Visitation Street

Visitation Street

by Ivy Pochoda


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One scorching summer night, two teenage girls decide to take a trip on a homemade raft. They disappear in the bay, and only one of them is later found, unconscious. Jonathan, the girls’ teacher, is determined to uncover the girl’s deepest sins and secrets.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780594563624
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 07/09/2013
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 750,510
Product dimensions: 6.44(w) x 9.12(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

Ivy Pochoda is an American novelist and journalist. Her work appears in The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Review of Books, and the Huffington Post. Visitation Street was named an Amazon Best Book in 2013 and was included on the Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers list.

What People are Saying About This

Dennis Lehane

Visitation Street is urban opera writ large. Gritty and magical, filled with mystery, poetry and pain, Ivy Pochoda’s voice recalls Richard Price, Junot Diaz, and even Alice Sebold, yet it’s indelibly her own.”


A Conversation with Ivy Pochoda, Author of Visitation Street

When and why did you decide to write Visitation Street? Tell us about your process of book writing.

I used to live in Red Hook, Brooklyn across from a bar called the Bait & Tackle. Even in the winter when the doors were closed, the noise from the bar filtered into my apartment. The bar's neon sign flashed into my windows. So it seemed easier to spend time at the Bait & Tackle than being teased by it from across the street. Needless to say, I spent a considerable amount of time in his bar. Some might argue too much.

During that time, my agent had sent my first novel, The Art of Disappearing onto a third round of submissions, and there wasn't much good news from that department. (Again, more time in the bar.) So I decided to begin a new book to pass the time until my first book sold. I was at a loss as to what to write. When I asked my mother's advice, she said, "Write about what's going on outside your window." I'm not sure she expected me to take her so literally. I began to describe the Bait & Tackle's regulars, their interactions, the mix of race and age—everything that made the place so strange and, at least to me, wonderful. I also wanted to make sense, or rather, make something beautiful out of way too many late nights and early mornings spent at the bar.

Soon I was opening the story up, first moving it outside the bar to the four businesses on the intersection in front of my house, then further into the neighborhood—first down to the waterfront then back into the Red Hook Houses. It took me a long time to figure out a story to unite the unique and lonely souls who found their ways onto my pages.

Are any of the characters based on people you've known? What real-life events inspired your novel?

Many characters in Visitation Street were inspired by people who passed by outside my window or pulled up a stool in the Bait & Tackle. But as I wrote, these characters strayed further and further from their place (or rather person) of origin. They changed age and gender. They acquired attributes of people I'd known growing up. A sixty-year-old corrections officer became an eighteen-year-old high school student. And while I'm sure people in Red Hook will look for their friends or themselves on these pages, my intention was that they will only find a ghost or a suggestion.

Since I grew up in Brooklyn, there's going to be some overlap between my life and what happens in my novel. But I didn't consciously draw on any real life events when I wrote. I was more interested in recreating the atmosphere both of Red Hook and of my childhood in Cobble Hill on the other side of the Brooklyn Queens Expressway. Since I began writing in the summer, I immediately was drawn to those cruel New York heat waves of my youth, those long summer days that filled me with the restless and foolish desire to grow up fast in order to find something interesting to do.

Your book subtly hits upon distinctions and clashes amongst many different classes living within the same diverse neighborhood. Did you set out to highlight this in your book? Or did it just naturally happen in writing about a place such as Red Hook?

It would have been dishonest and difficult to write about Red Hook without immediately highlighting the different races and classes living there. It's physically impossible to go about your business without being brought into contact with a diverse range of people—longtime residents of the Houses, old waterfront types, artsy newcomers, and the first wave of moneyed gentrifiers. It is quite a small neighborhood and has, or had, few communal meeting spots. So bars and the parks (which were the primary gathering points when I lived there) were filled with people from all corners of the community. Initially, simply being a resident of Red Hook was enough to draw people together under one roof to drink, shop, or hang out. But while alcohol and the pursuit of a good time can good equalizers for a little while, after a while cultural fault lines being to show.

You recently moved from Brooklyn to L.A. Did you find it difficult to complete this Brooklyn-based novel while living elsewhere? Or was it easier to finish from a distance?

I had written four chapters of Visitation Street before I moved to Los Angeles. And I felt incredibly guilty writing not simply a Brooklyn novel from the West Coast, but more specifically, a Red Hook novel. Red Hook is such a small, tight community and those who live there take an immense about of pride in the neighborhood. I couldn't help but feel like something of a traitor for leaving and from writing about it from the outside. In fact, I felt as if I'd forfeited my claim upon the neighborhood when I left.
So in the first draft of the novel, I invented my own name for Red Hook—Dutch Basin—and I changed many of the names of the streets and the parks. This made it easier for me to write. I could invent the neighborhood as I pleased and escape the collective Red Hook voice in my head that told me, "You're getting it wrong!" But when I was done I realized that community I'd written about in Visitation Street was so clearly Red Hook that it seemed silly not to use the actual name of the neighborhood and its streets. The only intentional change I retained in the final draft is in the namesake street Visitation, which is actually called Pioneer Street. Visitation Place is one block east of Pioneer, but I couldn't resist the haunting resonance of the title, so I swapped the street names. It's a minor alteration, but it makes me feel that the Red Hook of my book is somehow my own.

