July 2023


By Zelda Lockhart
Review by
Zelda Lockhart explores how pain and injustice are passed down and how they can be reversed. Sometimes it takes the whispers of the ancestors to make it happen.
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There are people who swear they can hear the voices of the departed. The dead want their stories told, demand justice for past doings or even offer encouragement to the listener. Lottie Rebecca Lee, the eventual protagonist of Zelda Lockhart’s powerful and hopeful novel Trinity, has heard all three. Three generations go by before Lottie incarnates, which partially explains the book’s title.

The story begins in 1939 in Sampson, Mississippi, where Black people live only a few steps up from slavery. Old Deddy, a 62-year-old Black sharecropper, enters into a contract to marry the 12-year-old daughter of his white boss in exchange for a parcel of land that the boss really has no intention of letting him own. That Old Deddy is a victim of such injustice doesn’t make him a saint; he beats his wife and sons as hard as he works. His son Bennie is gentler but still uses a switch on his own son just to let him know who’s in charge. Both Old Deddy’s and Bennie’s wives become pregnant with girls who would have housed Lottie Rebecca’s soul, but the pregnancies are lost. And so she is born as the daughter of Bennie’s son, traumatized Vietnam War veteran B.J. To break the cycle of familial violence, B.J. closes himself off from his wife and daughter even as he loves them.

Being the vehicle of the ancestors makes Lottie Rebecca a strange and uneasy child. Like Alia Atreides in Frank Herbert’s Dune, she seems to have been born with the knowledge of many lives that came before hers. Such knowledge is so oppressive that it causes screaming fits that Lottie’s family doesn’t understand. Yet she is buoyed by love, especially the love of her wise, gentle, Afrocentric mother, Sheila. When Lottie is a young woman, Sheila takes her on a pilgrimage to Ghana and the castle from which Africans were shipped off to be slaves in the Americas. It’s a place where the voices may ease up.

The author of Fifth Born, Fifth Born II: The Hundredth Turtle and Cold Running Creek, Lockhart explores how pain and injustice are passed down, and how that pain can ease and injustice can be reversed. Sometimes, though, it takes the whispers of the ancestors to make it happen.

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By Zelda Lockhart
ISBN 9780063160958

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