic faith, siding with the saints who met brutal ends. Ida is concerned but Pauline thinks it's Christine's subconscious way of making up for the circumstances of her birth. Christine's deep faith contrasts starkly with her adventurous side, which is prominently visible around Lee. Ida discourages Lee from imitating Christine. One day, a changed Christine returns home, with Lee claiming to have rescued her. Post this incident, Lee gains confidence while Christine becomes more cautious. Christine frequently voices her fear of ending up in hell. Ida seeks advice from Father Hurlburt, who thinks Christine's anxiety is linked to a letter supposedly from the Virgin Mary that predicts an ominous future. He says the children are taking the prophecy too seriously. When Ida discusses the letter with Christine, she remains steadfast in her beliefs. Ida decides to appease her by listing her sins and commits to staying home on New Year's Eve. Lee expresses doubt in Christine's faith and Ida doesn't try to justify it. Christine makes an effort to make Ida look nice, which surprises Ida. However, Lee's derisive laughter spoils the moment and Christine concedes that nothing will happen. At dinner, Lee tries to elevate Christine's mood and plans to stay up till midnight to disprove her. Christine isolates herself in her room with the radio on. Father Hurlburt visits Ida that night and they step onto the roof. When asked about Christine's behavior, Ida confirms she had a rough night. In the dark, Ida begins to braid her hair.

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