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.
And then they disappear. Only Val will survive, washed ashore; semi-conscious in the weeds.
This shocking event will echo through the lives of a diverse cast of Red Hook residents. Fadi, the Lebanese bodega owner, hopes that his shop will be the place to share neighborhood news and troll for information about June’s disappearance. Cree, just beginning to pull it together after his father’s murder, unwittingly makes himself the chief suspect, but an enigmatic and elusive guardian is determined to keep him safe.
Val contends with the shadow of her missing friend and a truth she buries deep inside. Her teacher Jonathan, a Julliard School dropout and barfly, wrestles with dashed dreams and a past riddled with tragic sins.
An Amazon Best Book of the Month, July 2013: 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