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Fifth Born

4.17 of 5 stars 4.17  ·  rating details  ·  661 ratings  ·  58 reviews
When Odessa Blackburn is three years old her beloved grandmother dies, and so begins her story, set in St. Louis,Missouri, and rural Mississippi. As the Þfth born of eight children, Odessa loses her innocence at Þrst when her drunken father sexually abuses her, and then again when she alone witnesses her father taking the life of his own brother.
Fifth Bo...more
Paperback, 224 pages
Published August 19th 2003 by Washington Square Press (first published 2002)
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I happened to finish this book on the same day that I started attending training sessions for my upcoming internship at an agency that supports victims of domestic violence. I was surprised by how often Odessa and her family came to mind throughout the training-- the horror of what happens to them in this novel is really only surpassed by the knowledge that it isn't fiction for many, many people. A difficult but powerful read that I would recommend to anyone interested in child/family welfare.
Apr 23, 2008 Shawanda rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
Recommended to Shawanda by: My mother
The book 5th born was a book that i just ordered the other day. My mother asked me to read the book she told me that she thought that it was not a good book but we like different things in life so i might like to book when i picked the book up i found out that it was not at all a good book i wanted to put it down but i cant stop reading a book once i start it so i finished it.As i read on the book got interesting it began to teach me things about life that i myself never want throw but other peo...more
Odessa's voice is s clear and honest in this book that it is hard not to really care about her and her situation. This book is about a family and their secrets. The problem is, Black women and little girls went from being play things for White men during slavery to being play things to black men after slavery. But when men will rape their own flesh and blood, their daughters, sisters, and/or nieces or even grand daughters, where is the justice. Exp. when the mothers just stand by. They don't eve...more
This is one of the most twisted books I've read in quite a while. Spanning generations of incest, cruelty, abuse, neglect...the matriarchs left me stunned and I wanted to kill all of the men in the family. Focusing on a little girl trapped in one of the worst family's you'll ever encounter, this book is like a punch to the gut. All you can do stand by and watch what happens. You will feel helpless and infuriated as the main character pulls you deeper and deeper inside her pitiful tale. And, just...more
Desera Favors
OMG!!! All I can say is I loved this book, although it made my heart sick, I admired Odessa! No child should ever EVER experience what she went through, just unnecessary pain. If there was ever any one that should die mercilessly it was low down dirty Loni, I think he was let off the hook and that is the only reason I rated this book 4 stars. I will give more details on my thoughts after my book club discussion next week! SMDH the book had me actually yelling at it! BTW I check this book out on...more
This was a well written book and really the ending made it a very great book. I felt like it was a such a heavy subject matter and the mood was sad and depressing. Zelda Lockhart knows hows to bring the characters to life along with the environment. In most cases of the book I felt transformed into the story. Its interesting how Ms Lockhart kept the point of view from young girls perspective showing the reader the innocence of it all. So while this book is a page turner, well written, very easy...more
I found this book to be a very disturbing read, in that the subject matter was quite heavy to digest. Although Fifth Born was a rather well written and quick read, I was disappointed by the way in which it ended, and wish that author Zelda Lockhart could have expanded more upon it. The reader is introduced to the main character Odessa, portrayed as a meek and sensitive child throughout the entire novel. It would have been great to see Lockhart capture a more content and strong minded Odessa with...more
This is definitely one of the saddest books I've read. Yet this book was still remarkable. I loved the protagonist. Actually, I felt sorry for her. No child should ever have a story like that to tell. Strangely enough I loved how it ended.
I didnt so much like how the last 4 or 5 chapters was all dialog. I think the author could have been a bit more creative in telling that story than 40 or so straight pages of dialog. I did love all the imagery, simile and color references. I Cant wait to read...more
Chapter by chapter, Zelda Lockhart strips away each hideous layer of a damaged child's life until she arrives at the hard core that holds the beautiful truth. Lockhart's brilliant writing pushes even the squeamish reader to step into a horrible world that the author amazingly stepped out of. FIFTH BORN is fiction, but it is the child of the writer's experiences.
This was one of those books I couldn't stop reading and then felt sad when it was over. Lockhart's beautiful prose grabbed me; she tells a powerful, painful story with poetic, raw honesty.
Very sad story. The writing was very good. I felt pulled in from the very first page. This book felt like a roller coaster ride.
Brook Haines
a little too graphic, it makes me appreciate my level of crazy!
