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Book Review: Ship of Souls by Zetta Elliott

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In order to enjoy Zetta Elliott’s Ship of Souls, the reader must leave behind the natural order. The book begins very delicately in the modern world of New York City, then slowly but incredibly, takes it’s readers into a subterranean world — a burial ground beneath New York’s Manhattan streets. Recorded history says that when Trinity Church banned African Americans from burial in its cemetery, an area outside the city limit was designated for Black Americans.

D is a brilliant youth who tutors his school’s basketball champ so that he receives passing grades as the school’s basketball hero. From the beginning of their relationship, he and D. become friends, even if distant and uncomfortable at first. Because the basketball champ is deeply impressed by D’s slick manner of teaching, his open comments, and his handy tricks for remembering mathematical rules, his friends in school become D’s friends.

Lonely D, whose mother had recently died of breast cancer, finds himself accepted at school by a host of teachers and students including a beautiful young female who befriends both D and the champ. In spite of her natural beauty, this lovely young woman has enhanced it by embracing any number of body piercings that D finds interesting. Now, this unlikely threesome begins a strange journey into the tunnels under Manhattan to meet women, men, and children who died as the Revolutionary War waged on, but whose souls have never been able to rest.

Interestingly enough, D finds a dove-like bird in a nearby park. This bird seeks a warm relationship between itself and a real human. It is capable of shape-shifting when necessary along with the power to influence D’s mind. It leads D and his two friends through magical doors near two memorial stones in lower Manhattan where they attempt to locate the restless undead from the Revolutionary War era.

Cleverly, Author Zetta Elliott gradually allows this magical story to unfold. The tale is both exciting and plausible considering the number of people who died in and around 1776 as the real martyrs of a free nation. Many were brutalized slaves and their broken apart families, others were soldiers.

Just how D. and his newly won friends meet and interact with the souls of those who died but were not delivered into peaceful rest, I will leave for the reader. Suffice it to say that this tale is filled with enchanted places, happenings, and an enlightened bird-like creature that will lead the way for all to sail away from the tunnels beneath Manhattan Island and out into a world of final peace and rest.

All in all, Ship of Souls is truly imaginative. It is a captivating tale wherein the reader’s imagination must be allowed free reign. I would recommend this book to all readers, especially the young, who delight in uncanny stories that fill their imaginations with the eerie, the unexplained, the unexpected, and the unloved.

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