Review: Poughkeepsie by Debra Anastasia

There is only one word to describe Debra Anastasia’s novel Poughkeepsie…..elegant.

I feel absolutely privileged to review this novel, the cover alone is completely breathtaking and haunting…I couldn’t help but say yes to a review. When I first read the summary, I was not sure that this novel was entirely in my general review genre and I was not sure how the story would fit together as it sounded abstract. I am normally not a huge fan of contempo lit, let alone contempo romance, I feel like contempo lit generally leaves the reader feeling disturbed.

Many of the characteristics of contempo lit are feelings of hopelessness, questioning a world that lacks past assurances (happy endings etc). When I am reading I generally like to escape the real world and retreat into a world of happily ever after….I guess I’m saying I need to be in a mood to read contempo lit LOL :). Which was why I thought about waiting to review Poughkeepsie until after the new year….but I simply couldn’t forget the haunting cover and mysterious title….for some reason I just couldn’t get the book out of my mind, so I agreed to review.

Since this will probably be my last review of the year, I am thrilled to say I went out on a high note–the book was hands down phenomenal….one of the best I have read this year and I don’t say those sorts of things lightly. This book was so many additives it was hard to pick just one: spellbinding, elegant, lyrical, breathtaking, magical…..beautiful.

Poughkeepsie is a dark modern day Cinderella story with a distinct classic Romeo and Juliet feel.

Livia McHugh takes the train into NYC every day to her college and every day she sees a homeless man sitting in the station watching her. She smiles. When she sees some people bullying him one morning she doesn’t think twice about doing the right thing and stepping in to stop it.

Blake Hartt is 25 years old and homeless. He has nothing to offer anyone but his love…no one in the train station ever really sees Blake, except Livia…she she’s him. She smiles at him 446 times and counting. When she stops the people from bullying him, he has hope….hope that he can finally talk to her.

From the moment they meet their lives will never be the same. They start a casual friendship which grows to affection, passion, and eventually love. But Blake is fragile. He has been in and out of foster care for years….struggling with mental illness and abandonment issues, Blake is broken. The only people who have ever cared about him are his two ‘brothers”, Beckett and Cole.

All three brothers were in the foster care  system together and all three have a dark violent and tragic past. Beckett is probably one of the more surprising characters in the book–he ‘aged out’ of the foster system first and realized that if his brothers ever stood a chance in the real world when they ‘aged out’ one of them would need to sacrifice their soul or their bodies to survive, Beckett decided to do both of those things. Beckett is a mobster in every sense of the word, he pimps out women, sells drugs, and rules the streets with violence, murder, and fear.

But Beckett has good in him. He loves his foster brothers dearly and would do anything to save them even if that means prison or dying…he will sacrifice anything to give his brothers the life they should have had and the life that they deserve. He is truly the tragic hero of this novel….you don’t want to like him…in fact everything in you screams HATE THIS MAN but at the same time in his own way he atones for his sins and the reader can’t help but admire him in a strange way–he is doing all the wrong things for all of the right reasons.

The other brother, Cole, has tried to run from love his whole life–everyday he struggles to control the demons of his abusive childhood. Lost and seeking redemption, Cole finds a place to heal in the local church as a ‘priest in training’ for the neighborhood. Cole also has a violent streak…one he has tried to tame and calm within him and so far he has done a pretty good job keeping his soul together, until everything in his world changes. He meets Kyle (Livia’s sister) and suddenly he loves her so much he starts questioning his dreams….his path toward the priesthood flies out the window with Kyle’s kisses and with that fleeting dream goes any hope for redemption he might have.

Beckett and Cole love their brother Blake and worry for his fragile mind and fear that the love blooming between Lavia and Blake will be the ruin of him. They can’t understand what a rich girl for the suburbs would want with a homeless man who can offer her nothing….no stability, no job, no money….nothing. But Lavia sees through Blake and sees all that he has to offer and doesn’t care what parts are broken she loves him, she sees him–the real Blake. Blake and Livia have to fight pressures from society and interference from friends and mortal enemies to be together.

What I liked about the book was that it followed not just they story between Lavia and Blake, but the other characters as well–Beckett, Cole, Kyle, Eve–the lives and stories are all woven together magically and beautifully. But as the novel goes on, it also gets darker and darker….a twisted spiral into the seedy, gritty underworld. One night gun shots ring out and suddenly everything changes–their lives will never be the same. All of the characters in the book are horribly broken and unbelievably strong in their own ways which is why I thought this book was so strong as a novel…you really liked the characters that you were supposed to like and hated the ones you were supposed to hate…..that is rare in many books.  The characters are a paradox: good and evil, right and wrong, compassion and revenge.

The only thing I didn’t care for was the end was a little draggy for me…I was ready for Beckett’s story to be over before it actually was. I have also seen other reviews note the amount of violence and the twisted human instincts as the book gets darker and darker….and I’ll admit I thought that might bother me about the book but honestly it didn’t. The language and violence didn’t distant in any way from the story, it actually fit right in. I don’t think the story would have had the same result without it.

This book would make a wonderful movie (and if you haven’t seen it check out the awesome book trailer….I normally don’t like book trailers but this one was fantastic!!!)

I can’t decide what shelves to put Poughkeepsie on. It is so much more than just a contempo romance and more than just contempo lit….but it has found a home on my favorites list :).

This novel has won me over without seeming to even try which is how I know it was a great book. This is hands down one of my favorite book and book cover of 2011. The book itself will out shine any review I could write….it is an amazing story that will resonate in my mind for years to come.

I am also happy to announce that I will be having an interview with Debra Anastasia in the next week (look for a feature Q & A post soon!!) and I will be giving a way a free copy of Poughkeepsie to one lucky reader. Watch for more details about the Q&A and giveaway soon!!

Challenge/Book Summary:

Book: Poughkeepsie by Debra Anastasia

  • Paperback, 384 pages
  • Published November 22nd 2011 by Omnific Publishing

This book counts toward: NA

  • Hosted by: NA
  • Books for Challenge Completed: NA

Recommendation: 5 out of 5 (a spellbinding romantic story about redemption)

Genre: Contemporary literature, contemporary romance, romance

Memorable lines/quotes:

‘Do you know how many guys I’ve been with? Kyle asked meeting her eyes just for a moment. ‘So many. You know why? Because in that moment just before you let them fuck you, you’re the center of their universe. It lasts seconds but I like that feeling. I crave that feeling’.

I feel like I’ve always loved him, and now I just got lucky enough to find him

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