by Ivy Pochoda
This mystery started out really strong for me, but it lost momentum somewhere in the middle. It all centers around the disappearance of a local girl one fateful night.
The neighborhood of Visitation Street is so perfectly described, the heavy humidity, graffiti-tagged alleyways, the stench of garbage, etc. From the racial divisions to the encroaching crime, the reader feels like part of that dark world. We meet the owner of a local bodega who is just trying to get involved in the community, a widow who still hears the voice of her dead husband, a young girl grieving the loss of her friend, a musician who is a piano player in a drag club at night and a teacher in the local high school by day, a young black boy whose ambition is halted by his mother's failing health, and more.
The characters are richly drawn and much more vivid than the plot. The writing is excellent and it's no surprise that Dennis Lehane was a big fan of the book. It reminded me quite a bit of his style and his gritty descriptions of Boston.
I really struggle with the whole teacher-student relationship thing. It's so icky and no matter how well the author tries to show that it just happened and it's no one's fault, in my mind there is an adult and there is a child and there is one person who should clearly be making better decisions. I just can't get behind that story.
I also had a hard time with the characters that seemed to have no purpose. They would be briefly mentioned, but it felt like their story didn’t go too far. Others seemed important but weren’t as interesting.
BOTTOM LINE: I loved certain aspects of this novel, like the writing, but the plot fell apart a bit at the end for me. It felt like it was almost there, but never quite came together. I would definitely read another book by this author and I would hope that she would just keep getting better with time.