Red At The Bone by Jacqueline Woodson begins in Brooklyn 2001 at 16 year old Melodys coming of age ceremony in her grandparents brownstone. The story unfolds through carefully written prose of shifting perspectives from Melody, her parents and her grandparents. I am so glad for Woodsons shift into the world of adult writing, mainly known for her award winning children’s books, this is a brilliant and profoundly moving novel.
This is a book about self discovery, race, privilege, desire, sexuality, gentrification, heartache, the Tulsa massacre and 9/11. As this is a short book every sentence is packed with meaning. I recommend reading this one slowly so every last word can be savoured.
One of the key plot lines that runs through this story is the relationship of Melody with her mother Iris, having had Melody as teenager she decides that her domestic life at home with Melodys father, Aubrey, is not enough, leaving in search of more. The role reverse of the sexes here is particularly refreshing as it brings new complexities to what it means for a parent to leave a child. Unfolding perspectives from both Iris and Aubrey showcases the turmoil of wanting different things while always remaining tied together by Melody. Even though this is a harsh story line at no point do any characters in this book show malice, instead it explores the complexity of human nature in a raw and moving way which works to counter any emotions of anger you could have felt towards the characters and instead evoking feelings of empathy bringing you closer to understanding their desires.
This book was really special and will stay with me for a long time, the kind of book I know I will read again and again.