Red at the Bone
THE TIMES ‘100 BEST SUMMER READS’
NEW YORK TIMES TOP 10 BESTSELLER
LONGLISTED FOR THE WOMEN’S PRIZE 2020
‘Sublime’ Candice Carty-Williams
‘An epic in miniature’ Tayari Jones
‘A banger’ Ta-Nehisi Coates
‘Generous and big-hearted’ Brit Bennett
‘A true spell of a book’ Ocean Vuong
‘A proclamation’ R.O. Kwon
‘A little masterpiece’ Paula Hawkins
‘I adored this book’ Elizabeth MacNeal
‘Pure poetry’ Observer
‘A sharply focused gem’ Sunday Times
‘Will remind you why you love reading’ Stylist
‘A wonderful, tragic, inspiring story’ Metro
‘Prose that sings off the page… Gorgeous’ Mail on Sunday
‘A nuanced portrait of shifting family relationships’ Financial Times
‘As seductive as a Prince bop’ O, The Oprah Magazine
‘Razor-sharp’ Vanity Fair
‘Dazzling… With urgent, vital insights into questions of class, gender, race, history, queerness and sex’ New York Times
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.
*** ONE OF THE BOOKS OF THE YEAR FOR: New York Times; Washington Post; Time; USA Today; O, The Oprah Magazine; Elle; Good Housekeeping; Esquire; NPR; New York Public Library; Library Journal; Kirkus; BookRiot; She Reads; The Undefeated ***
'It is rare to read an American novel that talks so unsqueamishly about class, and the systems - from the well-intentioned to the malignantly racist - that stymie upward mobility in black communities. It is rarer still to read a novel of unpunished maternal reluctance... It is in telling Iris's story - not as one of callous abandonment but of self-protection and queer desire - that Woodson's novel shows its red-raw heart' * TLS * Black women and their sexuality - what is projected on to it; its weight, beauty and ease - are at the heart of Red at the Bone. Woodson seems to understand that there has never been a way for youth or love or desire to play it safe. A young girl's sexuality is hers to discover, and not her parents', nor her lovers', to assume or take away. It is the mystery that keeps unravelling, like blood, truth and memory. * The Guardian * Jacqueline Woodson has a poet's soul and a poet's eye for image and ear for lyrical language... I'll go anywhere she leads me. * Naomi Jackson * A master storyteller. * Angela Flournoy * A gorgeous writer... Lyrical prose, really, really beautiful. * Emma Straub * Woodson makes us want to reach into the mirror she holds up and make the words and the worlds she explores our own. * New York Times Book Review * Woodson does for young black girls what short story master Alice Munro does for poor rural ones: she imbues their everyday lives with significance. * Elle * One of the quietly great masters of our time. * Kirkus * Woodson writes lyrically about what it means to be a girl in America, and what it means to be black in America. * Huffington Post * Woodson explores class, race and death with unflinching honesty and emotional depth... She manages to remember what cannot be documented, to suggest what cannot be said. * Washington Post * Intense, moving . . . reading more like prose poetry than traditional narrative, the novel unfolds as memory does, in burning flashes, thick with detail. * New York Times * Woodson brings the reader so close to her young characters that you can smell the bubble gum on their breath and feel their lips as they brush against your ear. * Tayari Jones, Women's Prize-winning author of AN AMERICAN MARRIAGE * PRAISE FOR JACQUELINE WOODSON Jacqueline Woodson has such an original vision, such a singular voice. * Ann Patchett * Jacqueline Woodson has a gift for finding the perfect sets of details and poetic turns of phrase to make her novels feel epic and expansive. * Pacific Standard * [Jacqueline Woodson's] books combine unique details of her characters' lives with the sounds, sights and especially music of their surroundings, creating stories that are both deeply personal and remarkably universal....this lyrical, lightly told coming-of-age story is bound to satisfy. * BookPage * Th fall's hottest novel. * Town & Country * Woodson channels deeply true-feeling characters, all of whom readers will empathize with in turn. In spare, lean prose, she reveals rich histories and moments in swirling eddies, while also leaving many fateful details for readers to divine. * Booklist * Woodson's beautifully imagined novel explores the ways an unplanned pregnancy changes two families... Woodson's nuanced voice evokes the complexities of race, class, religion, and sexuality in fluid prose and a series of telling details. This is a wise, powerful, and compassionate novel. * Publishers Weekly (starred) * Jacqueline Woodson writes right along the border of poetry and prose: her language