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Red at the Bone

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Moving forward and backward in time, Jacqueline Woodson's taut and powerful new novel uncovers the role that history and community have played in the experiences, decisions, and relationships of these families, and in the life of the new child. As the book opens in 2001, it is the evening of sixteen-year-old Melody's coming of age ceremony in her grandparents' B Moving forward and backward in time, Jacqueline Woodson's taut and powerful new novel uncovers the role that history and community have played in the experiences, decisions, and relationships of these families, and in the life of the new child. As the book opens in 2001, it is the evening of sixteen-year-old Melody's coming of age ceremony in her grandparents' Brooklyn brownstone. Watched lovingly by her relatives and friends, making her entrance to the music of Prince, she wears a special custom-made dress. But the event is not without poignancy. Sixteen years earlier, that very dress was measured and sewn for a different wearer: Melody's mother, for her own ceremony-- a celebration that ultimately never took place. Unfurling the history of Melody's parents and grandparents to show how they all arrived at this moment, Woodson considers not just their ambitions and successes but also the costs, the tolls they've paid for striving to overcome expectations and escape the pull of history. As it explores sexual desire and identity, ambition, gentrification, education, class and status, and the life-altering facts of parenthood, Red at the Bone most strikingly looks at the ways in which young people must so often make long-lasting decisions about their lives--even before they have begun to figure out who they are and what they want to be.


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Moving forward and backward in time, Jacqueline Woodson's taut and powerful new novel uncovers the role that history and community have played in the experiences, decisions, and relationships of these families, and in the life of the new child. As the book opens in 2001, it is the evening of sixteen-year-old Melody's coming of age ceremony in her grandparents' B Moving forward and backward in time, Jacqueline Woodson's taut and powerful new novel uncovers the role that history and community have played in the experiences, decisions, and relationships of these families, and in the life of the new child. As the book opens in 2001, it is the evening of sixteen-year-old Melody's coming of age ceremony in her grandparents' Brooklyn brownstone. Watched lovingly by her relatives and friends, making her entrance to the music of Prince, she wears a special custom-made dress. But the event is not without poignancy. Sixteen years earlier, that very dress was measured and sewn for a different wearer: Melody's mother, for her own ceremony-- a celebration that ultimately never took place. Unfurling the history of Melody's parents and grandparents to show how they all arrived at this moment, Woodson considers not just their ambitions and successes but also the costs, the tolls they've paid for striving to overcome expectations and escape the pull of history. As it explores sexual desire and identity, ambition, gentrification, education, class and status, and the life-altering facts of parenthood, Red at the Bone most strikingly looks at the ways in which young people must so often make long-lasting decisions about their lives--even before they have begun to figure out who they are and what they want to be.

30 review for Red at the Bone

  1. 4 out of 5

    Nilufer Ozmekik

    Finally my soul landed on a poignant, beautifully written, emotional, heart-warming story. When this year’s fiction books suffer from lack of creativity and mostly published by commercial success, it is normal to fall everything under your expectations. I loved “Nickel Boys”, “Woman is no Man”, “Ask Again Yes” so much, but lately I haven’t found any gem as marvelous as them till I read this book and now I’m happy to announce this is one of the best fictions of this year (Probably it will compete Finally my soul landed on a poignant, beautifully written, emotional, heart-warming story. When this year’s fiction books suffer from lack of creativity and mostly published by commercial success, it is normal to fall everything under your expectations. I loved “Nickel Boys”, “Woman is no Man”, “Ask Again Yes” so much, but lately I haven’t found any gem as marvelous as them till I read this book and now I’m happy to announce this is one of the best fictions of this year (Probably it will compete for best fiction books at Goodread Choices) So I gave my shiny, beautiful, family bounds, full of unforgettable characters stars. Well, I didn’t request this book from NetGalley, I couldn’t risk get rejection or see my request at the pending purgatory till it moves to archive cemetery! This is the best decision to buy it, have it and love it! This time none of the characters earned my slap show but me because I pissed off myself for not reading any of the other books of this author. Yes, boo and shout at me “shame” as I perform my walk of atonement like Cersei Lannister! Coming of age ceremony is an important traditional celebration and sixteen year old Melody climbs down the stair and takes part in this memorable tradition, as their parents and grandparents watch her, eyes filled in tears, flashing moments before their eyes belonged to their past lives. Melody wears her mother’s dress that she never had a chance to wear because of her pregnancy, adjusted and sewn for her size. The story starts her big step for jumping into the adulthood. We move back and forth with different timelines to catch other main characters’ stories including Melody’s grandfather Sammy Po’boy and grandmother Sabe (they were my favorite couple and I really got jealous about their perfect love story), and the heartbreaking story of her father Aubrey and Her mother Iris about two people met so young, brought a baby to the world, wanted so many different things from life and couldn’t have a healthy, lifelong relationship. Aubrey created his secluded and happy place with a job gave him enough to make ends meet, his beautiful daughter’s smile and his unconditional, vivid love for Iris. But Iris wanted to discover the outer world. She was also a child when she became mother. Aubrey’s mother changed her life view. She made her demand and asking for more. She went to college, had a secret girlfriend, mentioned her daughter as her sister. But when the truth came out she went back to Brooklyn when her parents, daughter and father of her child lived and face her consequences about her choices. This book is about self-discovery, racism, family bound, hunger, poorness, life choices, facing your real emotions. It starts with the first step of Melody and ends with her next biggest step in her life. Poignant, unique, extraordinary…Truly loved it…Celebrating it with my happy dance and a good bottle of Merlot ( Yes my husband forgot his glasses and brought this as a white wine, AGAIN! I’m so lazy to go to liquor store, so that’s fine! -Spitting sound- Oh no! This is cherry juice! Yikes! Husband dearest already jumped from the window to save himself from my punishment! Should I call 911? Nope, he’ll be fine, he’s like a cat, he has seven lives!) I had bad luck with drinks but totally best luck with the book and I enjoyed it so much.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Chaima ✨ شيماء

    ✨Full review now posted HERE on my blog ✨ A highly immersive, graceful and mature read. Highly recommended!

