BOOK REVIEW: JACQUELINE WOODSON – RED AT THE BONE

Today, it’s a review of the brilliant Red At The Bone by Jacqueline Woodson, which is also on the long-list for the Women’s Prize For Fiction 2020!

Today, it’s a review of the wonderful short but impactful novel from Jacqueline Woodson, Red At The Bone. But first, what’s it all about? Here’s the synopsis:

An unexpected teenage pregnancy brings together two families from different social classes, and exposes the private hopes, disappointments and longings that can bind or divide us.
From the New York Times-bestselling and National Book Award-winning author of Another Brooklyn and Brown Girl Dreaming.

Brooklyn, 2001. It is the evening of sixteen-year-old Melody’s coming of age ceremony in her grandparents’ brownstone. Watched lovingly by her relatives and friends, making her entrance to the music of Prince, she wears a special custom-made dress – the very same dress that was sewn for a different wearer, Melody’s mother, for a celebration that ultimately never took place.

Unfurling the history of Melody’s family – from the 1921 Tulsa race massacre to post 9/11 New York – Red at the Bone explores sexual desire, identity, class, and the life-altering facts of parenthood, as it looks at the ways in which young people must so often make fateful decisions about their lives before they have even begun to figure out who they are and what they want to be.

First thing’s first, let’s talk about the Women’s Prize long-list for this year! Last year, I started to get involved but felt I didn’t get as involved as I would have liked so I was even more excited for the long-list to be revealed for this year. I read pretty much mostly women so I felt I had a feeling what books could be considered. I made list after list of possibilities and made my final predictions before the announcement. I had nine right on the actual list and I’ve read five of them too! I think this is a pretty strong list this year, there’s no books that makes me go: ‘ugh, really?’ and I’m enjoying making my way reading the long-list in full. I’m not going to go too deep into the prize here but you can see the full list on the Women’s Prize website or you can follow my reading of the long-list on my Instagram: coreyterrettoh.

But, anyway, back to Red At The Bone! I had a feeling this would be up on the long-list. I just had this feeling that it looks like a Women’s Prize book, you know? I’ve seen this cover – how can you miss it? – it’s beautiful and striking – a few times and it has always intrigued me. I ordered it when it was announced and I didn’t realise how short it is! With the long-list books I haven’t read, I’m trying to go in blind and just go for the ride and not sure what to expect and that’s exactly what I felt with this book.

I didn’t know what to expect but I found it to be incredibly moving. It’s tender, wise, heartfelt and it really makes an impact in such a short book. The writing is beautiful – it’s lyrical, whimsical at times, and it’s the type of writing that transports you straight into that world of the book. We have glimpses into different people in Melody’s family – and they are told in the first person, especially her grandparents, and it feels incredibly real as they are actually talking to you.

There are a number of themes at play in the book that Woodson tackles. From social class, identity, masculinity, sexual desire, queerness, race, history, but the theme that is throughout the book is of legacy and what we leave behind once we’re gone. At times it reminded me of Tayari Jones who wrote An American Marriage which won the Women’s Prize last year. It reminded me of how tenderly she wrote about marriage, families, race and America and how she packs a punch, makes an impact, with just one sentence.

For me, I loved reading this book, I couldn’t put it down. It’s a book you can read in one sitting. There’s a few gripes I have with the book, but most of all, I would have liked to read more about Melody herself, but overall, I found it to be a great reading experience and it’s full of beautiful, remarkable prose. I’m glad to see this on the long-list this year.

Have you read Red At The Bone yet? What did you think? Let me know in the comments!

Thank you,

Corey.

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