is as elliptical and dreamy as poetry, but it's always grounded in story and character, like prose. * Vox * Woodson famously nails the adolescent voice. But so, too, she burnishes all her characters' perspectives . . . In Woodson, at the height of her powers, readers hear the blues. * Kirkus (starred) * The latest novel by Jacqueline Woodson is a beautifully written examination not just of the bonds of family, but also of how alone one can feel within it... Woodson paints a portrait of people who can barely remember who they once were, yet live with the echoes of their past selves every day. This lyrical novel makes the reader feel like they are present at a moment both they, and the characters, are attempting to unpack together. * Bust * Woodson interweaves Melody's touching narrative brilliantly with generational stories from her mother Iris, who was pregnant with Melody at the age of 16; her father Aubrey, still remembering the first flush of love; her grandmother Sabe, whose own grandmother survived the historic 1921 Tulsa, Oklahoma massacre in which "white folks tried to kill every living brown body", and her grandfather Po'Boy, who is wasting away from cancer. Their memories and loving glimpses of Melody create a family portrait that transcends the bounds of time. Woodson, a National Book Award winner, writes with fluidity, grace and finesse, pulling the plot tight in the final word. * BBC.com * A slim novel with tremendous emotional power. * Real Simple * A remarkable and moving portrait of a family in a changing Brooklyn . . . There's not a single unnecessary word. * Refinery29 * Exploring issues of gentrification, sexual identity and class, Red at the Bone is a novel you won't soon forget, one that begs to be discussed. * Popsugar * It would be tough to find a novel this year as enchanting as Red at the Bone. Woodson takes us through decades of generational dreams in this glistening charm of a book. * Sainsbury's Magazine * Razor-sharp. * Vanity Fair * A spectacular novel, one that wrenches us to confront the life-altering and life-pulling and life-subsuming facts of history, of love, of expectations, of status, of parenthood, as only a teenage pregnancy can. * Atlantic * It will be tough to find a novel this year as enchanting as Red at the Bone... A glistening charm of a book. * Sainsburys Magazine * A remarkable, intergenerational harmony of voices. * USA Today * Jacqueline Woodson's Red at the Bone delivers an emotional wallop... Sublime. * Entertainment Weekly * One of our most empathetic writers... Lyrical, dreamy, and brimming with compassion for her characters, Woodson explores the forces that divide us and the ties that bind with her signature extremity of feeling. * Esquire * Jacqueline Woodson begins her powerful new novel audaciously, with the word "But." Well, there are no buts about this writer's talent... There isn't a character in this book you don't come to care about, even when you question their choices... Readers mourning the death of Toni Morrison will find comfort in Sabe's magnificent cadences as she rues her daughter's teen pregnancy, which flies in the face of the lessons her mama ingrained in her from the Tulsa race riots of 1921... With Red at the Bone, Jacqueline Woodson has indeed risen even further into the ranks of great literature. * NPR * This gorgeous, moving novel is a celebration of three generations of a Black family in Brooklyn, and is a story of love-romantic and familial-and alienation, grief and triumph, disaster and survival... Woodson's language is never less than stunning and powerfully conveys the complications and love present within this family to great, compassionate effect. * Nylon * With its abiding interest in the miracle of everyday love, Red at the Bone is a proclamation. * R.O. Kwon, author of The Incendiaries * She interrogates class, race and the meaning of family with ease and beauty. * Red * Red at the Bone showed me something I didn't realize I needed in a book: home. Because throughout their trials, tribulations and triumphs, the people in this book were my people... Red at the Bone is a narrative steeped in truth - and, yes, it's painful. But it's also one of healing and hope. * Washington Post * Author Jacqueline Woodson knows how to articulate aches that, for most of us, remain locked in inarticulateness - particularly that very human craving for validation. * Elle * A beast of a book; a masterclass on pace, characterisation and how a writer can be flexible. You'll find yourself rooting for every character, and hurting for them as well. * Elizabeth Acevedo, Observer * This book is full of passion, pain and the ripples