Life changes in an instant. On a foggy beach. In the seconds when Abby Mason--photographer, fiancee soon-to-be-stepmother--looks into her camera and commits her greatest error. Heartbreaking, uplifting, and beautifully told, here is the riveting tale of a family torn apart, of the search for the truth behind a child's disappearance, and of one woman's unwavering faith in the redemptive power of love--all made startlingly fresh through Michelle Richmond's incandescent sensitivity and extraordinary insight.
Six-year-old Emma vanished into the thick San Francisco fog. Or into the heaving Pacific. Or somewhere just beyond: to a parking lot, a stranger's van, or a road with traffic flashing by. Devastated by guilt, haunted by her fears about becoming a stepmother, Abby refuses to believe that Emma is dead. And so she searches for clues about what happened that morning--and cannot stop the flood of memories reaching from her own childhood to illuminate that irreversible moment on the beach.
Now, as the days drag into weeks, as the police lose interest and fliers fade on telephone poles, Emma's father finds solace in religion and scientific probability--but Abby can only wander the beaches and city streets, attempting to recover the past and the little girl she lost. With her life at a crossroads, she will leave San Francisco for a country thousands of miles away. And there, by the side of another sea, on a journey that has led her to another man and into a strange subculture of wanderers and surfers, Abby will make the most astounding discovery of all--as the truth of Emma's disappearance unravels with stunning force.
A profoundly original novel of family, loss, and hope--of the choices we make and the choices made for us--The Year of Fog beguiles with the mysteries of time and memory even as it lays bare the deep and wondrous workings of the human heart. The result is a mesmerizing tour de force that will touch anyone who knows what it means to love a child.
From the Hardcover edition.
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 fiance 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 teacher Jake, 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. (Mar.) Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
Showing 1-2 of the 2 most recent reviews
1 . Could not put it down
Posted December 15, 2010 by Dean , Pittsburgh Pa.Wow could not wait to see what was on the next page. Heart pounding drama the ups and downs the emotion. You cannot help but feel the pain that Abby is going through. First time I have read any of Michelle Richmond's books I am hooked.
2 . Gripping story
Posted May 09, 2010 by TP , Panama City, PanamaGreat summer read. This book was a real page turner and made me want to jump to the end to see what happened.
February 28, 2007
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Excerpt from The Year of Fog by Michelle Richmond
HERE IS the truth, this is what I know: we were walking on Ocean Beach, hand in hand. It was a summer morning, cold, July in San Francisco. The fog lay white and dense over the sand and ocean-an enveloping mist so thick I could see only a few feet in front of me.
Emma was searching for sand dollars. Sometimes they wash up by the dozens, whole and dazzling white, but that day the beach was littered with broken halves and quarters. Emma was disappointed. She is a child who prefers things in a state of perfection: sand dollars must be complete, schoolbooks must be pristine, her father's hair must be neatly trimmed, falling just above his collar.
I was thinking of her father's hair, the soft dark fringe where it touches his neck, when Emma tugged at my hand. "Hurry," she said.
"What's the rush?"
"The waves might wash them away."
Despite our bad luck so far, Emma believed that on the beach ahead lay a treasure of perfect sand dollars.
"Want to go to Louis's Diner instead?" I said. "I'm hungry."
She tried to extract her fingers and pull away. I often thought, though I never said it, that her father spoiled her. I understood why: she was a child without a mother, and he was trying to compensate.
"Let me go," she said, twisting her hand in my own, surprisingly strong.
I leaned down and looked into her face. Her green eyes stared back at me, resolute. I knew I was the adult. I was bigger, stronger, more clever. But I also knew that in a test of will, Emma would outlast me every time. "Will you stay close by?"
"Yes." She smiled, knowing she had won.
"Find me a pretty sand dollar."
"I'll find you the biggest," she said, stretching her arms wide.
She skipped ahead, that small, six-year-old mystery, that brilliant feminine replica of her father. She was humming some song that had been on the radio minutes earlier. Watching her, I felt a surge of joy and fear. In three months, I would marry her father. We hadn't yet explained to her that I would be moving in permanently. That I would make her breakfast, take her to school, and attend her ballet recitals, the way her mother used to do. No, the way her mother should have done.
"You're good for Emma," Jake liked to say. "You'll be a much better mother than my ex-wife ever was."
And I thought, every time, how do you know? What makes you so sure? I watched Emma with her yellow bucket, her blue cloth shoes, her black ponytail whipping in the wind as she raced away from me, and wondered, how can I do it? How can I become a mother to this girl?
I lifted the Holga to my eye, aware as the shutter clicked-once, softly, like a toy-that Emma would be reduced to a blurry 6?6 in black and white. She was moving too fast, the light was insufficient. I turned the winding knob, clicked, advanced again. By the time I pressed the shutter release a final time, she was nearly gone.
HERE THEN is the error, my moment of greatest failure. If everyone has a decision she would give anything to retract, this is mine: A shape in the sand caught my eye. At first it looked like something discarded-a child's shirt, perhaps, or a tiny blanket. By instinct I brought the camera to my eye, because this is what I do-I take pictures for a living, I record the things I see. As I moved closer, the furry head came into focus, the arched back, black spots on white fur. The small form was dusted with sand, its head pointing in my direction, its flippers resting delicately at its sides.
I knelt beside the seal pup, reaching out to touch it, but something stopped me. The wet black eyes, open and staring, did not blink. Spiky whiskers fanned out from the face, and three long lashes above each eye moved with the breeze.