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Red at the Bone

A Novel
Written by: Jacqueline Woodson
Length: 3 hrs and 52 mins
4 out of 5 stars (16 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Named one of the Most Anticipated Books of 2019 by LitHub and The Millions. Called one of the Top 10 Literary Fiction titles of Fall by Publishers Weekly

An extraordinary new novel about the influence of history on a contemporary family, from the New York Times best-selling and National Book Award-winning author of Another Brooklyn and Brown Girl Dreaming.

Two families from different social classes are joined together by an unexpected pregnancy and the child that it produces. Moving forward and backward in time, with the power of poetry and the emotional richness of a narrative 10 times its length, Jacqueline Woodson's extraordinary 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 this child. 

As the book opens in 2001, it is the evening of 16-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 soundtrack 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.

Read by Jacqueline Woodson, with Quincy Tyler Bernstine (Sabe), Peter Francis James (Po’Boy), Shayna Small (Iris), and Bahni Turpin (Melody)

©2019 Jacqueline Woodson (P)2019 Penguin Audio

What the critics say

"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)

"[A] beautifully imagined novel... 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 review)

"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: ‘beneath that joy, such a sadness.’" (Kirkus Reviews, starred review)

What members say
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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Nanette L. Stearns
  • 2019-09-22

Magic

As always, Jacqueline Woodson has created a world I wanted to stay in for hours. At just under four hours, I felt like the audiobook was beautiful and wonderful but I wanted it to go on for hours more. Living in the world of these characters was compelling and a beautiful experience. The narrators were excellent and gave a sense of each character. Can't wait for her next effort!

8 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Beth Lovette
  • 2019-10-02

Compelling story. Excellent narration.

Loved the narrators. I picked this book accidentally and almost returned it because I rarely buy short books— always trying to get my money’s worth! But I am glad I kept it and listened. The perspective of each character and the sequence of the tale unfolding was special.

4 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Diane
  • 2019-10-03

Just Ok

This book was chosen for my book club. While parts of the storyline were really good... others left me scratching my head. It was almost like the author had an idea of how she wanted it to end... then wrote a story to go with it. While some of the characters were well developed, I was left wanting to know more. The monotone reading of the author’s voice drove me crazy. So, not the best book for me but there were parts that were very well written.

3 people found this helpful

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  • Chasidy H
  • 2019-09-18

wow

I'm not surprised but this is next level for J.Woodson. This is pretty deep so most may not understand or be able to relate. I'm going to listen again.

12 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Amazon Customer
  • 2019-11-09

More please!

I wanted to hear more! More about what happened when. When her child lived, loved and experienced age.

2 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Cheryl
  • 2019-09-25

I enjoyed it

The plot is not too deep. Good for light "reading". It took a couple of chapters to get used to the different narrators. But once you learn to recognized the different characters' voices, it moves along nicely.

2 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
  • Shenelle Williams
  • 2019-09-25

So beautiful!

The writing is so beautiful. It is like reading poetry in prose form. This multigenerational story is told from every perspective and performed expertly by the cast!

2 people found this helpful

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  • Deana Manassaram
  • 2020-01-02

Just ok!

It’s a pity Ms Turpin didn’t do the full narration. The others were ok but hers most compelling. It could have been a longer book. The writer and editors could have better developed the characters, maybe even 1 or 2. Felt like I didn’t really know or understand anyone at the end.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Betty A. Kane
  • 2019-11-11

A step back in time.

Loved it. The story and time period were relateable. The performance was captivating. I did not want the book to end.

1 person found this helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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  • Zakia
  • 2019-09-27

Not impressed

On Chapter 6 and I doubt I will finish. I've never read/listened to this author's books before but I was expecting something far different than what I got. The story is all over the place and switches back and forth too much for me. I've enjoyed Sabie and Po' Boy's chapters the most but everyone else's stories are all over the place. Didn't care for the profanity either.

4 people found this helpful