“The story opens in 2001 at a coming-of-age party at a Brooklyn brownstone. Sixteen and outfitted in her mother’s lace dress with a matching corset, garters and stockings, Melody plans to enter the party to an instrumental version of Prince’s “Nikki,” much to her grandparents’ discomfort.
But there’s another catch to both the day and the dress. At 15, Melody’s mother, Iris, was pregnant and unable to wear the carefully made dress. Iris’ own coming-of-age birthday was left unmarked, and after her dismissal from private school, the family opted to move to another part of Brooklyn where they could also join a new church. But despite the shame and disruption of baby Melody, Iris was determined to move forward, ultimately getting her high school diploma, enrolling at Oberlin College and moving, almost permanently, out of Melody’s life.
Over 21 brief chapters, Red at the Bone, which draws its title from the romantic feelings Iris has for another woman at Oberlin, moves backward and forward in time, examining the effect Melody’s birth had on each character, from her disappointed but loving grandparents to her devoted father and his resolute yet fragile mother. Along the way, the reader learns more about the history of the family’s losses, from 9/11 to the Tulsa Race Riots of 1912.”