Visitation Street [NOOK Book]

Overview

Summer in Red Hook, Brooklyn, an isolated blue-collar neighborhood where hipster gourmet supermarkets push against tired housing projects and the East River opens into the bay. Bored and listless, fifteen-year-olds June and Val are looking for fun. Forget the boys, the bottles, the coded whistles. Val wants to do something wild and a little crazy: take a raft out onto the bay. But on the water during the humid night, the girls disappear. Only Val survives, washing ashore in the ...

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Visitation Street

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Overview

Summer in Red Hook, Brooklyn, an isolated blue-collar neighborhood where hipster gourmet supermarkets push against tired housing projects and the East River opens into the bay. Bored and listless, fifteen-year-olds June and Val are looking for fun. Forget the boys, the bottles, the coded whistles. Val wants to do something wild and a little crazy: take a raft out onto the bay. But on the water during the humid night, the girls disappear. Only Val survives, washing ashore in the weeds, bruised and unconscious.

This shocking event echoes through the lives of Red Hook's diverse residents. Fadi, the Lebanese bodega owner, hopes that his shop is a place to share neighborhood news, and he trolls for information about June's disappearance. Cree, just beginning to pull it together after his father's murder, unwittingly makes himself the chief suspect in the investigation, but an enigmatic and elusive guardian is determined to keep him safe. Val contends with the shadow of her missing friend and a truth she's buried deep inside. Her teacher Jonathan, a Juilliard dropout and barfly, wrestles with dashed dreams and a past riddled with tragic sins.

In Visitation Street, Ivy Pochoda combines intensely vivid prose with breathtaking psychological insight to explore a cast of solitary souls, pulled by family, love, betrayal, and hope, who yearn for a chance to break free.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble

It was a dumb idea, the type of brainstorm that hits bored teenagers. Impulsive fifteen-year-old Val convinces herself and then her best friend June to jump on a raft and float away on New York's East River into the bay. What happens next, all too predictably, is tragedy. Only Val herself survives, but that, in Ivy Pochada's engulfing new novel, is only the beginning. A powerful, well-written novel that balance vivid psychological and subtly building suspense. (P.S. This is a Dennis Lehane Novel. He endorses it as "urban opera writ large. Gritty and magical, filled with mystery, poetry, and pain....")

