Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Review of Visitation Street by Ivy Pochoda (Ecco/Dennis Lehane Books, 2013)

On a hot summer evening, teenagers Val and June decide to have an adventure.  They take a small inflatable pink raft and walk down to the shore in Red Hook in Brooklyn.  First they seek to join an old friend, Monica, who brushes them off, before pushing off into the sea, watched by a young man, Cree.  Early the next morning, Jonathan, a disillusioned music teacher, finds Val under the pier and carries her to a nearby Lebanese grocery run by Fadi.  From there she is whisked to hospital where she claims to have no memory of the night before.  A search is launched for June, but no trace can be found of her.  Over the following weeks a dark cloud hangs over Val, Jonathan, Cree, Monica and Fadi, each of them feeling out of sorts as they come to terms with June’s disappearance and their relationships to each other and the local community.

Most crime novels dwell on the crime itself and how it is solved, with the lead characters being the detectives and/or criminals.  Visitation Street takes a different approach, instead focusing on the friends and community in the aftermath of a crime whilst still moving the story to a resolution.  In so doing, Ivy Pochoda tells a layered tale that has a great sense of place and social depth, dropping the reader into the world of Red Hook and its inhabitants, with keen observations regarding race, class, family, and urban life.  Her characters are very nicely portrayed and their interactions and dialogue realistic.  The plot has a nice cadence, the prose is evocative, and the telling has a strong emotional register, especially a sense of foreboding, without ever slipping into melodrama or psychological suspense.  The result is a thoughtful literary crime novel that also offers an illuminating social commentary on life in a Brooklyn neighbourhood. 


Anonymous said...

Rob - Oh, I've heard this one was really a good read. Nice to have some corroboration. And of course, I'm glad you enjoyed it as much as you did.

TracyK said...

I am planning to read this, and I am glad you enjoyed it. Another nice review.