Review: Red at the Bone
Updated: Sep 12, 2021
Red at the Bone, by Jacqueline Woodson (2019)
Sometimes it seems much more challenging to write a review of a book I loved than it is to write one for something I was lukewarm on. What do I say about a book when I can't nitpick about bad grammar or plot holes?! :)
I loved this book. Loved the prose, the fully fleshed out characters, the style (many short chapters), and the themes explored.
The novel begins with Melody, a young girl celebrating her 16th birthday with family and friends. From then on each chapter oscillates between characters - her mother Iris, father Aubrey, and grandparents Sabe and Sammy - and moves forward and backward in time to tell the family's story. In particular, the novel focuses on Iris' teenage pregnancy, and how the rest of the family reacts to and deals with the existence of Melody throughout her life. One story impacts the next, moving from immigrants and slaves to victims of the Tulsa massacre and 9/11, migrants and home owners to young parents and new babies. For Melody, a doting father and attentive grandparents make up for an absentee mother, to some degree. But mother-daughter duos Sabe & Iris, and Iris & Melody must each muddle their way through/to functional and loving connections as well.
The familial relationships that Woodson creates feel raw and real - never devoid of love, but complicated in that way that makes you wonder how to access that love. People are born and people die - maybe at inconvenient times - and in between you have to figure out how to live with them, how to communicate your feelings, where your responsibilities lie, and, ultimately, how and when to forgive - yourself and others.
Red at the Bone is a fast read because of the short chapters and generous spacing, but you'll want to take your time and really savor it.
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