09 June 2013

Visitation Street; Ivy Pochoda

Visitation StreetVisitation Street by Ivy Pochoda
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is supposed to be a mystery, but there really isn't one: it's clear from early on what happened to June. What this is, instead, is an exploration of grief and loss, set in a slightly-pre-gentrified Red Hook, Brooklyn. It's a neighborhood I'm slightly familiar with, as my post office was located in Red Hook, across from the "PJs" and in the early-mid 90s, you did not go anywhere near there if possible. Things are much better now, with cruise ships and a Fairway supermarket and celebrities. Visitation Street is set in-between the two, with the arrival of the Queen Mary imminent.

So that's the scene. The plot is simple: it's late into a hot, muggy summer evening and two friends, Val and June, decide to take an inflatable raft out onto the water. Early the next morning, Val is found, nearly dead, under a pier. June? Vanished. We don't have a lot of the search for June, which would probably be pretty boring. Instead we get Val's reaction, as well as that of Cree (one of the last people to see the two, following them on land as they drifted out into the bay), their families, some of the neighborhood people. There's also Jonathan Sprouse, teacher at Val and June's school, who lives in Red Hook and is the one to find/rescue Val - his mother drowned a few years earlier, and he still hasn't fully dealt with that.

Told from many points of view, this is a great character study. I can see why this was chosen for Lehane's imprint, because the grittiness of Red Hook feels like some of the areas of Boston he writes about, but as a mystery? It's just not one.

ARC provided by publisher.

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