Saturday, January 2, 2010

Review: The Year of Fog by Michelle Richmond

Title: The Year of Fog
Author: Michelle Richmond
Pages: 369
Challenges: Take Another Chance Challenge ("Read Your Doppelganger"); Read 'n' Review Challenge

From Publishers Weekly:

In this spare page-turner, Richmond (Dream of the Blue Room) draws complex tensions from a the set setup of a child gone missing. Photographer Abby Mason stops on San Francisco's Ocean Beach with her fiancĂ© Jake's six-year-old daughter, Emma, to photograph a seal pup; by the time Abby looks up, Emma has disappeared. Abby, who narrates, flashes back to her growing relationship with high school teacherJake, and sketches its transformation over the course of the search. Emma's mother, Lisbeth (who abandoned the family three years earlier), wants back into Jake's life—even as he is giving up hope on finding Emma. Abby delves into the bereft missing children subculture and into the vagaries of memory. A hypnotist helps Abby unearth promising details of that singular last day with Emma, but the information requires major follow-through from Abby. The book's twist on missing child stories is wholly effective. Richmond develops the principle characters, and Abby's dysfunctional parents make for sharply drawn secondaries, as do local surfers. The book is beautifully paced—one feels Abby's clarity of purpose from the first page. The sure-handed denouement reflects the focus and restraint that Richmond brings to bear throughout.
My two cents:

I chose this book because its author, Michelle Richmond, shares my first name. And, it looked interesting.

I had no idea I was in for one of the most intense reads I've experienced in a long time. It wasn't intense in the thriller kind of way, or the challenging-to-read kind of way, but intense in the, "I-can't-imagine-this-happening-to-me-OMG-I-have-to-find-out-what-happens" kind of way.

The book begins with 6-year-old Emma's disappearance and follows Abby, Emma's father's fiance, through the next year and her search for Emma. It captured me from the first page. Perhaps it's the fact that missing children capture the public's attention on a fairly regular basis, as the situation is a parent's worst nightmare. Perhaps it's Richmond's writing style. Either way, I didn't want to put this book down.

I agonized along with Abby through her long hours of searching and wandering the streets of San Francisco on the ever-dimming hopes that she would find Emma waiting there. I thrilled as she found the possibility of a new lead in the case. I watched as she tried, desperately, to remember every small detail of that foggy morning on the beach.

The sign of a good book, to me, lies in the characters. Do you care about them? Does it matter what happens to them? If you don't, that's usually the sign of a bad book (Although there are a few exceptions). This novel has characters I cared about in spades.

Abby, of course, was the character about whom I cared the most, as she is the narrator. I cared what happened to Emma and Jake, too, as they were directly related to the disappearance. But there were also several peripheral characters of whom I grew fond, and, if you read this book, you'll meet them, too.

This book, obviously, has a lot to do with memory. Abby reads constantly about the attainment of memories and those who have tried to recall past memories. She not only deals with her memories of Emma's disappearance, but also many memories of her life before meeting Emma and her father, Jake.

Richmond has a talent for details and a clear writing style that helps this novel flow along. Sometimes, I would pick it up and in no time flat, realize I had read another 50 pages. That's a sign of an engrossing novel, in my book. And, it's not a difficult read, by any stretch of the imagination.

I would recommend this book with no reservations, although you may find yourself being much more wary out in public with children after reading it.

My rating: 8/10


Irene said...

Wow, it sounds great, so glad you're taking on the challenge.

bermudaonion said...

Wow, this does sound like a book I could get lost in! Thanks for your review.

Jenners said...

I just read "No One You Know" by this author and it was good too ... I requested this book after I finished "No One You Know" so it sounds like I'm in for a treat. I'm glad the Take Another Chance challenge helped to bring you to this book!!!

tokemise said...

I read this book and as a Mom of four it was difficult to keep reading but I had to find out what happened. I can't imagine living through something like that. It's a really good read.

Michelle said...

@ tokemise - I don't have kids yet, but a friend of mine said she could never imagine reading it simply because of the missing child plot. It's surprisingly more about Abby and how her life changes because of Emma's disappearance.

@ Jenners - I need to read her other books, too. I actually ordered this one from Amazon for my library after reading it because we didn't have any of her books here. Guess I'll have to expand the collection if my patrons like it, too.

Peaceful Reader said...

I've read this one as well and really liked it. I keep meaning to read more of her stuff but haven't yet.

Tricia said...

I added your link to my review. I'm glad you were as frustrated by him as I was. I think if we had gotten to understand more of what he was like before, I would have liked him better.

I think the ending just tapered off and I wanted some resolution for her (in the form of one of the minor characters you mentioned--you know the one!).

Kari said...

Nice review. It sounds like a great book (although maybe difficult to read, especially since I have kids). Thanks!

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