Archive for the ‘Visitation Street’ Category

I’ve been reading mysteries for decades and I’ve yet to come across a body found 50 feet upInvisibleCity in a crane in the midst of a salvage yard…that is until Invisible City, a debut novel by Julia Dahl. Rebekkah Roberts, a stringer for the New York Tribune is sent to the scene.

Nobody is talking but she gets the crane operator to describe seeing a leg dangling out of the scrap in the crane. The  salvage yard is owned by a Hasidic Jew, Aron Mendelssohn. The police converge as does the M.E., an ambulance and an ambulance with Hebrew lettering on it…which is the one that carries away the body.

According to Jewish law, the dead are buried very quickly. With the help of a rogue cop, Rebekkah is allowed to see the badly bruised body in the funeral home prior to burial. It is murder. There are no two ways about it. And it turns out to be Aron’s wife, Rivka.

There are two stories going on in Invisible City. The first is Rivka’s exploration outside of her Hasidic roots. The second is Rebekkah’s mother, Aviva’s similar exploration, which resulted in a liaison with her father, the product of which is Rebekkah. However, Aviva abandoned her child and returned to her family, something that Rebekkah has yet to come to terms with.

There are many (well, maybe several) series about newspaper reporters solving crimes. This is a new spin with the fact that Rebekkah is a rookie and she’s dealing with the very insular Hasidic community. Dahl has created a great set of characters in Rebekkah, her friend Iris, her boyfriend Tony and rogue cop Saul Katz. The Brooklyn locale always interests me. This is not as gritty as Visitation Street by Iva Pochoda, which takes place in Red Hook, very close to the Gowanus locale of Invisible City.

I’m assuming this is going to be a series and I look forward to the next installment. I highly recommend both of the books mentioned: Invisible City by Julia Dahl and Visitation Street by Iva Pochoda.






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EndOfThePointI just want to congratulate Elizabeth Graver. Her The End of the Point was on Kirkus’ Best Fiction of 2013 list. The other book I want to note is Ivy Pochoda’s Visitation Street. Another book worthy of being on the list. Finally, congratulations to all the authors and books on the list.VisitationStreet

The Young Adult List comes out in early December. I can’t wait for that one.

Here’s the link to the fiction list, if you’re interested. https://www.kirkusreviews.com/issue/best-of-2013/section/fiction/

Happy reading.


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Visitation Street is the second book published under Dennis Lehane’s new imprint at Harper Collins. My feeling: VisitationStreetif it’s good enough for Dennis, it’s good enough for me. That can be a dangerous philosophy but in this particular case, it worked quite well. I don’t think I’m ruining anything by saying that two fifteen year old girls take a rubber raft out on the bay at the end of Red Hook in Brooklyn and only one comes back.

Is there a mystery? Sure. But is that what makes this story so good? Not at all. Ms. Pochoda has explored a way of life; the life in Red Hook through several characters that interact with and have an impact on Valerie, the girl who returns. Through these characters, Ms. Pochoda portrays the evident racial divide in Red Hook, the secrets that people hold inside and the reasons for their actions, and the yearnings that they have for a life different than the one they’re living.

As in life, some of the characters are sad examples of what we do to ourselves, some striving for better and some are just so lost.

I started reading this book in fits and starts but that wasn’t doing it justice. When I finally had time to sit and really read, I got sucked in big-time. I didn’t want to put this book down. I suggest that you do the same…find a length of time to read.

Ms. Pochoda can certainly turn a phrase. For instance, describing what a summer’s night in Red Hook is like, “It’s a hot night in a calendar of hot weeks.” Describing a ceiling in the projects, “He opens his eyes to the water map on the ceiling, the brown and yellow bubbles tracing the pathways of his upstairs neighbor’s leaky plumbing.” Or describing Valerie at the entrance to the Tabernacle Church, “They take in her uniform and her lanky frame–her pale skin and unremarkable hair. A drab piece of flotsam lost in a sea of Sunday color.”  To me, that’s good writing.

My only criticism, and it’s minor. There’s a small map of Red Hook at the beginning of the book. I figured that bigger is better so I did an internet search for a street map of Red Hook. However, with the map in hand, I still couldn’t quite grasp which way the characters were going and what was where in Red Hook. Was it important? Probably not, but as an anal-retentive, and since the book was equally about the place as well as the characters, I wanted to get the entire experience. Don’t let this bog you down, though.

As an aside: I didn’t realize that I travel through Red Hook when I go visit the kids in Brooklyn. Who woulda thunk?

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