Sunday, July 22, 2007

The Year of Fog, by Michelle Richmond

(hb; 2007)

From the inside flap:

"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... here is the 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...

"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. 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, Abby will make the most astounding discovery of all -- as the truth of Emma's disappearance unravels..."


Less ethereal than her first novel, Dream of the Blue Room, Richmond's writing shows a natural maturation; she's grown as writer, as is evidenced by Abby's yearlong journey from disbelief and grief, to quiet redemption.

Richmond alternates Abby's "what might've happened" scenarios regarding Emma's disappearance with Abby's often-heartbreaking and harsh reality, gentling the proceedings with a clear love of San Francisco (and its nooks and crannies, some well-known, others local-cool), as well as Playa Hermosa (in Costa Rica). So intense are the emotions displayed (or hidden) by the characters that the reader gets caught in the titular fog that engulfs them.

A beautiful, realistic and uplifting finish -- shot through with melancholy, like San Francisco itself -- caps this gripping heartachey work.

Check this baby out.

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