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 fiancé 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 teacherJake, 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 2006 Reed Business Information.
The Year of Fogby Michelle Richmond
Life changes in an instant. On a foggy beach. In the seconds when Abby Mason—photographer, fiancée 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
Life changes in an instant. On a foggy beach. In the seconds when Abby Mason—photographer, fiancée 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.
Abby Mason was walking on the beach with her fiancé's six-year-old daughter, Emma, when Abby looked away briefly, and Emma ran ahead and seemingly disappeared. Abby narrates the story of the exhaustive search, the change in her relationship with Jake, and the many other friends and people she meets along the way who offer assistance and support. The book is set in both San Francisco and Costa Rica, and Richmond does a good job of establishing a sense of place for both locations. The tale develops slowly and spans a year, with flashbacks to Abby's earlier life with her family and with Jake and a former relationship. Months go by in the search for Emma: Jake is convinced she drowned, while Abby refuses to give up. The resolution is satisfying but complicated. Carrington MacDuffie reads very competently and professionally, and the first-person narrative is very effective. Recommended for popular fiction collections, especially where authors like Jodi Picoult, Elizabeth Berg, and Jacquelyn Mitchard are popular.
“What a wonderful novel! The lush prose kept me turning pages as surely as the compelling plot did. Suspenseful, richly imagined, and ultimately hopeful, The Year of Fog is a keeper. Michelle Richmond is a talent to watch.”—Joshilyn Jackson, author of Gods in Alabama and Between, Georgia
“A child’s disappearance is at the heart of this riveting read that follows photographer, fiancée and soon-to-be-stepmother Abby Mason. Once the drama starts, prepare to race to the last page.” —Hallmark magazine (“New Book We Love)
“Involving, heartrending and immediately readable.” —San Francisco Examiner
"Captivating.” —Family Circle
“GRADE: A.” —Washington Post
“The best new novel of the summer.” —Mobile Register
- Random House Publishing Group
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Read an Excerpt
The Year of Fog
By Michelle Richmond
Delacorte PressCopyright © 2007 Michelle Richmond
All right reserved.
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. Hergreen 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. Then I saw the gash along its belly, mostly hidden by sand, and felt some maternal urge bumping around inside me. How long did I spend with the seal pup–thirty seconds? A minute? More?
A tiny sand crab scuttled over the sand by my toe. The sight of it reminded me of those miniature creatures that littered the beach at Gulf Shores when I was a child. My sister Annabel would capture them in mason jars and marvel at their pink underbellies as they tried to climb out, legs ticking against the glass. This crab kicked up a pocket of sand, then disappeared; at most, another ten seconds passed.
I glanced eastward toward the park, where the fog abruptly ended, butting up against startling blue. As a transplant to this city from the bright and sultry South, I had come to love the fog, its dramatic presence, the way it deadens sound. The way it simply stops, rather than fading, opaque whiteness suddenly giving way to clarity. Crossing from fog into sunlight, one has the feeling of having emerged. Traveling in the other direction is like sinking into a mysterious, fairy-tale abyss.
Just beyond the beach, along the Great Highway, a hearse led a line of cars south toward Pacifica. I remembered the last funeral I attended, a healthy guy in his late twenties who broke his neck in a rock-climbing accident; he was a friend of a friend, not someone I knew well, but because I'd talked with him at a dinner party two weeks before the accident, it seemed appropriate to go to the funeral. This recollection took another five seconds.
I looked ahead, where Emma should be, but did not see her. I began walking. Everything was saturated a cool white, and distance was impossible to measure. I clutched the plastic Holga, imagining the great images I'd get, the deep black of Emma's hair against the cold white beach.
I couldn't help thinking of the dead seal pup, how I would explain it to Emma. I believed this was something mothers instinctively knew how to do. This would be a test, the first of many; at that moment I was not thinking entirely of Emma. I walked faster, anxious to know if she had seen the seal; it was a good thing for her to see that day, alone on the beach with me. I wanted her to be frightened by the dead seal pup so I could step delicately into the role of stepmother.
I don't know exactly when I realized something was wrong. I kept walking and did not see her. I pushed my hands in front of me, aware even as I did so of the absurdity of the gesture, as if a pair of hands could part the fog.
"Emma!" I called.