  3. 4 out of 5

    Angela M

    To say that Jacqueline Woodson is gifted story teller who writes beautifully almost feels like faint praise. The story begins with Melody, celebrating her sixteenth birthday, walking down the stairs in her grandparents brownstone, reaching a milestone in this present moment moving toward her future. In alternating narratives, moving back and forth in time, Woodson reflects on the pasts of Melody’s mother Iris, her father Aubrey, her grandmother Sabe and grandfather Sammy Po’Boy and the things th To say that Jacqueline Woodson is gifted story teller who writes beautifully almost feels like faint praise. The story begins with Melody, celebrating her sixteenth birthday, walking down the stairs in her grandparents brownstone, reaching a milestone in this present moment moving toward her future. In alternating narratives, moving back and forth in time, Woodson reflects on the pasts of Melody’s mother Iris, her father Aubrey, her grandmother Sabe and grandfather Sammy Po’Boy and the things that happened to get us to Melody’s birthday celebration. A past reflecting how sixteen years ago, Iris, pregnant with Melody didn’t walk down those steps but could walk away from her little girl, a heartbreaking past of Aubrey’s childhood as he remembers it he remembers hunger, or the first time he realizes he’s poor. A horrific past of racism , an attack on Sabe’s mother’s hair dressing shop, which will forever shape her attitude on money and keeping it safe from fire. A past (and present) beautiful love story of Sabe and Po’Boy. While this book is short in length, it is full of heart, hurt, history, realistic emotions, and a depth of love that is visible from Melody’s first step down that staircase and love that resonates when Melody takes another step into the future at the end of the book. This is the third book I have read by Woodson and another reason why she is on my list of favorite authors. I read this with Esil and Diane and as always a pleasure to discuss our thoughts. I received an advanced copy of this book from Riverhead Books through Edelweiss.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Diane S ☔

    I loved it. Loved everything about this book. The gorgeous prose. The way in just a relatively few pages, Woodsen managed to flesh out her characters, making them autentic people. The themes explored. Themes of mother, daughter relationships, teenage pregnant, ambition, fatherhood and sexual identity. The many different emotions she manages to provoke, emotions that changed as the story progressed. How young people make decisions about their lives, things that will affect them in the future, not I loved it. Loved everything about this book. The gorgeous prose. The way in just a relatively few pages, Woodsen managed to flesh out her characters, making them autentic people. The themes explored. Themes of mother, daughter relationships, teenage pregnant, ambition, fatherhood and sexual identity. The many different emotions she manages to provoke, emotions that changed as the story progressed. How young people make decisions about their lives, things that will affect them in the future, not realizing what that entails. So many issues are covered, yet done so well that it never felt crowded. Life and death, lives lived. Some give up more for love, some are not able to give enough. I loved it because it felt authentic, real. "Something about memory. It takes you back to where you were, and just lets you be there for a while." A much better read for my reading buddies, Angela, Lise and myself. ARC from Netgalley and Riverhead books.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Jen

    This story is raw with emotion. A child who is turning 16 and having a coming of age party evokes the memories of her from her mom, when she had her at 16, her dad - just a kid himself, grandma who raised her as her own daughter, and grandpa who loved her to death. They all do but it’s their stories around this child growing up and how she changed their lives forever. The themes of racism, education, teenage pregnancy. The costs each of them endured during the course of their lives.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Debbie