I recently read FIFTH BORN for a book club in Oklahoma City. Looking over reviews on this website and at, it seems that many readers felt compassion for Odessa and her plight. I wish that I had felt the same; I do not understand why I did not empathize with the young protagonist. However, I was glad to read that Odessa, as she matures, learns ways to better survive her brutal surroundings. I also think that the author did an excellent job in her portrayal of Odessa heartless mother. L...more
Kristi Marion
I had the honor of taking a writing workshop at Salem College with Zelda Lockhart. She is a vibrant woman and it shows in her writing. What a lovely, yet disturbing story of a little girl who is a victim of sexual abuse. Each character in the book is rich with personality, with secrets and desires. Odessa is a tough little girl, made that way through much suffering. Her family seems determined to destroy itself, but Odessa endures. It was quick read, although not an easy one. I believe Odessa an...more
Mocha Girl
Fifth Born is the heart-wrenching debut saga of Odessa Blackburn, the fifth born child to verbally and physically abusive parents, in the tenements of St. Louis, MO. From as far back as she can remember, she has treaded lightly and second-guessed her moves to be the good, obedient child who seeks the love and approval of her parents. However, chaos and neglect reign supreme in the Blackburn household. Her father, an alcoholic and incestuous pedophile, nearly blinds Odessa in one eye during a dru...more
Author Groupie
Reading through the Monarch Magazine, I came across an interesting article about an author who graduated from Old Dominion, but grew up in St. Louis, MO. When I read further, I discovered Zelda Lockhart and I walked the same hallways in the Batten Arts and Letters Building on campus and shared the same phenomenal professors: Dr. Wilson and Dr. Heller to name a few. Cool! Thus, it was a no-brainer that Lockhart's novel, Fifth Born, moved to the top of my reading list.
The protagonist, Odesssa Blac...more
Donna Bennett
While I thought the writing was clear and easy to read, nearing the last few chapters the storyline would get confusing switching from the voice of Odessa to Ella Mae. Some of the scenes with her brother, sister and cousin was reminiscent to the movie "Crooklyn" by Spike Lee. Odessa's world consists of changing baby diapers, dodging her malicious "Deddy" who molested her twice, and finding her place within a family that harbors secrets. At times, I wanted to choke Bernice, Odessa's mother, for n...more
This was the best book that I have read this summer! After the first few pages of reading Odessa story my heart was breaking. This book is emotionally exhausting in the way I love for books to be because I form a connection with the characters. "Fifth Born" made me want to laugh, cry, scream and in the end it took my breath away! Absolutely wonderful!!
Staff Oneil
I don't recommend it, too many racial stereotypes, southern accent language that makes it hard to read and a bit lengthy for my taste. Plus I'm not a fan of this type of genre, if it weren't for class I'd never touch this one.
A sad but true story of family curses/secrets that embed themselves in families through generations. At some point I asked myself, when will this madness end. I really wanted Loni to get what he deserved for the harm and pain he had caused soo many women in the family. I wanted Bernice to see Loni for what he was and choose her children over him. I wanted Grandmemma to be alive (until I got to the ending of the book). I wanted Odessa to be free of this awful family that she was a part of. I felt...more
Nafeesah Antwine
It's a good book. Sad. Like most books when the main character is hurt u want them to. Fight back. It's always good when an author can stir an emotion in her readers. For that I say she is very talented. As a psychologist who is a brown woman and knows the devastation of family secrets and sexual abuse I hope people understand that the things detailed in this book happen. All the time. Sometimes we "save" these children today and put them in foster homes. Sometimes these homes are better....some...more
I thought this book was very good. It had me in tears chapter after chapter. I could relate with the main charter because she was a mistreated child. 5 Stars hands down
(FROM JACKET)When Odessa Blackburn is three years old her beloved grandmother dies, and so begins her story, set in St. Louis, Missouri, and rural Mississippi. As the fifth born of eight children, Odessa loses her innocence at firs when her drunken father sexually abuses her, and then again when she alone witnesses her father taking the life of his own brother.
"Fifth Born" is Zelda Lockhart's debut novel, lyrically written and powerful in its exploration of how secrets can tear apart lives and...more
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Beautiful and so sad, i really loved this and it gave me a lot of feelings.
But i am a bit confused about the ending.
Kathryn Bundy
Thank goodness for the ending of this book! If it gets discouraging, too sad or too dark, hang in there, because the end makes it worth the trip. I did enjoy the poetic language and imagery throughout the book.
This was such a raw gritty story of hate, abuse, deceit and secrets all carried within a family. It had me going through many emotions, sadness, anger, pride for Odessa, sympathy.... I can't image the turmoil such a young child had to endure and although she seemed so meek she took that pain and turned it into strength. This book drew me in and I'd definitely recommend it!
Melissa Dally
Wow, very intense and very heavy. As the fifth born of eight children, Odessa has a rough life. She loses her Grandma at a young age, she is sexually abused, she witnesses a murder, she lives though other abuses and neglect as well. You can't help but want to stay with her and find out what happens and if Odessa is ever going to be OK.
Caroline Alicia
Ugh I don't deal with with incest books. The ending needed slight revisions. By revisions, Ella Mae should have blown that bastard's brain to kingdom come. I also have a problem with weak women, and the grandmother and mothers need to be knocked around to,turning a blind eye to wrongdoings.
This book was haunting, engaging, horrifying and unforgettable. I LOVED IT!. A relatively short book that packed a lot of punch. Beautifully written. What stood out most was that even the author wrote about sexual abuse she did not exploit the situation for shock value. Excellent!
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