The panic did not strike immediately. No, that would take several seconds, a full minute almost. At first it was only a gradual slipping, a sense of vertigo, like the feeling I used to get as a child when I would stand knee-deep in the warm water of the Gulf of Mexico, close my eyes against the white-hot Alabama sun, and let the waves erode the platform under my feet. First the sand beneath the arches would go, then the toes, and finally I would lose my balance and tumble forward into the surf, mouth filling with seawater, eyes snapping open to meet the bright spinning world.
I yelled louder, feeling the shifting, unreliable sand beneath my feet. I ran forward, then back, retracing my steps. She's hiding, I thought. She must be hiding. A few yards from the dead seal pup stood a concrete drainage wall covered with graffiti. I ran toward the wall. In my mind I pictured her crouched there, giggling, the pail propped on her knees. This vision was so clear, had such the ring of truth, I almost believed I had seen it. But when I reached the wall, she wasn't there. I leaned against it, felt my insides convulse, and vomited into the sand.
From where I stood, I could make out the shape of the public restrooms down the beach. Racing toward them, I felt a sense of dread. I knew, already, that the search had somehow shifted. I crossed the two-lane-highway and checked the women's room, which was dark and empty. Then I circled around to the men's side. The windows were made of frosted glass, dim light spilling onto the tile floor. I plunged my hand into the trash bin, looking for her clothes, her shoes. I got down on hands and knees and looked behind the urinals, holding my breath against the stench. Nothing.
As I crossed back to the beach, I was shaking. My fingers felt numb, my throat dry. I climbed to the top of a sand dune and turned in circles, seeing nothing but the impenetrable white fog, hearing nothing but the soft hum of cars along the Great Highway. For a moment I stood still. "Think," I said out loud. "Don't panic."
Up ahead, more fog, a half mile or so of beach, then the hill leading to the Cliff House, the Camera Obscura, the ruins of the Sutro Baths, Louis's Diner. To the right, there was the long sidewalk, the highway, and beyond it, Golden Gate Park. Behind me, miles of beach. To my left, the Pacific Ocean, gray and frothing. I stood at the center of a fog-bound maze with invisible walls and infinite possibilities. I thought: a child disappears on a beach. Where does that child go?
I WILL RETURN again and again to that moment. I will keep a notebook in which I record the details. There will be poorly done sketches, graphs of time and motion, page after page on which I attempt to recover the past. I will pretend that memory is reliable, that it does not erode as quickly and completely as the brittle lines of an Etch-a-Sketch. I will tell myself that, buried somewhere in the intricate maze of my mind, there is a detail, a clue, some tiny lost thing that will lead me to Emma.
Later, they will want to know the exact moment I noticed she was missing. They will want to know whether I saw anyone unusual on the beach, whether I heard anything in the moments before or after she disappeared. They–the police, the reporters, her father–will ask the same questions again and again, staring into my eyes with desperation, as if by repetition they might make me remember, as if by force of will they can conjure clues where there are none.
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.
The only person to whom I will tell the entire story is my sister, Annabel. Only my sister will know I wasted ten seconds on a sand crab, five on a funeral procession. Only my sister will know I wanted Emma to see the dead seal, that in the moment before she disappeared, I was scheming to make her love me. For others, I will choose my words carefully, separating the important details from misleading trivialities. For them, I will present this version of the truth: there is a girl, her name is Emma, she is walking on the beach. I look away, seconds pass. When I look back she is gone.
This single moment unfolds like a flower in a series of time-lapse photographs, like an intricate maze. I stand at the labyrinth's center, unable to see which paths lead to dead ends, which one to the missing child. I know I must trust memory to lead me. I know I have one chance to get it right.
The first story I tell, the first clue I reveal, will determine the direction of the search. The wrong detail, the wrong clue, will inevitably lead to confusion, while the right clue leads to a beautiful child. Should I tell the police about the postman in the parking lot, the motorcycle, the man in the orange Chevelle, the yellow van? Or is it the seal that matters, the hearse, the retaining wall, the wave? How does one distinguish between the relevant and the extraneous? One slip in the narrative, one mistake in the selection of details, and everything disintegrates.
PI TIMES radius squared equals the area of a circle. Time is a continuum, stretching forward and back infinitely. I learned these things in school.
In a ninth-grade classroom at Murphy High School, Dr. Thomas Swayze, an exhilarating and shady character who was rumored to have received his doctorate through the mail, drew a giant circle on the chalkboard. On the outer rim of the circle and on a straight line drawn from the midpoint to the circle's edge, he scribbled numbers and formulas. His bicep flexed, straining the white sleeve of his T-shirt. "Radius, diameter, circumference," he said, his FM radio voice inciting in me sweaty adolescent desires. He turned to face the classroom and rolled the gleaming white cone of chalk from palm to palm, looking straight at me.
