Dennis Lehane has his own imprint of novels now, and Ivy Pochoda’s Visitation Street is the first I’ve read. The introductory note on the ARC says that when he picked up the manuscript, he looked for a reason to reject it, and found a good book. I’m kind of embarrassed to just echo what he said, but he’s right.
As a gritty urban novel full of morally ambiguous characters, it’s a great fit for Lehane’s brand. But it’s also a great fit because it’s better than average.
The book itself: Two teenage girls sneak out one night in Red Hook. One is found alive the next morning by a Catholic-school music teacher. The other is missing. Nobody is entirely innocent. Nobody is entirely guilty.
Hipsters, hustlers, firefighters, longshoremen, shopkeepers, drunks, junkies… everyone in the neighborhood is doing somewhat less than their best, and everyone’s implicated in some moral or criminal failing. Some of those failings are tied to the poor missing girl. Some are not. Some are somewhere in the middle.
Visitation Street is a tender but unsparing portrait of contemporary Brooklyn and of a sort of universally flawed humanity that I think all its readers can relate to. It’s a perfect fit for Lehane’s new imprint, and I enjoyed the hell out of it.