Sometimes you get lucky. Or, perhaps, I should pay more attention to what books I am actually buying. I picked up Ivy Pochoda's Visitation Street as I was actually shopping for something by Dennie Lahane (highly recommended by an even more voracious reader than I -- my father). So I saw the publication date and Lahane's name and pushed the one-click button on Amazon and got this delivered to my Kindle. About 10 pages in, I looked back to the cover page -- I guess Mr. Lehane is sponsoring his own "imprint" for new authors...because there is his name on the front cover as "introduced by" -- and Ivy Pochoda is very definitely the author.
I had to reflect awhile on this, but eventually came to the conclusion that this is a very interesting - and good - book. There is a intriquing enough plot - two girls from the downtrodden neighborhood of Red Hook, part of the Brooklyn, New York waterfront, grab a raft and drop it and themselves into the water one evening. They go missing and eventually, only one of them, Val, manages to come out of the water on her own.
The plot is how, why, and where -- how one girl survived and one went missing, why they did this in the first place and why the result as it occurred....and where -- make no mistake, the neighborhood is a key character in this story - engaged and involved. The hero of this novel is not the plot -- its the people and the place. Red Hook is the star - lovingly and brutally (at times) described and explained - detailed and traced. And the characters are the candidates for the Oscar in supporting roles - Fadi, the Lebanese convenience store owner who writes his own neighborhood newsletter in the hopes of attracting the foot traffic visiting his competitor across the street; Cree, recovering from his father's murder who becomes a prime suspect in June's disappearance, Monique - an aspiring singer whose attractiveness draws more attention perhaps than she knows she wants; Jonathan, the classic underperformer in the role of music teacher with a drinking problem. Pochoda draws intimate and detailed portraits of each and places each with care and attention in their place in Red Hook. And then there is Val, the survivor with her survivor's guilt, and her relationship with June, boredom, summer in the city, and boys.
This is an urban drama - the city plays a part in everyone's psyche and behavior - whether trying to get out, or improve the place or simply make their way in this difficult world. Memorable character development and a terrific depiction of place and its impact on people. Check it out - it is well worth your time.