The sun glared through a long row of windows, turning the copper hair of the girl in front of me to flame; she smelled like Juicy Fruit gum. My hand lay on the desktop in a pool of burning light; all around my thumbnail were flecks of blood where I had chewed the skin to shreds. In my head, a steady, maddening hum. Dr. Swayze turned toward the blackboard. Some hidden object formed a faded and perfect circle on the back pocket of his blue jeans.
"And the greatest of these is area," he said. My knees slid apart, and I could feel little pools of sweat gathering on the plastic seat beneath my thighs.
Years before, Mrs. Monk, my third-grade teacher, had moved the hands on a giant cardboard clock and extolled the virtues of time. Seconds were grains of sand, she said. Minutes were pebbles. Hours were the bricks of which past, present, and future are made. She talked of days and years, decades, centuries. She talked of the millennium, when we would all be grown. She opened her big arms wide and whispered the word eon. In our portable classroom, the air conditioner sputtering mildly against Mobile's April heat, Mrs. Monk, teacher of the year for 1977, preached and glowed and sweated.
I sat at my wooden desk, looking up at that huge circle with its eternally trapped hands, and cried. She came over to me and laid warm, damp fingers on my neck. "Abby, what's wrong?" she asked. I leaned into her ample, motherly waist, buried my face in deep folds of polyester, and confessed, "I don't understand time." It wasn't the clock itself that confounded me, the half-past and quarter-till, the five-of and ten-after, but rather the essential nature of time. I did not have the words to explain this to Mrs. Monk.
Excerpted from The Year of Fog by Michelle Richmond Copyright © 2007 by Michelle Richmond. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Meet the Author
Michelle Richmond is the author of The Year of Fog, Dream of the Blue Room, and the award-winning story collection The Girl in the Fall-Away Dress. A native of Mobile, Alabama, Michelle lives with her husband and son in San Francisco, where she is at work on her next novel.
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I totally agree it seemed like it was going to be a great read but it got boring very quick and I found it very hard to want to finish...I ended up skipping a lot of pages till I got to the end. It was like reading the same day every day over and over and then bam you get to the part about the kid and I was like that's it? Pretty disappointed.
Abby Mason is walking on a beach in San Francisco with her fiance's six year-old daughter, Emma. She stops to take a picture and when she looks up, Emma is gone. She feels devastated and guilty. Abby and her fiance Jake spend there days separately looking for Emma, drifting apart. Jake eventually comes to believe that Emma is dead and tries to move on. Abby can not and tries everything to remember every detail about that day, looking for any clue fueled by guilt. She becomes obsessed about learning all she can about how memories are stored and retrieved. The one thing I know is this: there is a girl, her name is Emma, we were walking on the beach. She was there, and then she wasn't. There is no way to retrieve that moment, no way to rewrite the script; I looked away. It cannot be undone. my review: This novel was beautifully written, moving, and touching. Though the plot is not fast paced, it was a page turner of a book that I read over two nights. It mostly follows Abby as she moves around the city with posters of Emma, tracing and re-tracing her steps throughout the city. Richmond is such a talented writer, that despite the subject matter, the book is not maudlin. It is amazing and really seems to capture the emotions one would feel in this situation; the hopelessness, the imagining the variety of scenarios, the inability to move on as the world passes you by. This is a must read and I also recommend her third novel, No One You Know. my rating 5/5
I would actually give this a 3.5. When I began reading it, I thought I would love it, and I did admire some things. Richmond is a skilled wordsmith and an excellent developer of character. But not long into the book, I felt impatient. I actually skipped to the ending, and then went back and just skimmed the big middle section. About a hundred pages could easily have been pared from this book to tighten it up without losing any of the substance or flavor. I would read another book of hers, though.
I received this book as a gift and proceeded to read it in April. It started out great but quickly ended up boring me to tears after the Nth chapter regarding memory and cameras....It was full of fluff and I almost gave up reading it but kept in there because I wanted to know what happened to Emma. I agree with quite a number of reviewers here that the story could have been told with at least 100 less pages and definitely not the repetition of all the theories concerning memory. I'd pass on reading this book.
