Sunday, October 23, 2016

Review of "Visitation Street" by Ivy Pochoda




Two 15-year-old girls - Val and June - who live in the Red Hook area of Brooklyn, get bored one night and decide to ride a pool raft out into the nearby harbor. In the morning an unconscious Val is found near the shore by  Jonathan Sprouse, a high school music teacher, and June is missing.

Though it seems this would be the beginning of a mystery book it's really a character study of the people living in this run-down Brooklyn neighborhood. Jonathan Sprouse is a disillusioned musician who drinks too much and lives in a dive. Fadi - a delicatessen owner - is trying to keep the neighborhood connected with his newsletter. Monique and some of her fellow teens are hanging out on park benches, making music.

Thugs are using drugs and harassing girls who wander into their corners. A homeless community is making do in an abandoned shipyard. Ren, a talented young graffiti artist, is making incredible murals. Cree, whose cop dad was shot years before, is trying to get out of Red Hook but his mom won't leave the place her husband died.

There are psychic women who talk to ghosts, drunkards, angry parents, shop owners, average families who do weekend barbecues...all rubbing shoulders in this small area.

Pochoda does a masterful job developing the characters and evoking the ambience of this Red Hook neighborhood. I almost felt like I lived there myself. In the end we learn what happened out in the harbor on the night June went missing and the Red Hook residents get on with their lives. Good book.

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