This is what I tell them, this is what I know: I was walking on the beach with Emma. It was cold and very foggy. She let go of my hand. I stopped to photograph a seal pup, then glanced up toward the Great Highway. When I looked back, she was gone. -From The Year of Fog, page 7-
Abby Mason, a photographer, is about to be married to Jake – a handsome school teacher – and become a stepmother to Jake’s adorable, green-eyed daughter Emma. For Abby becoming a mother is a leap of faith, something she was not sure she could ever do, and yet she has fallen in love with not only Jake but with Emma as well. And so having Emma to herself for a weekend while Jake is out of town feels wonderful…until a moment on San Francisco’s Ocean Beach when, in a dense and swirling fog, Abby looks away for a second and Emma disappears.
The Year of Fog begins on that fateful day with the first hours and days of the official search and media blitz. As the days turn into weeks and then months, many reach the conclusion that Emma has drowned – including her father – and all that is left is Abby’s certainty, her mother’s instinct, that Emma is still alive.
Each day is a microcosm, a snapshot of the search in miniature. Each day begins with conviction and confidence: conviction that I’m pursuing the correct path, confidence that I will soon find her through a combination of logic and perseverance. -From The Year of Fog, page 314-
Michelle Richmond has written a book about guilt, fear, memory and hope. In Abby, she captures the raw emotions of making a mistake with dire consequences and the obsession to right the wrong. Richmond explores the confusing science of memory as Abby struggles to put together the pieces of what she may (or may not) have seen in order to solve the mystery of Emma’s disappearance. Perception and memory become intertwined with Abby’s art of photography and Richmond’s writing in these sections is poetic and beautifully wrought.
We put such faith in this flimsy mnemonic device, a moment written in light. But photos provide a false sense of security. Like our own flawed memory, they are guaranteed to fade. Over time, the contrasts within a photo diminish, the contours soften, the details blur. We take photographs in order to remember, but it is in the nature of a photograph to forget. -From The Year of Fog, page 157-
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 that we lived. -From The Year of Fog, page 338-
Richmond’s novel enthralls the reader from beginning to end. It is a page turner which begs to be read in one long gulp. It is a literary rollercoaster ride of despair and hope, joy and sadness. Richmond weaves together a convincing story of a family on the verge of destruction and one woman’s determination to find the child she loves. It is rare when a writer is able to make the reader feel what the protagonist feels on every level – but, that is exactly what Richmond does in The Year of Fog. I was breathless, my heart racing, with the desperate urge to find Emma. As a volunteer in Search and Rescue for more than ten years, I was reminded of the actual searches I have been on – the sense of urgency, the conviction that the lost person must be just around the next corner, the fear that giving up the search might be the biggest mistake you’ve ever made.
The Year of Fog is a gripping tale, one skillfully written which will haunt and exhilarate the reader.