    This pogo-sticker is hoppin’ and she’s not stoppin’! This book, oh this book! A jazzy story with heart and smarts, it’s got me hoppin’ to the tune of 5+ stars! Where has this phenomenal writer been all my life? Oh what she can do with words! This wasn’t a book that took a while to draw me in. I started reading, and POW, I was immediately in love. The language! It grabbed me fast and it held me tight. It’s poetic without being flowery. It’s jazzy, with an intense pulse and a cadence that makes my This pogo-sticker is hoppin’ and she’s not stoppin’! This book, oh this book! A jazzy story with heart and smarts, it’s got me hoppin’ to the tune of 5+ stars! Where has this phenomenal writer been all my life? Oh what she can do with words! This wasn’t a book that took a while to draw me in. I started reading, and POW, I was immediately in love. The language! It grabbed me fast and it held me tight. It’s poetic without being flowery. It’s jazzy, with an intense pulse and a cadence that makes my head dance. And it’s dreamy—with its plaintive tone (there is a pervasive sadness) and its speedy yet graceful change in time periods and voice. The crooked storyline, going here and there and back again, with different people telling their truths, makes it feel like I’m not standing still, but instead, like I’m flowing in and out of decades and feelings. Woodson is a master; her transitions are seamless. And I never had trouble figuring out whose picture was being painted. And POW, I was instantly in love with the characters, too. The story centers around a pair of teens who make a baby. The book opens with the baby, Melody, who is now 16, having a birthday party. The mom and dad are there, along with a set of grandparents, and all have a story to tell. Melody calls her mom “Iris” instead of “mom,” and there’s a reason for this, as you learn as the story unfolds. We see everyone’s struggles. Their regrets, passion, ambition, grief. We see how history makes you who you are today, how expectations can get you in trouble, how love sometimes is trumped by ambition and what that can cost a family. Each character’s life is intense and vivid, and I felt for every one of them. I didn’t love Iris’s decision (in fact, it bothered me a lot), but I still felt her pain. This is just a little taste . . . (and you’ll see why I’m going nutso over this book): “Maybe this was the moment when I knew I was a part of a long line of almost erased stories. A child of denial. Of magical thinking. Of a time when Iris and my father wanted each other in…that way. The something they were so hungry for in each other becoming me.” “If this moment was a sentence, I’d be the period.” “And as we dance, I am not Melody who is sixteen, I am not my parents’ once illegitimate daughter—I am a narrative, someone’s almost forgotten story. Remembered.” “I see you and Aubrey wrote that check that your body’s gotta cash now,” she said, pointing her chin toward Iris’s belly.” I was in a frenzy while reading. Right in the middle of my glued-to-the-page reading bliss, my pushy book-crazed self shoved me off my pogo stick for a sec so I could go get the scoop on the author and her other books. I just had to know more about her, had to. So I read her bio on Goodreads, which was actually an auto-bio, and I was wowed. So wowed, in fact, that I made a friend listen to me read it over the phone. It’s a passionate couple of paragraphs about how she came to be a writer. Yep, I must read everything this storyteller (i.e., magician) has written. It’s all I can do not to push aside my carefully arranged queue and devour all of her books instead. I haven’t been this excited about an author since I discovered Maggie O’Farrell last year. So much fun to have it happen again! Finding a new favorite author is close to nirvana. Okay, you know as well as I do that this chatty cathy could go on, but she’d just be saying the same thing over and over again. (I have no idea why I started talking about myself in third person. Geez.) Let me just leave it at this: Read this perfect little book! It’s a short, fast read, so go ahead and slip it into your queue. You might end up joining me on my pogo-stick trip! Thanks to Edelweiss for the advance copy.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Karen

    I just loved this! This story is about two urban black families and shifts around in time and is told by the points of view of each of the five characters. An unplanned teenage pregnancy and how their lives go forward for a young couple, the daughter they bring forth, and the maternal grandparents. It is poetic and dramatic and I just couldn’t stop reading! This is the third book I’ve read by this author... I need to read her others.

  8. 4 out of 5

    JanB

    This is a look at the effects of teenage pregnancy on two families, one well-off, the other poor. Told through shifting time and the perspectives of the parents, the grandparents, and the child, the writing itself is worthy of 5 stars. I appreciated the themes as well as the push against stereotypes. The author set out to do what she intended with this book but for me, the story itself was good, but not a memorable read. I'm in the minority as many readers love this one. * I received This is a look at the effects of teenage pregnancy on two families, one well-off, the other poor. Told through shifting time and the perspectives of the parents, the grandparents, and the child, the writing itself is worthy of 5 stars. I appreciated the themes as well as the push against stereotypes. The author set out to do what she intended with this book but for me, the story itself was good, but not a memorable read. I'm in the minority as many readers love this one. * I received a copy of the book via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review

  9. 5 out of 5

    Toni

    Lyrical, poignant, powerful, Red at the bone by Jacqueline Woodson will mesmerize you with its spellbinding tale how people from different origins and backgrounds come together, love, create a new life, stay or go their different ways and continue living. The book begins with a special kind of celebration- it is Melody's sixteenth birthday and her coming of age party. She is wearing a custom made vintage dress, a corset and silk stockings. The dress was sewn and paid for by her maternal gra Lyrical, poignant, powerful, Red at the bone by Jacqueline Woodson will mesmerize you with its spellbinding tale how people from different origins and backgrounds come together, love, create a new life, stay or go their different ways and continue living. The book begins with a special kind of celebration- it is Melody's sixteenth birthday and her coming of age party. She is wearing a custom made vintage dress, a corset and silk stockings. The dress was sewn and paid for by her maternal grandparents for her mother Iris who never got her chance to wear it, because by the time she would have, she was already pregnant with Melody. As Melody is dancing in abandon with her friends, she is watched by her family. Her mother is wondering how things got so wrong between them. She is remembering how her own mother reacted to the news of the pregnancy, crying and cursing her daughter's foolishness that destroyed the bright future her parents had been hoping for. Aubrey, Melody's father, was just a teenager himself. He remembers falling in love with Iris and discovering 'what love felt like- a constant ache, an endless need'. He remembers his own mother who was so light-skinned, she could be mistaken for a white woman. People even asked her if Aubrey was her foster child. They were very poor, but it took years for Aubrey even realize that, let alone feel any kind shame for their poverty. Above all, Aubrey remembers his mother's words:-'I believe in you, Aubrey. My love. My life. My light.' Melody's grandparents have their own story. Her grandmother Sabe has been passing the story of the Tulsa riot/ massacre and the fire that burned her grandparents' businesses and left a scar on her mother's cheek. She grew up with a special kind of philosophy geared towards survival. Her grandfather's lifestory is perhaps much simple, but it is all about love and family. As we follow the protagonists' stories, we learn more and more about Melody's family, the love they all give her, their sincerity, and their own search for identity. Starting from Aubrey's mother explanation for their very different looks- 'The black ancestors beat the crap out of the white ones and said, Let this baby on through- through Aubrey's mother helping pregnant Iris re-kindle her ambition and passion for learning in order to finish her high school and go on to college to Sabe's inner voice 'Rise. Rise. Rise' refusing to let gossips dictate how she and her family should live. Jacqueline Woodson's writing is exquisitely beautiful and I can see myself reding and re-reading this book again and again. Each character has a unique voice and a unique story to tell. Red at the Bone is a little gem of a book that you will keep thinking about long after you have turned the last page. Thank you to Edelweiss and Riverhead Books for the ARC provided in exchange for an honest opinion.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Esil

    What a beautiful little jewel of a book! Red at the Bone is told from the perspectives of five members of a somewhat unconventional family. At the centre of the story is Iris, who was 16 when she had her daughter Melodie. The three other family members are Iris' parents and Melodie's father. There is no linearity to the story. Slowly, through different layers, we get a bit more information about what happened to the characters and mostly a strong sense of their very distinct personalities. The e What a beautiful little jewel of a book! Red at the Bone is told from the perspectives of five members of a somewhat unconventional family. At the centre of the story is Iris, who was 16 when she had her daughter Melodie. The three other family members are Iris' parents and Melodie's father. There is no linearity to the story. Slowly, through different layers, we get a bit more information about what happened to the characters and mostly a strong sense of their very distinct personalities. The end is terribly sad and beautiful at the same time. I'm feeling a bit tongue tied by this one. Read it. It's short. I definitely have to read more books by this author. This was another buddy read with Diane and Angela. It more than made up for the mediocre book we just read together. Thanks also to Edelweiss and the publisher for an opportunity to read an advance copy.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer ~ TarHeelReader

    Thank you to Penguin Random House Audio Group and Libro.fm for the free audio copy. I’ve been waiting to read this book since I knew of its existence. Jacqueline Woodson is becoming a go-to author for me, and Red at the Bone is just as emotionally smart as her other books I’ve read. It was also thought-provoking and powerful, and I highly recommend it. The audio has multiple narrators, including some cameos from Woodson herself, and it’s also worthy of five stars.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Cheri

    “Iris pressed the cold envelopes and magazine against her lips.I was fifteen, she whispered into them. Fifteen. I wasn’t even anybody yet.” There’s so much love that flows through the pages of Woodson’s latest story, weaving back and forth through time to tell the story of a family through the ages. From Sabe’s story we know the time and place where she grew up, the things she’s seen, the history she’s lived through. All these provide insight into her daughter Iris’s coming future. A future that will include a daulips.I “Iris pressed the cold envelopes and magazine against her lips.I was fifteen, she whispered into them. Fifteen. I wasn’t even anybody yet.” There’s so much love that flows through the pages of Woodson’s latest story, weaving back and forth through time to tell the story of a family through the ages. From Sabe’s story we know the time and place where she grew up, the things she’s seen, the history she’s lived through. All these provide insight into her daughter Iris’s coming future. A future that will include a daughter, a daughter that she will choose to leave behind as she heads off to college, leaving Melody with the father, Aubrey. ”Maybe this was the moment when I knew I was part of a long line of almost erased stories. A child of denial. Of magical thinking. Of a time when Iris and my father wanted each other in . . . that way. The something they were so hungry for in each other becoming me.” This story is shared through the views of three generations, including Melody’s parents, and grandparents, sharing each generation’s regrets, fears, and the events that shaped their lives. ”You sing the songs you remember from your own childhood. Mama may have. Papa may have . . .You remember your parents living, wrap the ancient photos of Lucille’s Hair Heaven and Papa Joe’s Supper Club pulled from the flames . . . and you rise. You rise. You rise.” ”So I rose.” Woodson excels in her ability to pull you into the story, between her spare prose, and the unfolding details of the lives of this family, there are many issues she also brings to light. The mother-daughter relationship, identity – as a black woman, as well as in terms of sexuality and orientation, and ambition as well as how economics creates a division of people into categories. Labels that are often difficult to break free from.

  13. 4 out of 5

    *TUDOR^QUEEN*

    I was intrigued by the concept of this story involving a black family. It begins with a sixteen year old girl named Melody majestically descending her staircase accompanied by an orchestra, wearing a beautiful white "coming out" dress that once belonged to her mother Iris...but she never got to wear...because she got pregnant with Melody at the age of 15. Melody's father Aubrey is so overcome with pride that the tears pour helplessly down his face, and he's flummoxed as to what to do with his ha I was intrigued by the concept of this story involving a black family. It begins with a sixteen year old girl named Melody majestically descending her staircase accompanied by an orchestra, wearing a beautiful white "coming out" dress that once belonged to her mother Iris...but she never got to wear...because she got pregnant with Melody at the age of 15. Melody's father Aubrey is so overcome with pride that the tears pour helplessly down his face, and he's flummoxed as to what to do with his hands. He's my favorite character in the book. Aubrey came from meager financial beginnings, but has all the right values. He did well in school and got a job in the mailroom of a law firm, and moved in with Iris and her parents during the pregnancy. He was content with simplicity while Iris always wanted more. Ironically enough, it was Aubrey's mother that pushed Iris to continue her education, and she eventually moved away to board at college. Iris felt exhilarated to be so far away and experience the freedom of life at college. Aubrey was left behind with Melody, who (on the few occasions she saw her) called her mother Iris instead of Mom. Aubrey clearly yearned for Iris, but she had other designs on life. The chapters are each narrated by different characters in the book, but their names aren't posted under the chapter numbers, so it was always disorienting to try to get a handle on who was talking. Other than this downfall, the writing was of high quality. On the positive side, I was encouraged to read a story about a child that was mistakenly conceived but got to be born, and was loved fiercely by the father and Iris's parents. The irony was that although Iris insisted on having and keeping the child, she later became very detached from her. For me the redeeming force in the book was Aubrey, who rose from living with his single mother in a roach infested apartment to be a fine man. He did everything right; he worked hard at school, got a decent job and absolutely adored his daughter. The teenage pregnancy was a shock, but Aubrey was present for his family. His love for Iris was unrequited, and I mourned for this good man. I found the character of Iris to be selfish and determined, and in sharp relief to Aubrey who valued the precious gift of Melody. Thank you to Riverhead Books / Penguin Publishing Group who provided an advance reader copy via Edelweiss.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Jenna