Who have you discovered lately?

I recently moved to downtown Los Angeles and discovered the much overlooked writer John Fante who wrote about the no longer existent neighborhood of Bunker Hill not too far from where I live. His most famous novel, Ask the Dust is not just a raw and riveting story, but an wonderful cultural document, depicting a gritty, urban Los Angeles neighborhood filled with lowlifes, immigrants, and those dreaming of a success on a grand scale—not unlike Red Hook in Brooklyn.

Customer Reviews

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Visitation Street 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 65 reviews.
JonathanBell More than 1 year ago
Ivy Pochoda has written a great thriller in Visitation Street. The characters are interesting. The story unfolds at the perfect pace. This is a real page turner. Hard to put down.
KarenWalters More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this book. It revs up fast and is filled with twists and turns. Characters like the barfly Julliard drop out keep the story interesting. This one is a real page turner.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I really thought this book rambled on and on and there was no real mystery here. It was clear from the start what happened to the girls. I continued to read to see if the conclusion was different than the obvious, and it was not. I did not like this book and felt it was kind of a waste of time for me.
JudithMoMo More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed the book but did not find it compelling,meaning, it did not compel me to move forward. It is written very well, the characters are very real, the writing is intelligent. and she captures her old neighborhood with wonderful natural flavors. I think I may have expected more because Dennis Lehane highly endorsed it....I did not feel the need to read to find out what happened, there was none of that. Great story, but I didn't have a hard time putting it down....and that's how I know if I love the story/book.
MSYogaChick More than 1 year ago
I chose this book initially because it's a mystery, who-done-it. But as I became absorbed in the story, I was far more interested in getting to know the primary and secondary characters and less obsessed with solving the central mystery. Don't get me wrong...the mystery is important, but the characters and their racially diverse neighborhood is very compelling.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great character development. I felt like I knew each character well and never wanted this book to end.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A top notch second novel from an emerging talent.  More than a mystery -- a compelling and insightful examination of the intricate interpersonal relationships in a complex New York neighborhood.
gloriafeit More than 1 year ago
The author paints a vivid portrait of Brooklyn’s Red Hook section, an area alongside the East River which juxtaposes predominantly white residents of the waterside two- and three-story brick houses with its nearby minority-filled housing projects and abandoned warehouses . The tale opens in the middle of a heat wave, when two fifteen-year old girls, Valerie and June, Catholic school students, follow the seductive call of adventure to escape the boredom of their lives (a recurring theme throughout the novel), taking a small pink raft into the water a short walk away from their homes. Almost predictably, their little boat is no match for the strong currents. The outcome: Val is discovered by an area resident, unconscious; June is nowhere to be found, and the worst is feared. The remainder of the book describes the effects of the tragedy on the neighborhood, told from various points of view, most profoundly Val’s, almost literally haunted by the scenes replayed on a constant loop in her mind, filled with guilt at not having saved her friend. Those are nearly constant themes of the book as well: guilt, and the living being haunted by the dead, or those feared dead. Red Hook, with its history of drugs, racism, and similar ills, comes alive as much as any of the fascinating characters who live and work there in this author’s poetic prose. This reader knows the area well, and it is very realistically portrayed here. The blue-collar residents hope for salvation with the eagerly anticipated arrival of large cruise ships at the new passenger terminal, while meanwhile scraping by as best they can. The novel is not at all what I expected, which was a crime novel along the lines of the books by Dennis Lehane, under whose imprint this book was published, the second under his aegis. In that sense I was somewhat disappointed, I must admit. But the book is quite original, and I suspect that my disappointment will not be shared by most readers.
nuee More than 1 year ago
Humor, sadness, conflict, racism, stupidity, brilliance - if humans can be it or do it, it is in this book. Red Hook is a microcosm of where we all live. That there is a crime to solve adds to the mix and waiting for the ship to arrive is frosting on the cake - well, frosting that is pretty but has a bad taste. Read it.
JBernardo More than 1 year ago
The author managed to capture the entire Red Hook experience and I was so surprised considering she was this white girl. I grew up in Carroll Gardens and was shocked how she got the grittiness of Red Hook so accurately. Really interesting story that kept me reading until it was done. Good story. Loved it! Can't wait for her next book!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Well worth reading.
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Just an average book.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great book! This was an interesting story of loss, love, discovery, changes, friendship, giving and grieving. It focuses on a handful of people and how there lives interconnect. Great story!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago