Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Book Reviews: Visitation Street

Chosen by Denis Lehane for his eponymous imprint, Ivy Pochoda’s Visitation Street is a riveting literary mystery set against the rough-hewn backdrop of the New York waterfront in Red Hook.
It’s summertime in Red Hook, Brooklyn, a blue-collar dockside neighborhood. June and Val, two fifteen-year-olds, take a raft out onto the bay at night to see what they can see.
- Excerpt from Amazon
Author: Ivy Pochoda 

A crowd gathers on the corner of Visitation Street after the disappearance of two local girls--one of whom has washed up on shore, barely alive--and our narrator teases: “The story develops slowly.” The same can be said of Ivy Pochoda’s atmospheric debut, which is as much an ode to the ragged neighborhood of Red Hook, Brooklyn as it is a slow-burning mystery. At times I felt I was reading of some foreign or forgotten city, a moody and crumbling place in the shadow of Manhattan. While the damaged-goods characters are quite memorable--a woman spends her days “speaking” to her dead husband; a music teacher drinks to oblivion, haunted by his dead mother; an immigrant shop owner dreams of a better Red Hook--the star here is “the Hook.” One character describes it as “a neighborhood of ghosts,” where trash rolls like tumbleweed--hazy, smelly, noisy, blue collar, crime-ridden, yet full of heart and hope. Says one character, who wants to flee Red Hook in the boat his murdered father left him: “It’s not such a bad place … if you look under the surface.” The same can be said of Visitation Street, a deceptively literary tale that brings to mind its benefactor, Denis Lehane, who published the book under his new imprint. --Neal Thompson

My Rating: 3.5 out of 4 Stars!!
Reasons I enjoyed this book:
1. It addressed issues that I am already interested in, including race relations, class, and gentrification. Even in a lower class neighborhood, people are still divided by race.
2. Character Development - I like a story with many characters, when the author tells each of their stories separately and then in the end bring them together. I really like to know the characters inside and out. I want to feel as if I know them personally.  While everyone loves the character we "love-to-hate," I especially love the kind of character that I "hate-to-love." There is one such characters this book.
3. Plot - The story does develop slowly. But this is a necessary requirement for this particular story to be told. While it is a mystery, it is not a crime thriller. You will find yourself thinking about a lot of other things besides "whodunit" by the end of the book.
4. Easy Read - While the story itself was slow to develop, the book was not difficult to read. It was very engaging and entertaining. with each scenario that was portrayed, I could feel myself right in the middle of the scene, seeing and feeling what was happening.
5. New Ideas - I love a book that has new ideas. While I wouldn't call this book life-changing (at least not for me... maybe it will be for you!) it definitely portrayed some things that we often look at as negatives in a different light. Examples include vandalism, gang activity, and juvenile imprisonment.

I would definitely recommend this book. Ivy Pochoda is a great author and I look forward to reading more from her! If you have read it, I would love to hear your thoughts!


  1. Hi Liz!
    thanks for the book review. I'm a bookaholic, so I appreciate hearing/reading about new books!
    I'm not a huge fan of too many characters, though. I like when authors reveal the personality traits through the character's actions rather than a detailed description.

  2. I like getting book tips. When I am left on my own, I pick a book based on it's cover, and that doesn't end well most of the time.

  3. Thanks for the review. I'm going to add this to my list :)