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Fifth Born

4.22  ·  Rating Details ·  1,163 Ratings  ·  95 Reviews
When Odessa Blackburn is three years old, she sees her grandmother for the last time, and so begins her story as the fifth born of eight children in a troubled family. Molested by her father, Odessa is also the sole witness to a murder he commits. Her mother guards both secrets and joins her husband in ostracizing their fifth born from the rest of her siblings.
As Odessa
ebook, 224 pages
Published August 6th 2002 by Atria Books (first published 2002)
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(showing 1-30)
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Nov 13, 2009 Karen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
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.
Feb 26, 2012 Robbin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
May 02, 2011 Babydoll rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 17, 2012 kisha rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Maya B
This was a very heart breaking story. The things that Odessa went through as a child made me very sad. I felt the author gives readers a glimpse of what some children unfortunately have to endure in life.
Winter Sophia Rose
Captivating, Deeply Moving, Page Turner! A Powerful Read! I Loved It!
Apr 10, 2008 Shawanda rated it it was amazing  ·  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
Jul 03, 2015 stephanie rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: finished
Well, I just don't really know what to say about this book. First off, its kinda hard for me to read a book that the words goes back to that scene. It wasn't hard to follow, but there was a few times where I had to re-read some parts of the book. This is about a girl name Odessa, but they call her Dessa for short. How she was raised and how she became the 5th child, but that didn't last, because her mom was having the kids like a gerbil. Its what this little girl went thru. Now from my understan ...more
Sep 24, 2009 Reese rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
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.
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
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
Desera Favors
Sep 12, 2012 Desera Favors rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Bernice Watson
I hated this book. I guess I am getting sick of these books that pen incest and abuse. My fault, been reading too many books with this as its main topic. I know we live in an imperfect world and that humans are flawed, but for a mother knowing that her child is sexually abused and staying quiet is a bit much for me. I also didn't like the writing style which was more of journaling than a free creative style. I know there is a part two to this story but not interested in reading it!
Dee Cherry
Jun 12, 2015 Dee Cherry rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Fifth Born was a deep, touching look at the childhood of Odessa Blackburn. This novel was compelling & heartfelt as Odessa's pain was released throughout the pages. Although neglected at times, Odessa continued to seek love from her parents. Even though some parts were difficult to grasp, this was a well written story as the content & storyline held my attention. Good read.
Bunnita (Worth Reading It?)
This book has some really sad parts. And though I think feel about the main character the way the author probably intended the end of the book had a shocker that made me audibly say "wow". A more detail review about how I felt about this book will be posted on my blog.
Brook Lundie
Jul 27, 2012 Brook Lundie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
a little too graphic, it makes me appreciate my level of crazy!
quatina Rockmore
This was a very powerful story of how closing your eyes and pretending that thing in life are not happening, can not only effect you but the people around you.
Nov 03, 2011 Miriam rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Damera Blincoe
Dec 20, 2015 Damera Blincoe rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 5-stars
Where do I begin? Read this book. That is all.
Mar 28, 2010 Barbara rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Jul 15, 2012 Tay rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed this book. It was very detailed.
Mar 13, 2017 Josee rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Too short. This book had potential but it was just too short. As a result I felt that the characters weren't developed enough for me.
Markesha B
Feb 27, 2017 Markesha B rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Tear jerker

Wow, where do I begin? This book was thought provoking, comforting, sad and juicy. The messages within the book made me think a lot about my own upbringing and what I witnessed and experienced as a child. I have never experienced anything close to what Odessa did,but I have witnessed or heard of similar situations among my own family.

That said, this book made way for me to see the importance of forgiveness and taking a stand. People have the tendency to do unto others what have been d
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
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
Kristi Marion
Feb 03, 2011 Kristi Marion rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Jeanne Julian
A challenging read because the subjects are so painful: incest, abuse, alcoholism, poverty, the struggles of anyone who is "different"--some elements echoing Maya Angelou's memoir "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings," but this novel stands on its own feet. (It did make me wonder where grim realities might be verging on stereotypes, but, not for me to say.) Despite the horrors portrayed here, the "Fifth Born" child of the title wins you over, and there are other characters that offer rays of hope, a ...more
Apr 18, 2016 Rachel rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A very good story about family, abuse and maternal love. It will make you cry a very good read!!!!
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