19 Dec / Red at the Bone by Jacqueline Woodson [in Booklist]
National Book Award-winner Jacqueline Woodson (Another Brooklyn) exquisitely examines the (dis)connections of three generations of a Brooklyn family that is tenuously held together by Melody, whose coming-of-age ceremony is just beginning in her grandparents’ brownstone. Through 21 spare, dazzling chapters, Woodson reveals the past and present and hints at the futures of 16-year-old Melody, her estranged parents, her grandparents both living and passed, and her forever best friend.
Already stupendous on the page, the full-cast aural adaption only enhances the text, most notably with the addition of Woodson’s own affecting third-person interjections in between the performances of her stellar cast. Bahni Turpin takes the leading role as Melody, who alchemizes 9/11-loss—“we blend into a single child crying… My father is in that building. My mother. My sister… My father. My father. My father…”—into what must be one of the most wrenching elegies in audiobook history. Shayna Small pivots between desperate teenager and warily distanced adult as Melody’s mother, Iris; Peter Francis James inhabits gentle Po’Boy and Quincy Tyler Bernstine is steely Sabe, Melody’s maternal grandparents, in whose home she’s spent her entire life.
Narrating love so intense as to be “red at the bone,” Woodson’s searing characters must confront layers of hurt in order to somehow, someday hopefully heal.