Publishers Weekly
Exquisitely written, Pochoda’s poignant second novel examines how residents of Brooklyn’s Red Hook neighborhood deal with grief, urban development, loss, and teenage angst. In a fit of boredom, 15-year-old best friends Val Marino and June Giatto take a raft out on the bay one July evening, but only Val returns, her unconscious body washed up on the shore. June’s disappearance and what might have happened on the raft become the linchpin for Fadi, a Lebanese native who wants his bodega to be the pulse of neighborhood news; Jonathan Sprouse, a Julliard dropout with dark secrets; and 18-year-old Cree James, a kid from the projects who longs for a better life but remains stymied by his father’s murder. Pochoda (The Art of Disappearing) couples a raw-edged, lyrical look at characters’ innermost fears with an evocative view of Red Hook, a traditionally working-class area of Brooklyn undergoing gentrification that still struggles with racism and the aftermath of drug violence. By the end, the gap between “the front” of Red Hook with its well-tended streets near the waterfront and “the back” with its housing projects remains wide. Agent: Kim Witherspoon at Inkwell Management. (July)
Library Journal
Pochoda's second novel (after The Art of Disappearing) is the second book from Dennis Lehane's eponymous imprint at Ecco (after Attica Locke's The Cutting Season), and it's easy to see why he's throwing his significant weight behind her work. Set in the Red Hook section of Brooklyn, the novel opens on a warm summer evening when 15-year-old Val and June push a small pink raft onto the bay and set sail. Only Val makes it back to shore, and as the resulting drama unspools as readers meet a full cast of utterly believable characters including Fadi, a shopkeeper-turned-newsman; Cree, a local boy who winds up targeted by the police; and Jonathan, a music teacher who gets entangled in the mystery of June's disappearance. It's an opera set in one small community, and as Val struggles to cope with the loss of her friend and the neighborhood characters play their parts, large and small, Pochoda's riveting prose will keep readers enthralled until the final page. VERDICT The prose is so lyrical and detailed that readers will easily imagine themselves in Red Hook. A great read for those who enjoy urban mysteries and thrillers with a literary flair. [See Prepub Alert, 1/14/13; see also an interview with Lehane about his new imprint in Kristi Chadwick's Mystery Genre Spotlight feature, LJ 4/15/13.—Ed.]—Amy Hoseth, Colorado State Univ. Lib., Fort Collins
The New York Times - Alexander Nazaryan
Fans of Richard Price will immediately recognize his New York here, with its barely concealed ethnic tensions played out on a landscape of grit sprinkled with flecks of beauty…despite the perfunctory presence of two detectives, this is not a paint-by-numbers thriller. As June's disappearance grows longer, and the flowers on her dockside memorial begin to wilt, it becomes clear that Visitation Street is less about the one who is missing than the ones who remain…Teenage girls are always going missing in mystery novels; something about their mixture of youthful innocence and nascent sexuality must make them ripe subjects for mystery writers. So while they are often convenient plot devices, they are rarely conceived as fully as Ms. Pochoda's Val, who acts as a rejoinder to all those Philip Marlowe epigones crowding the genre.
The New York Times Book Review - Marilyn Stasio
Visitation Street, a powerfully beautiful novel by Ivy Pochoda, lingers on the moment the working-class neighborhood of Red Hook, Brooklyn, changed forever…Pochoda picks her moment well and lets people from the neighborhood—diverse characters who are vibrantly, insistently alive—tell the story.
Entertainment Weekly
“A stunner of a literary thriller. Grade A-” -Entertainment Weekly
People
“Utterly transporting.”-People
Los Angeles Times
“VISITATION STREET is a quiet, literary thriller told in lyrical, exacting prose. It’s in the vein of Donna Tartt’s “The Secret History” or Alice Sebold’s “The Lovely Bones”—Los Angeles Times”
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.”
Lionel Shriver
“Pochoda’s premise is inspired, the novel that unfolds even more so. Rich characters, surprising shifts of plot and mood. I loved it.” -Lionel Shriver, award winning author of We Need to Talk About Kevin
Deborah Harkness
Visitation Street explores a community’s response to tragedy with crystalline prose, a dose of the uncanny, and an unblinking eye for both human frailty and resilience. Marvelous.”
Emma Straub
“Ivy Pochoda makes the saltiness of Brooklyn’s Red Hook come to life so vividly that every time I looked up from the pages of this intoxicating novel, I was surprised not to be there. Visitation Street is imbued with mystery and danger.
Michael Koryta
Visitation Street [is] beautiful, haunting. Ivy Pochoda brings forth the full palette of human emotions in this gripping urban drama, a story that hurts you on one page and gives you hope on the next. A marvelous novel.”
Kirkus Reviews
A mystery about a missing girl and the ghosts she leaves behind. One summer evening, teenagers Val and June float on a rubber raft out into the bay off Brooklyn's Red Hook section. Only Val returns, her near-dead body washed upon the shore. But Val can't seem to tell anyone what happened to them or why June disappeared without a trace. For weeks afterward, the Lebanese shopkeeper Fadi tries to keep his customers informed about developments and neighborhood rumors in the case. Meanwhile, Jonathan, an ex-Julliard student turned jingle writer and music teacher, may be getting too emotionally close to Val. The novel's focus isn't on the police investigation, but on the missing girl's effect on her neighbors and friends. Who saw Val and June take the boat out? Can June possibly be alive? Can young Cree tell what he knows without being automatically accused of a crime since he's a black man? The book is rich with characters and mood and will make readers feel like they've walked the streets of Red Hook. Everyone in the story deserves a measure of sympathy, from the girls on the raft to the shoplifting teenager to the pathetic uncle who won't tell anyone anything for free. Red Hook itself feels like a character--hard-worn, isolated from the rest of New York, left behind and forgotten. A terrific story in the vein of Dennis Lehane's fiction.
The Barnes & Noble Review

Contemplating Red Hook, Brooklyn, Ivy Pochoda sees "skeletons of forgotten buildings — the sugar refinery and the dry dock — surviving among the new concrete bunkers being passed off as luxury living." She notices how, at a certain hour, "the water cups the skyline's reflection?" She recognizes the kids on the benches in Coffey Park "?perching on the backrests like birds on a wire." And in Visitation Street, Pochoda distills what she sees to bring this neighborhood to life before our eyes.

Pochoda's characters, too, are on the lookout — for trouble, but mostly for escape. Visitation Street opens on a summer night when two fifteen-year-old soul mates, Val Marino and June Giatto, carry a pink rubber raft down to the water, just for fun, for attention. They hand-paddle out into the current that churns toward Manhattan. Val is soon found unconscious under Valentino Pier, but June is gone. Two young black men have been watching, separately, from the shore. One, Cree James, saves Val's life and becomes part of it; the other, Renton Davis, witnesses everything and is determined to save Cree — from the cops who predictably finger him and from a dead-end fate. "All it takes is for the right guys to pay you mind," Ren warns from experience. "Call your name across the courtyards?. You never wanted to belong? You never wanted a crew?"

