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Critical Overview

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 556

A Yellow Raft in Blue Water was both a popular and critical success when it was first published in 1987, although some critics (notably Michiko Kakutani) found fault with the way the author withholds crucial information about the secret of Christine's birth, while others (like Robert Narveson) thought he put uncharacteristic words in characters' mouths to make a thematic point. Yet even these critics admitted that the "meticulously delineated world" (Kakutani) and the "drenched...particularity of motive, of action, of perception" (Narveson) in the story moved the reader happily along and created a series of strikingly unique yet interconnnected lives. Reviewer Penelope Moffet also found the major characters in the novel irresistible and Dorris's writing "energetic, understated and seductive." Reiterating the positive reception to the book, Roger Sale called it a "fine novel" with "clearly drawn and clearly felt characters." Writing in 1988, Sale predicted (sadly, in view of Dorris's suicide almost nine years later) that "Michael Dorris works with an impersonality that gives promise that his list of achievements can grow long." A Yellow Raft in Blue Water also found a special place in the writings of feminist critics like Adalaide Morris, who categorized this book, along with two others, as "feminist in their focus on gender but postfeminist in their...return to that antagonist of 'room of one's own' feminism: the greedy, sticky-fingered, endlessly complicated family." Morris noted that "despite its conservative force...the family is the one force in our culture that regularly binds together people of different ages, genders, interests, skills, and sexual preferences and sometimes also people of different ethnic traditions, racial, or religious backgrounds, and economic classes." At the "source" and center of A Yellow Raft in Blue Water , as Morris sees it, is Ida, "a figure who embodies the overdetermined, ambiguous multiplicity behind 'we the plural,' a multiplicity Dorris's narrative extends outward from Christine's 'birth' family to the 'family' she finally constructs, a temporary but tenacious alliance between individuals of different genders, ages, races, economic classes, and sexual preferences." Christine's family thus comes to include not only the pure-blooded Indian Ida, who is relatively well-off because...

(The entire section contains 556 words.)

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A Yellow Raft in Blue Water


Essays and Criticism