‘Red at the Bone’ shares the generational impact of a teen pregnancy

“Family quarrels are bitter things. They don’t go according to any rules. They’re not like aches or wounds; they’re more like splits in the skin that won’t heal because there’s not enough material.” — F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Every moment in time, every action has consequences or ripple effects that alter the outcomes of our future. Some moments have larger impacts than others and what at first might appear to be a disaster can become one of our greatest joys. In our next read we travel to Brooklyn to observe three generations of a family living in the ripple effects.

Red at the Bone by Jacqueline Woodson

Family bonds are not always as simple as we might want them to be. As Melody and her family celebrate her stepping over the threshold of adulthood, the event is shadowed by the memory that her mother, Iris, never had her coming-out ceremony. At 15, Iris found herself pregnant and decided to keep the baby without ever considering whether or not she wanted to actually raise a child. Melody’s father, Aubrey, took on the brunt of raising their child in Iris’s family home after she left to pursue college and her own future. Melody’s grandparents can’t help but feel guilty that they were ashamed of Iris when they learned of the pregnancy.

The story jumps back and forth in time revealing the inner thoughts and heartaches of each relative. Aubrey’s longing for Iris to love him back, Melody’s wounds from her mother’s distance and Iris’s desire to be more pulsate throughout the narrative. Despite the novel’s slim spine, “Red at the Bone” encapsulates three generations of vivid emotions. It is raw and beautiful like a child’s laughter while also containing a shattering scream. Jacqueline Woodson’s writing easily blends the past with the present and gently stirs love into the generational pain.

From the book jacket…

“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.”

If you enjoy…

Readers who are looking to discover more of Woodson’s work might want to explore her New York Times bestseller “Another Brooklyn.” The story follows a woman remembering her childhood after she goes home to bury her father.