    First off, let me say that Jacqueline Woodson writes exquisitely! Reading her words is like being enveloped in a song. I wanted to love this book, oh how I wanted to love it! Instead, I had a hard time connecting, even whilst I loved reading the words. I think the reason for this is that there are so many narrators and at times I got confused as to who was speaking. I really didn't connect with any of the characters except for Iris. Had the book been written in her voice alone, I think this would have been First off, let me say that Jacqueline Woodson writes exquisitely! Reading her words is like being enveloped in a song. I wanted to love this book, oh how I wanted to love it! Instead, I had a hard time connecting, even whilst I loved reading the words. I think the reason for this is that there are so many narrators and at times I got confused as to who was speaking. I really didn't connect with any of the characters except for Iris. Had the book been written in her voice alone, I think this would have been a 5 star read for me. Even had it been written in two voices, I think I would have loved it. Having several of them just didn't work for me. I will definitely be reading more of this author in the future, and hopefully will find others that work better for me.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Chrissie

    My friends love this book. I hate it. It is not pleasant to write a review in such a situation, but it Is wrong to say you hate a book and then give no explanation. This book revels in suffering. It is a common phenomenon to observe people aggravating a wound to increase their pain. This may be a way of venting one’s spleen on life’s injustices. We can in this way feel sorry for ourselves! Some people are drawn to stare at an accident. I am not. Life throws difficulties at many , no, in fact all of us. M My friends love this book. I hate it. It is not pleasant to write a review in such a situation, but it Is wrong to say you hate a book and then give no explanation. This book revels in suffering. It is a common phenomenon to observe people aggravating a wound to increase their pain. This may be a way of venting one’s spleen on life’s injustices. We can in this way feel sorry for ourselves! Some people are drawn to stare at an accident. I am not. Life throws difficulties at many , no, in fact all of us. My attitude is straightforward--figure out what your alternatives are, choose one and follow it through. Bemoaning the situation gets you nowhere. This is a story about an unplanned teenage pregnancy and birth. It is also about the difficulties thrown at people of color. I adamantly oppose racial discrimination. I would be the last to deny that adolescents have strong sexual urges and that people do make mistakes, but we must then live with the consequences. The author heaps one problem on top of another. Even 9/11 is added to the sad and depressing piling up of calamities. Four people die in the short span of this novel! Love relationships, one between a father and daughter and another between a son and a mother are sentimentally drawn—in both cases with a dismal (i.e. (view spoiler)[fatal (hide spoiler)] ) outcome. My point is that in this book the dismal and the sad are pushed to an extreme. The positive is barely expressed. Maybe some readers enjoy being made to feel sad and depressed, but not me! Empathy can be felt for another’s happiness too. Even the prose style is designed to make you feel miserable. Repetition of words over and over and over and over again is used to further emphasize grief. A child, the one born out of wedlock, reaches in this tale the age of sixteen. She says she remembers a caul being pulled off her face at birth. She also remembers being an infant, sucking at her mother’s breast. Really?! Do you believe that? Is this feasible? What else do I dislike? I dislike how the tale flips back and forth in time. I dislike that characters are not properly introduced. Readers are to be kept guessing. Yeah, eventually a hint is given so you can make sense of what you are being told. Some people may like such guessing games, but I don’t. The audiobook has a full cast narration. Through dramatization the sad and depressing are further emphasized. I do not like this book, neither the lines nor the narration. Both I have given one star. Please, do keep in mind that I usually have nothing against a sad story. It is the technique by which this is done that I dislike here. *********** Please see message nine below. It concerns additional aspects of the book, aspects that prospective readers should be told.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Bianca

    This was the first Jacqueline Woodson novel that I read. Red at the Bone is a small novel that covers three generations of African-Americans. The story moves back and forward in time, between several characters, showing snippets of their lives, conversations, memories, recollections. The writing style gave this novel a dream-like quality. Occasionally I struggled with this novel as it took a couple of phrases or more to find out whose pov we were reading, so I think that jerked me awake and pul This was the first Jacqueline Woodson novel that I read. Red at the Bone is a small novel that covers three generations of African-Americans. The story moves back and forward in time, between several characters, showing snippets of their lives, conversations, memories, recollections. The writing style gave this novel a dream-like quality. Occasionally I struggled with this novel as it took a couple of phrases or more to find out whose pov we were reading, so I think that jerked me awake and pulled me out of the story. While there were issues of class and race, it wasn't an overtly militant or political novel, even though it mentions the Tusla massacre and a few other incidents. I'll be reading more by Jacqueline Woodson.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Dem

    Not going to rate this book as I DNF it but it’s just not for me and I just don't want to give it any more of my time. I did however listen to 20% of this on audible and the narration was well done and with audible you may return the book for any reason and get a refund on your credit which really is very fair and one of the reasons I love Audio.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Diane Barnes

    This is my first Jacqueline Woodson book, and I have to admit, she's quite the storyteller. In just a little under 200 pages, she gives us the family history of Melody, a child who could have been aborted but was not; her mother, Iris, who could have lost her way, but did not; her father Aubrey, who chose to stay; and grand-parents who learned to take the blows of life and roll on. Beautiful and uplifting, I think it should be required school reading for all teen-agers, but know it won't be beca This is my first Jacqueline Woodson book, and I have to admit, she's quite the storyteller. In just a little under 200 pages, she gives us the family history of Melody, a child who could have been aborted but was not; her mother, Iris, who could have lost her way, but did not; her father Aubrey, who chose to stay; and grand-parents who learned to take the blows of life and roll on. Beautiful and uplifting, I think it should be required school reading for all teen-agers, but know it won't be because of some of the content. Most memorable line: "She now knew that there were many ways to be hung from a cross".

