Nov 14, 2011

Review | The Year of Fog by Michelle Richmond

Title: The Year of Fog
Author: Michelle Richmond
Genre: Fiction - Contemporary
Publication: 02.28.2006 by Bantam
Pages: 466 (11 CD's)
Source: Library

Summary: Life changes in an instant. On a foggy beach. In the seconds when Abby Mason—photographer, fiancĂ©e, 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.

Cover: I love the grainy, textured look it has. It was what caught my attention and made want to read this book.

Thoughts: I don't know. I want to say I loved it because part of me did, but there were also a few things that bothered me.

What I liked:

• Abby is one determined woman. This could possibly because of the immense guilt she feels after losing Emma. But it could also be because of love. She wasn't too sure about it, but Abby might have loved Emma like a daughter. And she wasn't ready to stop searching.

• Part of the story takes place in the past. Before Emma and before Jake. We get to learn about Abby from small glimpses into her childhood, things she learned in her teens, how she got along with her parents and relationships that changed her life. I really was able to appreciate how well the author transitioned from the present into the past, connecting each moment in the present to a moment in from the past that would show why each thing happened the way it did.

• The secondary characters. Abby's sister, neighbor, client, and her first love, Ramon. They are not in the book all that much, but they each have an important role to play that sort of changed the outcome of things. For example, Ramon was a photographer. When he died in a tragic accident, Abby picked up his hobby in honor of his life, and it turned into her career. If she hadn't looked away for those few seconds to take a picture that day maybe Emma wouldn't have disappeared...

• The writing. Yes, I thought it was a little bit of a long story, but Richmond's writing is beautiful. Each scene is described in an almost poetic way and I could really feel and see the things I was reading. I really like when I can "see"  what is going on in a book, and The Year of the Fog definitely provided that for me.

• The setting. San Francisco and Costa Rica. The beach. Like I said above, described in great detail that I could see them perfectly.

• The ending. Sure, it was sad and left me feeling sorta empty and alone but I think that was a good thing. Part of me also felt hopeful and that alone changed my mind about not liking the ending.

What I didn't like:

• Probably the only thing that really bothered me was the length. I listened to this but it took me weeks to get through it. It felt like we were going in circles, never really moving on. But that could have just been the author's intention. After all, Abby can't seem to move on and accept that Emma is gone forever.

• Jake. He's Emma's father and is devastated that Emma is lost. So why does he give up so quickly? Okay, maybe not so quickly. But it seemed that Abby had more of a connection with Emma. Abby was so sure that Emma was out there waiting; she could feel it. Not Jake though. And sure, it might make sense that he might just want to move on with his life, but the way he seems to just return to "normal" bothered me. The way he accepted Emma's mom back into his life like she was totally an okay person was not okay either. Not liking Jake could have also been the authors intention though, so I don't think it was a bad part of the book.

• The ending. It made me feel sad and alone. This is something I liked and didn't like. I have mixed feelings about how this book ended and sort of wished the author would've pushed it a bit further.

Overall: The Year of the Fog was a great story, there is no denying that. Sure, it felt lengthy but was also full of amazing details, great characters, and I never really felt like I wanted to give up on reading it. It made me feel mostly sad, but definitely hopeful. And always thinking that love can overcome anything. There were many more things that I liked about this book than not, so I give this book 4 stars. I recommend it to others who are looking for a powerful contemporary novel. This one might be a bit difficult to get through, but not at all disappointing.
Favorite Line: “We take pictures because we can't accept that everything passes, we can't accept that the repetition of a moment is an impossibility. We wage a monotonous war against our own impending deaths, against time that turns children into that other, lesser species: adults. We take pictures because we know we will forget. We will forget the week, the day, the hour. We will forget when we were happiest. We take pictures out of pride, a desire to have the best of ourselves preserved. We fear that we will die and others will not know we lived.”


  1. This is actually one of my favorites! I read it a looong time ago though. I have to re-read it someday.

  2. I haven't heard of this one but it sounds interesting. However the ending and the length are big downers for me...

    Great review!