Find out the latest indie author news. For FREE.


Karen Brenner
Trinity Rivers Trilogy
Trinity Rivers Trilogy is a family saga that explores this central question: Life is feckless and random or life is filled with meaning and revelation. This is the story of the Quinn family, musicians who believe that music can change lives. It is also the story of a Scottish soldier, Robbie MacKaye, whose life of order and discipline is completely upended when he meets a girl at a train station, a girl named Lisabet Jordan Quinn. Three rivers flow through lives shattered by violence and betrayal. They bear witness to the healing power of music and the grace found in battered but enduring love, love that survives the lengthening shadows of time.
This fast-paced, continually surprising multigenerational saga from Brenner (Appaloosa Sky) crosses decades, oceans, and a host of societal divisions as it charts the lives of a musical family that meets crises of grief and guilt with love. Eventual matriarch Birdsong “Birdy” Olivier flees deepest Louisiana and sexual assault as a child in1955, eventually making it to New York and Juilliard, where Michael Quinn, an Irishman desperate for redemption, trains her to master her world-shaking voice. As she becomes an opera star, Birdy and Michael discover they’re in love, but Michael’s choice to face his secret guilt back home results in his years-long imprisonment—as Birdy, believing she’s been abandoned, births the twins he didn’t know about.

Those twins, and the offspring of one of them, push the narrative into the 1990s and 2000s, after Birdy and Michael’s reconciliation, and the family continues to face hard choices and deep secrets, especially when Birdy’s granddaughter Jordy falls for a Scottish soldier, Robbie MacKaye, when she’s serving as the beard of the gay British actor (and “sexiest man alive” winner) who once pimped teen Robbie out. That’s just a few of the surprises Brenner springs as this empathetic melodrama gathers steam. Others include one son’s struggles as a priest, Michael’s work as choirmaster for prison populations, and various revelations about parentage, though the novel, for all its length, doesn’t devote pages to delving into these in depth.

Brenner tells this sprawling story with crisp clarity and page-turning power. It’s too fast, on occasion, as in the crucial early chapters, where key emotional developments, such as the passion between Birdy and Michael or Michael’s refusal to contact her from prison, are more asserted by the author than felt by the reader. The relationship powering the novel’s final third, between Jordy and Robbie, is more fully developed and traditionally told. Scenecraft is fleet and strong, and themes of music and love resonate throughout.

Takeaway: Empathetic family saga centers love and music in the face of crises.

Comparable Titles: Lucy Robinson’s The Unfinished Symphony of You & Me, Louise Erdrich’s The Master Butchers’ Singing Club.

Production grades
Cover: A-
Design and typography: A-
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: A-
Marketing copy: A