Friday, October 18, 2013
Visitation Street by Ivy Pochoda
If you like: neighborhoods * daily struggles * longing
Visitation Street is the story of two girls who go out late at night for a swim and only one makes it back. A local neighborhood in Red Hook is shaken by the disappearance of June and conflicts arise in the search for her body. June's friend Val is left rattled and upset after her own survival paired with the disappearance of her friend, which is exacerbated by the fact that they were beginning to fall out as friends. Other members of community are also rocked by her disappearance. As a community in transition, they rally to find June, but then rapidly recede back to their former lives as time goes on. They hope that new advances in industry will come to their area and restore it to a promising place, but they know that it is mired in the danger of its past.
Friendship is the heart of Visitation Street. June and Val were perceived by many to be inseparable best friends. This is what it seemed like on the outside, but really the two were growing apart as they got older. The disappearance and death of June leaves Val alone and remembered as the best friend of the dead girl. This makes the pain of the loss of her friend even worse, and adds an element of guilt. For others, former friendships linger and continue to staining the future even though they are long since passed. In some cases, individuals long for those former friendships and wish they could return to a time in life when they were happy. It is so hard to give up a new image and go back to who you were without feeling like a disappointment to your past and future selves. At the same time, these sort of friendships are key to helping you survive any of life’s pains, so it is important to give up pretense and make those honest changes. Val searches for someone to be her friend while the search for June's body. Though she misses her friend, she need someone else to help her get through the pain of this loss. Along the way, she stumbles and mistakes support for friendship and love. One hopes that she will continue to grow in the aftermath of June's death and be able to make true friends, and not the kind that are chosen because there's no one else around.
The past and the future collide in Visitation Street. So many of the characters are haunted by the ghosts of their past. They run from pain of what has happened in their lives and what they have done. It is so easy to blame yourself for something that has happened to another and permanently removed them from your life. Many people feel that they must live up to the expectations of their lost love ones, and often miss their own dreams in the hopes of meeting these expectations. The future is never clear, but it seems clear to many of the people on Visitation Street because they feel like there's no great opportunity in the future. Some do have vision, but the past has shown them that things don't always work out the way you wish. At the same time, it is hard to escape the mistakes of the past when everyone else in your community will not let you forget them. How can you remake yourself, change, or become better when everyone else just views you as your one mistake? For many of the people sitting around Visitation Street, their only hope for change is to move away to where they can become someone new and make a fresh start. When you're leaving your home and your community, it is hard to give up everything that has made you who you are, even if that person is not someone you want to be anymore. In spite of of each person's desire to make themselves into someone better and escape the disappointments of their past, no one is willing to forgive the others around them. It seems the community could come together and initiate the kind of change they desire and maybe realize the vision of a local artist whose only works are graffiti on the walls. Instead, they're too busy pointing fingers at each other instead of joining hands and moving forward. People become so focused on their own reflection that they're unwilling to see what others desire. It only takes a few people coming together to change a community, but that first step is a huge mountain that must be climbed. In order to bring about the type of revitalization that every community needs, they must come together and embrace the future to become a place that others will want to be a part of, instead of one that everyone is trying to escape.
If you recognize the chance to evolve into something better, read Visitation Street.
Pochoda, Ivy. Visitation Street. HarperCollins, 2013. Kindle Edition.