Eloquent and ubiquitous, Ren shadows Cree to repair an injury revealed in a late twist that is, perhaps, a little too neat. Then again, Pochoda's Red Hook, however demarcated its zones, is a small and intimate place. Here many are shadowed: Cree and his mother, by Cree's murdered father; Val, by the vanished June; Val's schoolteacher, Jonathan, by his drowned mother. "Ghosts aren't the dead," Ren explains. "They're those the dead left behind." It's a perilously trite observation (is that redemption blowing in off the East River?). But we accept it, as we accept Fadi, the saintly Lebanese bodega owner who tries to unite the neighborhood with his storefront newsletter, because we sense from the outset that Visitation Street, for all its compassion, will not slide into sentimentality. It is too shrewdly observed, too deftly constructed.

Pochoda expertly modulates the suspense and draws characters with such care and restraint that even a small-time dealer or a thuggish cop becomes a complex, shifting presence on the page. "There are threads dangling from Detective Coover's green-and- blue-striped tie. His partner, Hughes, is younger and wears a navy suit that's a little too sharp for the station. He leans against the window and crosses his arms as if he has somewhere better to be."

As June's disappearance sets Val dangerously adrift, the narrative's seductive rhythm conveys the ebb and flow of life in a crumbling, watery place. "The sun hasn't begun its daily battle with the Houses — its struggle to overcome the bleak fortress of rooftops," Fadi notices as he walks to work "?through the barren lots, underneath the exhaust-blackened highway?." Two promises tether the drama: The Queen Mary will come to Red Hook and June will be found. When the liner docks, however, "the massive hull and looming prow block all the beyond that comes at the end of the street, the light bouncing off the water and the distant promise of the skyscrapers." And the missing girl sails on.

Anna Mundow, a longtime contributor to The Irish Times and The Boston Globe, has written for The Guardian, The Washington Post, and The New York Times, among other publications.

Reviewer: Anna Mundow

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780062249913
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 7/9/2013
  • Sold by: HARPERCOLLINS
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 320
  • Sales rank: 34,454
  • File size: 2 MB

Meet the Author

IVY POCHODA grew up in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn, and lived in Red Hook for several years. She is the author of The Art of Disappearing. A former professional squash player, she now lives in Los Angeles with her husband.

WEB: IVYPOCHODA.COM

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Interviews & Essays

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.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 59 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(21)

4 Star

(11)

3 Star

(16)

2 Star

(7)

1 Star

(4)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 59 Customer Reviews
  • Posted July 22, 2013

    I Also Recommend:

    Ivy Pochoda has written a great thriller in Visitation Street. T

    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.

    9 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 6, 2013

    I really thought this book rambled on and on and there was no re

    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.

    5 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted August 1, 2013

    I Also Recommend:

    I really enjoyed this book. It revs up fast and is filled with t

    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.

    4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 30, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    The author paints a vivid portrait of Brooklyn¿s Red Hook sectio

    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.

    3 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted August 30, 2013

    a good read

    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.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted August 22, 2013

    Excellent book...a must read.

    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.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 1, 2013

    Great character development. I felt like I knew each character w

    Great character development. I felt like I knew each character well and never wanted this book to end.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 5, 2013

    Depressing

    This book started out good but then turned sad and depressing. It read more like a funeral procession of an entire neighborhood than a thriller.

    2 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted August 3, 2013

    Absolutely Amazing!

    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!

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 3, 2013

    A top notch second novel from an emerging talent.  More than a m

    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.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted August 22, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    Humor, sadness, conflict, racism, stupidity, brilliance - if hum

    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.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 27, 2013

    Spellbinding

    An amazing tale of intertwined lives that reminds me of Ray Bradbury's Dandelion Wine. Part mystery, part magic, and impossible to put down.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 20, 2013

    Amazing

    Amazing

    1 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 22, 2014

    Average

    Just an average book.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 23, 2014

    Great

    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!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 15, 2014

    Worth the read

    Excellent sense of place, Red Hook comes to life- characters not so well drawn, but a good story

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 5, 2014

    Good book!

    Keep me wondering.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 1, 2014

    you must check it out for yourself

    I didn't care for this book. It was not what I expected.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 1, 2014

    I expected better based on reviews

    Storyline was OK, but not great

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 31, 2014

    Interesting tale

    I felt as if I moved into the neighborhood of Red Hook and met some of the people who live there. I learned to care for them and hoped they would find some peace and fulfillment in their lives.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 59 Customer Reviews

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