  19. 4 out of 5

    Jenny (Reading Envy)

    A brief novel that starts with a 16 year old putting on a dress that should have been worn by her mother, but wasn't, and the story unfolds from there. This is an author I've always meant to try! I liked how complex her characters are and how their relationships shift in subtle ways. Do you have a favorite Woodson? The book came out September 17, 2019 and I did have an eARC from the publisher through NetGalley

  20. 5 out of 5

    BookOfCinz

    I have no words to describe how great a writer Jacqueline Woodson is. Her writing genuinely takes my breathe away and I always in awe at how she uses words so sparingly but is able to convey so much- witchcraft! Red At The Bone opens with sixteen-year-old Melody's coming of age ceremony. Surrounded by friends and family, we get an immersive look into Melody's life and the events leading up to this ceremony. The ceremony is a considered a part of Melody's family history, but for some reason, Me I have no words to describe how great a writer Jacqueline Woodson is. Her writing genuinely takes my breathe away and I always in awe at how she uses words so sparingly but is able to convey so much- witchcraft! Red At The Bone opens with sixteen-year-old Melody's coming of age ceremony. Surrounded by friends and family, we get an immersive look into Melody's life and the events leading up to this ceremony. The ceremony is a considered a part of Melody's family history, but for some reason, Melody's mother Iris, didn't take part in tradition. The ceremony is somewhat the grounding point of the book. We hear from Melody's Grandmother Sabe, about how her ceremony went, and all the major events that led to her being in 2001 watching her only granddaughter take part in a tradition she hold close to her heart. We hear from her Grandfather Po'Boy and his courtship with Sabe and what it felt like when Iris showed up 16 earlier to let him know about the pregnancy. The book goes between the past and presence seamlessly, and with each chapter we are immersed in a richer history and greater understanding of each character. I loved the exploration of how an unwanted child impacts not only the parents but the grandparents and ultimately the child. Woodson did a spectacular job of exploring themes such as education, class, ambition, motherhood and sexuality in just 196 pages. A short but impactful read. I cannot stop singing praises about Jacqueline Woodson and her writing. WOW

  21. 5 out of 5

    Judy

    Oh I think this book will win awards! Beautifully written story that delves into a family's relationships among one another and the history that brings them into what they are - their roots. Full of flawed characters who, through time and living have made their way in life. Their interwoven dreams and realities laid bare. A highly emotional, character-driven story. Although it is a short book, it is filled with a message and hope. Thanks to Jacqueline Woodson and Edelweiss for an adva Oh I think this book will win awards! Beautifully written story that delves into a family's relationships among one another and the history that brings them into what they are - their roots. Full of flawed characters who, through time and living have made their way in life. Their interwoven dreams and realities laid bare. A highly emotional, character-driven story. Although it is a short book, it is filled with a message and hope. Thanks to Jacqueline Woodson and Edelweiss for an advance copy in exchange for an honest review.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Linda

    Yowzers. Red at the Bone places powerful words upon your heart. Jacqueline Woodson has a superb talent for bring pain, frustration, sorrow, and triumph to the surface. But it's gonna take a bite out of you. A large bite......a worthy, worthy bite. The white dress lay upon the bed unworn and so distant in the mind of sixteen year old Melody as she prepares for her coming-of-age ceremony. This was her momma's dress filled with promise and a vision of the future. But just like Yowzers. Red at the Bone places powerful words upon your heart. Jacqueline Woodson has a superb talent for bring pain, frustration, sorrow, and triumph to the surface. But it's gonna take a bite out of you. A large bite......a worthy, worthy bite. The white dress lay upon the bed unworn and so distant in the mind of sixteen year old Melody as she prepares for her coming-of-age ceremony. This was her momma's dress filled with promise and a vision of the future. But just like the threads sewn tightly within it, this glistening gown weaves its way from the past to the present by way of familial stories told throughout these pages. Raw truth and blind denial. "Brooklyn, Iris said, Chicago before that. And a couple of ancestors from Tulsa. Until then, she hadn't pulled Tulsa out of her pocket. It was a dormant history, her mother's old-fashioned story resurrected again and again with crazy sounding talk....." Red at the Bone speaks to identity. Who are we as defined by our family, our community, our culture and most importantly, to ourselves? Woodson lifts the pot lid on the stew churning and boiling on the stove. We are a complicated mixture of those who came before us combined with the impact of our own experiential realities. So intricate and yet so simple at its core. A compact read at less than two hundred pages, but a highly honorable one to behold.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Betsy Robinson