left by the past, all told in a rich language that fizzes off the page. * Good Housekeeping * As seductive as a Prince bop, Woodson's follow-up to Another Brooklyn is a move-to-its-own-groove multigenerational saga of racism and an unplanned teen pregnancy that throws together two disparate families. This deceptively slim novel pulses with yearning-for more, for better, for love, and for the chance to write our own stories. * O, The Oprah Magazine * An epic in miniature... As moody, spare, and intense as a Picasso line drawing... This poignant tale of choices and their aftermath, history and its legacy, will resonate with mothers and daughters. * Tayari Jones, Women's Prize-winning author of AN AMERICAN MARRIAGE * In prose that sings off the page, Woodson tells their stories and the stories of Iris's parents [...] weaving a spare family saga that marries joy with sadness. Gorgeous. * Mail on Sunday * Dazzling... Profoundly moving... with urgent, vital insights into questions of class, gender, race, history, queerness and sex in America. * New York Times Book Review * Red at the Bone is less than 200 pages long but manages to cram in the story of one black American family from the start of the 21st century to the end - and from six viewpoints too... The writing is so sensuous and deft, Woodson's characterisation so instantly wrought, that perspective changes and propulsive tumble of years become a cinch to follow... A wonderful, tragic, inspiring story. Sublime. * Metro * Haunting... There is an abundance of angst over class, gender and race subtly woven into this beguilingly slim novel. Woodson frames each chapter from the point of view of a different character, and the result is a narrative about an individual family that takes on communal urgency and power. She shows her readers how elliptical and obsessive human memory is... Black women and their sexuality - what is projected on to it; its weight, beauty and ease - are at the heart of Red at the Bone. Woodson seems to understand that there has never been a way for youth or love or desire to play it safe. A young girl's sexuality is hers to discover, and not her parents', nor her lovers', to assume or take away. It is the mystery that keeps unravelling, like blood, truth and memory. * Guardian * A nuanced portrait of shifting family relationships... With passionate precision Woodson paints the aches and pleasures of all kinds of love: parental love, the love of friendship, sexual love... By the end of the novel the nature of [the characters'] wealth seems different than it did at the beginning of the book: as we have come to know its characters and their lives, it is their stories, not their gold, that gleam out from the darkness all around. * Financial Times * Completely sublime and immersive, Red at the Bone will strike you in the heart. Woodson writes the beautiful complication that can be intergenerational relationships with love, and a richness that is breathtaking. * Candice Carty-Williams, bestselling author of QUEENIE * Red at the Bone should be on everyone's to-read list. * Stylist (Best New Books for 2020) * Teen pregnancy is a staple of young adult fiction, but Jacqueline Woodson, the author of a number of groundbreaking books for that age group, has embedded the theme in her second novel for adults. She does so in a way that's profound, moving and consistently unexpected... The novel's first word, it should be noted, is "But", a conjunction that throws an elegiac spell over the pages that follow - of which there aren't nearly enough - hinting at trouble that lies in the past or the future or perhaps both... A book that embraces class, desire, race, gender, ambition and tragedy, all with exemplary subtlety. The word "margarine", for instance, conveys a world of socioeconomic differences; the fierceness with which a baby latches on contains all the seeds of a complex mother-daughter relationship... Red at the Bone is pure poetry, filled with incantatory repetitions, soaring cadences, burnished images. There is laughter and spirit, "fire and ash and loss", blocks of gold hidden beneath squeaky stairs. It's a story laden with stories, too. As Sabe says, "If a body's to be remembered, someone has to tell its story." Woodson does just that, weaving a narrative whose specificity yields an undeniable universality. We grownups have been missing out. * Observer * ONE OF THE BOOKS OF THE YEAR FOR: New York Times Washington Post Time USA Today O, The Oprah Magazine Elle Good Housekeeping Esquire NPR New York Public Library Library Journal Kirkus BookRiot She Reads The Undefeated
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