Friday, April 11, 2014

Visitation Street by Ivy Pochoda

This one was a huge surprise for me.  It was on the short list of ten for the Maine Reader's Choice Award, and it's still one of the five I'm considering voting for when we have to choose the three finalists later this month.

The publisher tells us:

It’s summertime in a blue-collar dockside neighborhood. (Red Hook Brooklyn New York).  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.
 My impression:  Reminiscent of West Side Story, the class struggle portrayed by The characters in this book is drawn with such precision that the reader is able to understand and empathize with each one of them in spite of their often less than savory backgrounds and behavior.  We might not want to live their lives or move into their hood, but they are portrayed with a realism that sings. The mystery is so well entwined in the lives of these characters that it takes a while to determine exactly what the mystery is.  Is June missing?  Did she drown?  Was she murdered?  What really happened, and who knows?  Who cares? And why?  It's a true underdog story, set in a vibrant, currant setting that will appeal to lovers of mysteries, young adults and adults alike, and readers who want a beautifully crafted work of fiction.  It works especially well in audio.  It's one I'll listen to and read again, and fully expect to see this one on the movie screen someday.

Title: Visitation Street
Author: Ivy Pochoda
Publisher: Dennis Lehane Books/Ecco (2013), Edition: First Edition, Hardcover, 320 pages
audio narrated by Roy Porter
Genre: Mystery, literary fiction
Subject: Missing teenager, social class prejudice
Setting: Red Hook Brooklyn New York
Source: Print: Review copy from publisher; Audio - purchased from Audible.
Why did I read this book now?  It was on the Maine Reader's Choice Short List for 2013 books.


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