Visitation Street (Pochoda)

Visitation Street
Ivy Pochoda, 2013
306 pp.
ISBN-13: 978

Summer in Red Hook, Brooklyn, an isolated blue-collar neighborhood where hipster gourmet supermarkets push against tired housing projects and the East River opens into the bay.

Bored and listless, fifteen-year-olds June and Val are looking for fun. Forget the boys, the bottles, the coded whistles. Val wants to do something wild and a little crazy: take a raft out onto the bay.

But on the water during the humid night, the girls disappear. Only Val survives, washing ashore in the weeds, bruised and unconscious.

This shocking event echoes through the lives of Red Hook's diverse residents. Fadi, the Lebanese bodega owner, hopes that his shop is a place to share neighborhood news, and he trolls for information about June's disappearance. Cree, just beginning to pull it together after his father's murder, unwittingly makes himself the chief suspect in the investigation, but an enigmatic and elusive guardian is determined to keep him safe. Val contends with the shadow of her missing friend and a truth she's buried deep inside. Her teacher Jonathan, a Juilliard dropout and barfly, wrestles with dashed dreams and a past riddled with tragic sins.

In Visitation Street, Ivy Pochoda combines intensely vivid prose with breathtaking psychological insight to explore a cast of solitary souls, pulled by family, love, betrayal, and hope, who yearn for a chance to break free. (From the publisher.)

Author Bio
Birth—January 22, 1977
Where—Brooklyn, New York City, New York, USA
Education—B.A., Harvard College; M.F.A., Bennington College
Currently—lives in Los Angeles, California

Ivy Pochoda, author of Wonder Valley (2017), The Visitation (2013) and The Art of Disappearing (2009), grew up in Brooklyn, New York, in a house filled with books. She was the 2009 James Merrill House Writer in Residence, has a BA from Harvard College in English and Classical Greek with a focus on dramatic literature, and an MFA from Bennington College in fiction.

She played squash professionally between 1998 and 2007, representing the United States during her career. She reached a career-high world ranking of 38th in March 1999, having joined Women's International Squash Players Association full-time in 1998. In her college career at Harvard University, Pochoda was individual national champion in 1998, and led Harvard to national championships in all four of her years on the team. She was also named Ivy League Rookie of the Year, Player of the Year, and was a four-time All-American and First Team all-Ivy. In May 2013, she was inducted into the Harvard Hall of Fame.

Ivy lives in Los Angeles with her husband, Justin Nowell. (From the publisher and Wikipedia. Retrieved 7/21/2013.)

Book Reviews
A powerfully beautiful novel
Marilyn Stasio - New York Times

A stunner of a literary thriller. Grade A-
Entertainment Weekly

Utterly transporting.

(Starred review.) Exquisitely written.... Examines how residents of Brooklyn’s Red Hook neighborhood deal with grief, urban development, loss, and teenage angst.... Pochoda (The Art of Disappearing) couples a raw-edged, lyrical look at characters’ innermost fears with an evocative view of Red Hook, a traditionally working-class area of Brooklyn undergoing gentrification that still struggles with racism and the aftermath of drug violence.
Publishers Weekly

(Starred review.)  [R]eaders meet a full cast of utterly believable characters.... It's an opera set in one small community, and as...the neighborhood characters play their parts, large and small, Pochoda's riveting prose will keep readers enthralled until the final page. Verdict:The prose is so lyrical and detailed that readers will easily imagine themselves in Red Hook. A great read for those who enjoy urban mysteries and thrillers with a literary flair. —Amy Hoseth, Colorado State Univ. Lib., Fort Collins
Library Journal

(Starred review.) Blue-collar Red Hook, a section of Brooklyn’s waterfront in rough transition, becomes one big outdoor theater as temperatures rise in Pochoda’s beyond-category urban drama…. The mysteries of sexuality, guilt, race and class conflicts, artistic pursuits, and psychic abilities are all in play as Pochoda transforms Red Hook into a microcosm of human longing. With prose as cleansing and propelling as a sea breeze, and characters running like strong currents, Pochoda pulls us deeply into this transfixing tale of visitations both alarming and liberating.

(Starred review.) A mystery about a missing girl and the ghosts she leaves behind. One summer evening, teenagers Val and June float on a rubber raft out into the bay off Brooklyn's Red Hook section. Only Val returns, her near-dead body washed upon the shore. But Val can't seem to tell anyone what happened to them or why June disappeared without a trace.... Who saw Val and June take the boat out? Can June possibly be alive?.... A terrific story in the vein of Dennis Lehane's fiction.
Kirkus Reviews

Discussion Questions
Use our LitLovers Book Club Resources; they can help with discussions for any book:

How to Discuss a Book (helpful discussion tips)
Generic Discussion Questions—Fiction and Nonfiction
Read-Think-Talk (a guided reading chart)

Also, consider these LitLovers talking points to help get a discussion started for Visitation Street:

1. Consider the personalities of June and Val in the opening chapter. How are they different from one another? Why is Val so intent on taking the raft into the bay?

2. Red Hook—situated across the bay from Manhattan and bound by water—is both a literal and metaphorical setting in the novel. Talk about the way Red Hook isolates and traps the characters—in particular, Val, Jonathan, and Cree. In what sense does each of them feel trapped? What does each yearn for?

3. What is the thematic significance of the book's title? What is a visitation—and what does the title sugggest about the power of the past to "visit" itself upon the present? What are the ghosts in this story—are they real?

4. Follow-up to Question 3: In what way does the past take hold of each of the main characters—Jonathan, Cree, Cree's mother Gloria, and Ren?

5. What draws Val and Jonathan to one another (over and above physical attraction)? Why does Jonathan care so much about Valerie? From what does he want to save her?

6. What do you think of Ren? Why is he so protective of Cree? Why does he warn Cree to avoid Val and tell no one about his attempt to swim out to the raft. SPOILER ALERT: Was he right to hide June's body?

7. Follow-up to Question 6: Talk about the issue of race in this book? How does it affect personal relationships as well as the criminal-judicial system?

8. Although Fadi plays a small part in the outcome of the story—he is more of an observer than a participant, except at the end—why has the author given his character such prominent place in the story? What role does he play in the community? How does he view Red Hook and its residents? What is he trying to achieve with his newsletter and bulletin board? Why doesn't the newsletter increase his business?

9. Discuss the book's ending—is it satisfying? What do you think will happen to Cree, Val, and Jonathan? What about Ren?

(Questions by LitLovers. Please feel free to use them, online or off, with attribution. Thanks.)

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