    About halfway through this multigenerational story about a black family, Iris, the daughter, remembers when she was twelve, yelling at her mother: That’s your history, not mine! Her mother goes silent, stunned, then confused, then in tears, responds, You’re right, Iris. . . It’s not yours. (105) And then later in life when Iris is thinking about her baby’s grandmother, CathyMarie (the father’s mother) who once told her to do something with her life, that she had no excuse not to because Nothing’s haunting About halfway through this multigenerational story about a black family, Iris, the daughter, remembers when she was twelve, yelling at her mother: That’s your history, not mine! Her mother goes silent, stunned, then confused, then in tears, responds, You’re right, Iris. . . It’s not yours. (105) And then later in life when Iris is thinking about her baby’s grandmother, CathyMarie (the father’s mother) who once told her to do something with her life, that she had no excuse not to because Nothing’s haunting you., Iris regrets that she hadn’t asked CathyMarie, What haunts you?. However, “By the time she was out of her own head [not thinking of only herself] and old enough to know this is what she wanted to know, CathyMarie had been dead for years.” (114-115) These moments stopped me cold because they illustrated the story of my white life: me and multiple generations willfully rejecting and disowning our own history when we were young, not understanding that it was part of our own DNA—the very redness in our bones. I’ve spent the last decade or so trying to reconstruct my own story, and I found myself jealous that Iris had hers all around her, with people who were more than willing to share it with her. And I felt such admiration for Jacqueline Woodson’s understanding of the importance of the red at our bones and I’m grateful for her ability to tell it, share it, and make it live in all of its complexity and contradictions. My mother was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in 1921, the year of an attempted genocide of wealthy black people there—a central event of this novel. And I know nothing about my extended family’s place in this history. Did it have anything to do with my mother’s almost visceral rejection of Oklahoma? Oh how I wish I could ask all the questions this novel stirred up. But I can’t. So like a literary leech, I latched onto Woodson’s beautifully written book to learn and feel whatever she was willing to share about people I have never known and wish I had and I let them undo me.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Cortney

    “Guess that’s where the tears came from, knowing that there’s so much in this great big world that you don’t have a single ounce of control over.” Let’s take a trip down memory lane... Melody is a lost girl. Carrying a burden she never asked for. Aubrey is a lost man. Trying to make every thing right but failing again and again. Iris is a lost woman. Trying to get back the time she feels she lost. Woodson gives us glimpses of the choices made by each of these characters in “Guess that’s where the tears came from, knowing that there’s so much in this great big world that you don’t have a single ounce of control over.” Let’s take a trip down memory lane... Melody is a lost girl. Carrying a burden she never asked for. Aubrey is a lost man. Trying to make every thing right but failing again and again. Iris is a lost woman. Trying to get back the time she feels she lost. Woodson gives us glimpses of the choices made by each of these characters in the past and how it impacts their future. Red at the Bone is a beautifully haunting story about regrets, heartbreak, and loss that will stay with you long after you’ve turned the last page. A short but powerful read.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Jeanette

    Wow, this seems closer to poetry than prose fiction to me. Many lines certainly are. It's touching and an excellent posits for these characters. Especially between Melody and her Mother. But it's just way too lyrical for me. Understanding the poignant developments and connections. And the spirit and reality of "worth" and what is lost and yet so gained- that was 4 star for sure. But the sense of melodrama or some kind of forcing against stereotype. Or some "other worldliness" about th Wow, this seems closer to poetry than prose fiction to me. Many lines certainly are. It's touching and an excellent posits for these characters. Especially between Melody and her Mother. But it's just way too lyrical for me. Understanding the poignant developments and connections. And the spirit and reality of "worth" and what is lost and yet so gained- that was 4 star for sure. But the sense of melodrama or some kind of forcing against stereotype. Or some "other worldliness" about this! So very effusive and teeming with adjectives- just too much of that for me. It gushes extremes. Others seem to enjoy this far more than I did. As short as it was, near the ending I had to force myself to further decipher without speed reading. It's too flowery to speed read, actually.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Trudie

    I have to admit to struggling with this one and it might very well be a case of "it's not you, it's me". Red at the Bone is a tightly written multi-generational novel, with a lyrical nostalgic air about it. There are some great music references peppered throughout this making it seem like the book has it's own soundtrack. Its themes are important; it deals with memory and loss, of what it means to have an unplanned pregnancy in the family, the expectations you place on your children. But I fou I have to admit to struggling with this one and it might very well be a case of "it's not you, it's me". Red at the Bone is a tightly written multi-generational novel, with a lyrical nostalgic air about it. There are some great music references peppered throughout this making it seem like the book has it's own soundtrack. Its themes are important; it deals with memory and loss, of what it means to have an unplanned pregnancy in the family, the expectations you place on your children. But I found that I could not avoid the nagging feeling this was just all too melodramatic and overwrought for my taste. This was particularly reinforced by a later plot point, that I will not give away, but I judged tipped the novel into mawkishness. Still, Red at the Bone is worth a look if, like me, you are new to reading Jacqueline Woodson and want to decide for yourself if her style is for you.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Abbie | ab_reads

