Woodson’s compact novel, “Red at the Bone” is a tenderly written multigenerational story. It covers love, sexuality, sorrow, independence and disappointments in an upscale black American family. Having attained status and material comforts, that many black people aspire to, does not relieve this family of past history and heartache that is destined to follow them.
The occasion is sixteen year-old Melody’s coming out party— as in the old fashioned sense of coming out — being presented to society as a proper young woman. The gala takes place in the Brooklyn brownstone of her maternal grandparents,’ Sabe and Sammy “Poboy.”
Sabe is ecstatic because Melody is today wearing the beautiful, custom designed dress that was made sixteen years earlier for her daughter, Iris to wear at her coming out party. When Iris became pregnant, everything was cancelled.
Besides her daughter’s pregnancy, we learn in shifting narratives, of Sabe’s further disappointment that Iris doesn’t remain home to raise Melody, instead leaving for college. Thus, Sabe and Aubry, the baby’s father, become Melody’s primary caregivers.
At the party, Aubry proudly watches his daughter, Melody, who is the center of his world, his reason to live. He loves his child so much it hurts. Iris also observes events and at one point has a mother-daughter talk with Melody, while also reviewing her life as mother, daughter, outsider/insider. Some truths are shared, but by the end we see that much remains to be revealed.