Visitation Street by Ivy Pochoda

Ivy Pochoda’s novel starts off with two bored young girls on a slow, hot evening in Brooklyn. The girls want to do exciting, something that will make their lives more interesting and prove they are more grown up. Later that evening, one girl is found on the shore unconscious and the other is missing. Suddenly, the entire neighborhood is full of suspects. Is it the teacher who found the unconscious Val? The young man who was known to be the last to speak to the girls?

Red Hook is a troubled area of Brooklyn filled with a mix of blue collar row houses and housing projects. Racial and economic issues divide the people of the neighborhood. Fadi is the owner of a local convenience store who wants to make his store the center of information about the disappearance in the hope he will be more accepted in the community. Ren, who may know more about the incident than he says, is a young black man living rough in the abandoned warehouses who performs random instances of good works for the folks in the projects. Cree, the young man who spoke last to the girls, is desperate to get out of the projects, but stays because his mother won’t leave the place her husband died. Jonathan, the teacher who found Val, only wants to drink enough each night to forget about his failure of a life. All of them become caught up in the aftermath of what happened that night. In the end, the lives of everyone involved will be changed.

Pochoda’s focus is less on the police investigation than on the description of the neighborhood and its residents. But this is the beauty of her book. By the time I finished, I felt like had visited Red Hook, Brooklyn, and that her characters had become my neighbors. I hated to leave them when the book ended.

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