    4.5 stars! My endless thanks to Seji @theartisangeek for introducing me to Jacqueline Woodson, who I incredibly had not come across before! But I’m officially hooked now. You all probably know that motherhood is one of my main jams when it comes to reading topics and Red at the Bone, centred around an unexpected teenage pregnancy, delivers a fantastic new aspect to the subject! When Iris falls pregnant by Aubrey at 15, their worlds are changed but in very different ways. Ir 4.5 stars! My endless thanks to Seji @theartisangeek for introducing me to Jacqueline Woodson, who I incredibly had not come across before! But I’m officially hooked now. You all probably know that motherhood is one of my main jams when it comes to reading topics and Red at the Bone, centred around an unexpected teenage pregnancy, delivers a fantastic new aspect to the subject! When Iris falls pregnant by Aubrey at 15, their worlds are changed but in very different ways. Iris comes from money, while Aubrey and his mother subsist on food stamps, so when the baby comes and ties their families together, they struggle to align both of their wants and needs. Aubrey is content with his low level job in the mail room of a law firm, doting on his daughter, while Iris is determined to achieve her dreams of going to college. Woodson’s prose is lyrical but sparse, providing a vivid snapshot of the characters’ lives. She favours short sentences, short paragraphs and short chapters, and yet at no point is it not enough. She deftly handles a myriad of weighty topics including motherhood, race, class, education, sexuality, identity, and even the right to die. Although it’s a short book and obviously each topic isn’t given a hundred pages of exploration, it never feels rushed or forced, and Woodson approaches them all sensitively. Nothing is more interesting to me than unconventional motherhood, and while we might not agree with the choices these characters make, we cannot deny them the right to make them. At 16, Iris can’t know what she wants or what she will want in the future, and here we see how her decision plays out over the years, occasionally jumping back in time to see how the two families came to be where they are now. After this vibrant and moving portrait of two families, I will be now hunting down more of Woodson’s books! (Although I hope she uses speech marks rather than italics for dialogues because for some reason that really threw me??)

  28. 5 out of 5

    Kyra Leseberg (Roots & Reads)

    It's 2001 and sixteen-year-old Melody is celebrating her birthday surrounded by family and friends.  Told from alternating points of view, readers learn the past that brought two very different families together for this momentous occasion.  Red at the Bone is a poignant story that I devoured in one sitting.  The voice of each character is powerful and authentic.  The tragedies that play major parts in their lives were heartbreaking.  This is an unflinching look at family and how we become one/>Red It's 2001 and sixteen-year-old Melody is celebrating her birthday surrounded by family and friends.  Told from alternating points of view, readers learn the past that brought two very different families together for this momentous occasion.  Red at the Bone is a poignant story that I devoured in one sitting.  The voice of each character is powerful and authentic.  The tragedies that play major parts in their lives were heartbreaking.  This is an unflinching look at family and how we become one, slowly and all at once, based on our choices. At just over 200 pages, Woodson explores ambition, education, desire, and parenthood in an emotionally insightful way. I recommend this book to readers who love literary/historical fiction, family drama, and narratives from multiple points of view. Thanks to Riverhead Books and Edelweiss for providing me with a DRC in exchange for my honest review.  Red at the Bone is scheduled for release on September 17, 2019. For more reviews, visit www.rootsandreads.wordpress.com

  29. 5 out of 5

    Christine

    Setting this one aside at 16%. Not digging the writing style at all. No rating.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Anna Luce

    ★★★✰✰ 3 stars “They say you don’t remember early stuff, that you’re just suddenly six and having your first memories. But that’s not true.” At its heart Red at the Bone is a novel about familial relationships. The story opens in 2001 during sixteen-year-old Melody's 'introduction' to society. We soon learn that she is the product of a teenage pregnancy and that her parents come from two very different backgrounds. Her mother's family is relatively privileged, while her father was brought up by his single mother. The narr/> ★★★✰✰ 3 stars “They say you don’t remember early stuff, that you’re just suddenly six and having your first memories. But that’s not true.” At its heart Red at the Bone is a novel about familial relationships. The story opens in 2001 during sixteen-year-old Melody's 'introduction' to society. We soon learn that she is the product of a teenage pregnancy and that her parents come from two very different backgrounds. Her mother's family is relatively privileged, while her father was brought up by his single mother. The narrative explores the way the various members of this family feel towards Melody and each another. Chapters narrated or focused on Melody often detail the resentment she feels towards her mother while the chapters focusing on Melody's mother usually take us back to the early stages of Melody's life and depict the way Melody's mother struggled to reconcile herself with the life and status of a young mother. Woodson deftly captures the difficult, and sometimes incongruous, feelings and desires we nourish towards our families. The chapters swiftly switched from character to character and the shifting perspectives (from 1st to 3rd) worked perfectly in that they allowed us to view the characters inside-out. Relationship between past, present, and future as they explore or survey their feelings and memories. The multiplicity of voices makes the narrative a plurivocal one, one in which each character can express their own thoughts and views. We see the way these various characters approach or are changed by their parenthood, as well as the way in which their different upbringings shapes their worldview. Each voice evokes with brilliant veracity a particular character so that within a few lines we would know who was the narrator was. My favourite sections were narrated by Melody's maternal grandfather: there was such love and affection emanating from his words that I had to hold back tears. The story Still, while I do think that Woodson's writing style could be lyrical, I did find that when the characters, or the narrative, recounted their sexual encounters or described their romantic/sexual desires towards a certain person, the writing could become quite sickly, acquiring an almost over-sentimental and icky quality that decreased my attention and involvement towards the storyline. Also, I wasn't particularly satisfied with a certain plot point. The plot as such meanders from past to present, seeming almost unfixed or unfazed by things such as as sticking to cohesive timeline or structure, and yet, all of a sudden something derails the course of these meandering narratives....I'm not sure why the story had to make a direct connection with (view spoiler)[9/11 (hide spoiler)] . It seemed almost to have been used to shock readers as it was included in an almost oblique manner. Which is a pity as up to that point Woodson's novel struck me as being very considerate. Nevertheless, I think I probably would recommend this one. The grandfather's chapters alone are worth the read... Read more reviews on my blog / / / View all my reviews on Goodreads

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