Visitation Street by Ivy Pochoda

visitation street

The story covers a couple of months in the life of a few people who live in a neighbourhood in Brooklyn. Like many areas of New York City, the neighbourhood is home to some well-off people who own whole Brownstone buildings, living very close to people who live in the projects. Although I lived in Manhattan for a year, and visited Brooklyn, I do not know this area of Red Hook particularly well, but I know of areas that are quite similar to it. This is a very well-written portrait of such a neighbourhood.

The story begins with two girls who take a raft out on to the East River one night. One of them does not come back. One of them washes up on the shore the next day. This is the story of how she deals with the consequences of that night, and how she interacts with several of the other people who live in the neighbourhood.

The storyline itself is no thriller or whodunnit, I feel that the main emphasis is on the characters, none of whom are particularly likeable. They rarely get any benefit from living in one of the world’s most exciting cities, which I found to be woefully true of many of the city’s inhabitants.

There are a couple of small plots twists, one that I cannot believe that someone could not see coming and one that I did quite like, but on the whole, it was not a plot that I found particularly gripping. The strength of the novel is in Pochoda’s skills of showing us Visitation Street itself and it’s inhabitants, but this may not be of interest to those who have little knowledge or affection for the true New York City.

The characters are well-developed but each one is extremely lonely. Nobody gets much of their own space in New York City but each of these characters seems to live in a solitary vacuum. The result is little dialogue and a rather melancholic feel to the whole thing. Of course the main storyline is about a death, so, it is unlikely to be filled with jokes, but the whole thing has such a gloomy feel to it, I was was quite relieved when it was over.

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