The Year of Fog starts off with a great story line that could hook anyone in, a soon-to-be-stepmother loses her future step daughter on a foggy beach. When people pick up this book, they think ¿how can this happen? What can this woman do? Losing your future husbands child is probably the worst thing you could do.¿ And peole are curious to find out how this woman, Abby, copes with everything and they want to know the rest of the story. And I think that with that kind of attracting story line this book would be great for young adults or even women who are worried about becoming stepmothers and their relationship with their stepchildren. While I was very interested at some points in the book, other times I felt that this book was longer than it needed to be. It starts off as a semi-nice day on the foggy San Fransisco Beach, when Abby turns around to find her future stepdaughter, Emma, no where in sight. This book takes the reader through all of the fears and stress that a mother figure has when they lose a loved one. And even after Emma¿s father, police, and everyone else have lost hope, this book proves that a mother¿s love and instinct is STRONG and its REAL. However, no matter how intriguing the story line is, there were times in my reading when the book The Year of Fog seemed to be very repetive and at some points, I really felt like it was going to take me a year to finish reading it and find out the turnout of everything. With that said though, there were a few chapters that did catch my attention, and made me want to keep reading. For instance, the eplanation on why we take photographs and how important photographs can be, really made me think about personal life, and how we can become so busy as people and forget to take time to admire the things around us. Overall, I would recommend this book.
This story could have been told in 1/2 the number of pages used - it was alot of repetition and I found myself skipping pages to get to the end. Like watching a soap opera only on Fridays and Mondays - the other 3 days of the week are a waste of time!
This book wasn't what I expected. There was hardly any dialogue between characters but at the same time it also allowed you to understand the love between a child and step-parent. I thoroughly enjoyed the way Michelle Richmond explained why we take photographs on page 393, very moving moment in the book.
I started really enjoying the book, but then it began to drag. It did keep me interested enough to find out what happened to the little girl. I found the chapters on photography and memory (and there's a lot of them) pretty boring. I started just skipping the chapter if it wasn't about the main story. The way the main story ended was good, but the way the book ended didn't flow with the rest of the book.
This would have been better as a short story instead of a 400 page novel. There wasn't enough story to make it interesting for that long. I found it to be very redundant and dragged out. What sounded like an intriguing premise turned out to be a disappointment.
I thought this book was very long and disappointing.I finally got feed up with all the details about the minds process and the Bay area, and skipped to find out what happened to the little girl...then poof it was over! What started out as a great idea quickly got boring
The story in this book really brings you in. I enjoyed reading until the end. I felt like the writer just gave up and made the ending very easy.
What started out as an exciting read went downhill very quickly. I couldn't decide if I was learning more about the cities/areas/interests of the Bay Area, or if I was in a classroom learning the psychological aspects of the mind and photography. The disapperance of Emma resorted to a sub-plot within this novel so-so novel. I debated about just flipping through pages of ramblings to the ending, which sadly was as disappointing as it was unbelievable.
This was a good story being told. You really get into the story. It had a good story line until the end. But, it was a little too long and somewhat wordy. The end seems too easy. You just don t find someone sitting there and waiting for you to come along. That is just too easy. It could use a better ending. There was no effort made to the end of the story.
Tedious, boring and drawn out are just a few descriptors for this book. If you are an insomniac and need a non-drug sleeping aid, buy this book. If not, save your money and buy something else. This is a never ending story of depression and self-analysis with trips into a past childhood that has no bearing on the story. Very predictable. You know the bad guy from the beginning. I skipped chapters just to get beyond all the verbage. Even the happy ending is covered with depression.
The kidnapping of a child is something we all think about and so I started this book with high expectations. I sympathized with the main characters, but did not like them much. The book was overly redundant.
A long drawn out boring book. I found myself skimming entire chapters.
Michelle richmond really is a brilliant author and this book was good but it seemed to drag on forever. It kept repeating itself over and over and the ending was really odd and dissapointing.
This book was chosen by my book club. Intriguing idea. Boring read. Like the other revieiwers I read a little over the first 100 pages then skipped to the end.
Started off as a great read, but quickly became repetitive and a tad boring. Ended up skipping ahead to the end and was disappointed.
i left rp to help my friend. I am not like her and dont deserve a friend like her because of mh sinning. It turns out without her i feel like sucicide is just another roller coaster. I want o go back to her... but she got so mad. Im afraid that if i go back this time she wont be my friend. Im afraid she will hate me. Ive been so bad. But we were friends. And i dont want to luve another day without her. What do i do
THE MESSAGE HAS SELF-DESTRUCTED.