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Red Hook, Brooklyn and it is blisteringly hot. Two fifteen year old girls decide the best and most exciting way to cool off is to take a small inflatable raft on to the river. The next morning one of the girls is found unconscious and washed ashore with no memory of what happened in the river and the other girl is nowhere to be found. This becomes a big local story and the survivor, saviour and community have to deal with the loss in their different ways.

Visitation Street by Ivy Pochoda

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Category: Literary Fiction
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Steve Shayler
Reviewed by Steve Shayler
Summary: After the tragic disappearance of fifteen year old June the community of Red Hook try to continue with their lives. This is a fantastically absorbing tale in which characters, emotions and locations are written dazzlingly.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 320 Date: July 2013
Publisher: Sceptre
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1444778243

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The survivor is a girl named Val and part of the story follows her and how she deals with losing her best friend. She is understandably haunted by what has happened and desperately wants to have the normal life her thoughts are denying her. We also follow a few other characters from the Red Hook community and experience how the tragedy affects them and the community as a whole.

It is difficult to say much more about the storyline without describing the whole plot; this story has a very simple narrative that after the initial events is about people rather than twists or turns or thrilling plot. This is far from being a criticism though as the book is one of the most engaging I have read in quite a while.

Ivy Pochoda writes about individuals, community, emotions and friendships wonderfully and the story feels so real and the characters accurate. Early on the book reminded me of the TV show The Wire with its thought provoking and real portrayal of the characters that make a community. Like The Wire the story is set in a neglected area where drugs and alcoholism are rife but the people are varied and form a colourful and vibrant community. Pochoda undeniably has a passion for the part of Brooklyn she has written about and this translates into beautifully descriptive prose that makes even the humdrum of everyday life sparkle. The way she writes about the area comes close to lending it a magical or mystical quality at times but this is contrasted by the gritty and bleak atmosphere created at other moments, I felt as though I really experienced everything that the area has to offer, good and bad. There can be few finer compliments of a book than that the reader feels a part of it and can vibrantly visualise the setting and I really feel that I could visit and recognise many of the locations from the story.

The story largely deals with the emotional responses of people dealing with tragic events, from survivor’s guilt to spiritualism, all of which feel as though they are written from experience or at the least by someone who has an exceptional grasp of the human psyche. Apart from the emotional theme the story concentrates on community and the area and feels like a vivid slice of Red Hook and the lives of its people.

People looking for a story with an intricate, exciting, thrill ride of a plot may be disappointed by Visitation Street as the plot is very basic and almost unimportant at times. It doesn’t need these attractions though, it is not designed to be a typical thriller or crime story it is instead an absorbing and thought provoking read that thrills with language, descriptiveness and fantastic perception. I would very highly recommend this book and believe that it may be a rare example of a book that I will re-read myself.

For more dazzling writing we can recommend The Other Typist by Suzanne Rindell.

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Buy Visitation Street by Ivy Pochoda at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Visitation Street by Ivy Pochoda at


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