Red at the Bone begins in 2001 and introduces us to three generations: 16-year-old Melody, who is getting ready for her coming-of-age ceremony; Melody's mother Iris and father Aubrey, who were 16 when Melody was born; and Iris and Aubrey's parents, some of whom are not present at the ceremony. Woodson's narrative moves back and forth through time so we can meet all of these family members - we're present at the moment of Melody's conception; at the moment when Iris' mother realizes her teenage daughter wants to keep her child; and at the end of several lives. These stories intertwine to deliver a beautiful, poignant portrait of a family - a surprisingly in-depth portrait, given the length of the book.
There's not much more that needs to be said about this wonderful novel - the writing is superb, the story is small in scope but wonderfully intimate, the characters are flawed and vivid. Iris and Aubrey in particular drew me in: their decisions are not predictable, and their relationship felt incredibly realistic to me. I can't wait to read more from Jacqueline Woodson!