Sunday, April 26, 2009

The Year of Fog by Michelle Richmond

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.

In the moment that Abby Mason looks away from her fiancee's six-year-old daughter to photograph a seal pup the child disappears. Frantic, Abby and her fiancee Jake spend the next several months looking desperately for Emma and slowly growing apart. Abby cannot let go of her own guilt and sadness at losing the child that would have been her daughter. Jake struggles to forgive Abby and himself for leaving Emma to go on a trip.

The book's title comes comes both from the San Francisco setting and also Abby's struggle to remember specific details about the day Emma went missing so that she might be able to find a clue to her whereabouts. Abby dives into books about memory and tries hypnosis in between ceaselessly searching the San Francisco landmarks where a little girl might be taken and relentlessly working to help the investigation.

It isn't until a tiny shoe is found on the beach months later that Jake decides to halt the search. Convinced his daughter wandered into the ocean and drowned under the eye of a distracted Abby, Jake holds a funeral and grieves by burying a tiny empty casket. Abby, refusing to give up the search, is given an ultimatum: make a new life with Jake by putting Emma in the past or give him up for her fruitless continued searching. In the end, Abby follows a clue trail to Costa Rica, where after three exhausting months, she finds Emma living with her kidnappers at a popular beach resort. Exuberant that she, Jake and Emma can now live happily ever after, she is struck when Jake lets her know there is no place for her in their lives now.

The ending of this book was hopeful of course because Emma was found safe, but sad too in the dissolution of Jake and Abby's relationship. The themes: memory, a step-mother's growing but powerful love for her new daughter, a relationship strained beyond repair, and letting go. My mom recommended this one to me, and its definitely very reminiscent of some Lifetime-type chick lit. However, this book's writing is actually quite nuanced, and I enjoyed the imagery of the San Francisco coastline through out the seasons as Emma stays missing for an entire year.

All in all a good book. I would not recommend it to any of the guys though.


Christopher said...

I blame the seal pup.

Nihil Novum said...

This review got my testosterone up.

Jim said...

So Jake leaves her even after she goes all Rambo and finds his daughter for him? Sounds to me like Jakey was planning on leaving her anyway and Emma's disappearance was just one of those really, really inconvenient things that keeps a relationship going longer than you wanted. Like when your girlfriend's grandpa dies the day you were gonna dump her and as soon as you hear about it you're thinking 'Oh my god that's awful' for two completely different reasons.