3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
A poignant and compelling read...,
This review is from: Visitation Street (Hardcover)
In all honesty, I could simply reduce the length of my review of Visitation Street to a stream of complimentary adjectives, such is the mesmeric beauty of this book.
The first notable quality of this novel is the way that it encompasses not only the best of contemporary American fiction in its depth of issues and characterisation, but also how it threads into the central narrative a compelling crime strand. Focussing on the New York shore-dwelling community of Red Hook, the book opens with two young girls embarking on a trip to the shoreline armed with a raft in the hope of adventure. Only one makes it back to safety, with the crux of the story then revolving around the disappearance of the other. From this initial mystery, Pochoda weaves a multi-layered narrative, perfectly constructing the lives of this run-down community and the minutiae of their personal troubles. Each character is filled with a vibrancy and clarity of depiction, that truly reflects the socio-economic pressures of life within their community be they a humble store owner, a struggling music teacher or a youth attempting to rebuild his life in the shadow of past sins. Pochoda captures the themes of poverty and race with pinpoint precision, and imbues the book with protagonists who will draw your empathy or dislike in equal measure. There are scenes within the book that will simply transfix you in their brutal simplicity and the rhythmical and utterly authentic dialogue sings from the pages.
Having achieved such an attention to detail as previously mentioned, I feared that the central crime of the piece would somehow get lost in the meticulous attention to these other aspects, but my fears were dispelled as the novel progressed and the truth surrounding the girl's ill-fated river trip, and a young man's discovery of the real events behind his father's murder come to light. Both these plotlines unfold beautifully in the course of the book as you become more and more immersed in this unique but blighted community of people getting on with their lives in the best way that they can. It is little wonder that Dennis Lehane felt so compelled to trumpet this book to the wider reading community, and on the strength of this novel Ivy Pochoda will certainly be a writer to watch in the future. A remarkable read and I have no qualms of labelling this as one of the best books I have read this year.