Cloud Chamber

Michael Dorris, Author
Michael Dorris, Author Scribner Book Company $24 (320p) ISBN 978-0-684-81567-1
Reviewed on: 12/30/1996
Release date: 01/01/1997
Paperback - 320 pages - 978-0-684-83535-8
Hardcover - 503 pages - 978-0-7862-0981-1
Prebound-Other - 978-0-606-12660-1
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Broadening his canvas and his historical sweep in this memorable and quietly moving novel, Dorris braids the voices and histories of selected members of five generations descended from a raven-haired hellion named Rose Mannion, who flees Ireland for Kentucky. Among her descendants is her great-great-granddaughter Rayona, a half-black and half-Indian girl readers will remember from A Yellow Raft in Blue Water. Dorris's evocative prose gathers strength and clarity as he moves to the second generation and into the rich vein of his multifaceted exploration of what it is to be part of a family. He captures the fierce Irish bitterness of two controlling women: Rose and her daughter-in-law, Bridie, who marries Rose's son Robert even though she's in love with Rose's favorite, Andy. Robert and Bridie's two daughters, Edna and Marcella, who witness their father's financial and physical ruination and must battle TB, which they contract from him, are lifelong safe havens for each other. Marcella falls in love with a black man, but she loses him after they marry, and her son, Elgin, is raised among the white community. A grown Elgin keeps his white family separated from his Indian wife and daughter (Rayona) until after the wife's death. Dorris brings the strands of his narrative together in a deft conclusion--a naming ceremony, in which Rayona takes Rose's name, and in which we see the youngest member tenderly managing three disparate generations and loving them all in her own intrepid way. Thus Dorris provides a moving and persuasive image of a reconciliation for which America still yearns. (Jan.)
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