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Fiction Review – The Year of Fog

The Year of Fog by Michelle Richmond


Review by Vicky T. (VickyJo)

“There was a girl.  Her name was Emma.”  And so begins Michelle Redmond’s haunting novel, “The Year of Fog.”  This is a story about love and loss, blame and forgiveness.  It explores memory and all the ways we try to remember important events in our lives, and all the ways we try to forget.

Abby Mason has a good life.  She is a free lance photographer with a thriving business; she is engaged to a wonderful man named Jake, a high school teacher; and she is getting closer and closer to Jake’s six-year-old daughter Emma, who officially will be her stepdaughter in just a few months.  Emma loves Abby; she’s the only mother the little girl has known, since her biological mother left when Emma was only three.

Jake takes a weekend trip and leaves Emma in Abby’s care.  They are walking on San Francisco’s Ocean Beach one foggy morning when Abby stops to photograph a dead seal.  After only a few seconds, she looks up and realizes that Emma is gone.

The frantic, panicked search begins.  There is no one else on the beach, and only a few people back in the parking lot.  Abby finally must face the facts: Emma is really, truly gone.  She calls the police…and then makes the worst call of her life, to tell Jake.

Imagine the horror of losing a child; now, imagine the crushing guilt of losing someone else’s child.  Abby and Jake each deal with Emma’s disappearance in their own way.  As the days turn into weeks, and the odds get worse and worse, Jake eventually comes around to the police’s theory: that Emma wandered into the ocean and got caught in the powerful undertow, and drowned.  He eventually holds a mock funeral for Emma, burying an empty coffin and (he hopes) his grief in a small plot.  Abby refuses to accept this idea.  She knows Emma was afraid of the water, and would never have gone near it.  She believes that Emma was kidnapped.  Abby is certain that if she keeps searching, and never loses hope, that she will find Emma and everything will be right once again.  But how can anything ever be the same?  Jake can’t even make eye contact with Abby; she isn’t surprised at all when he suggests they postpone the wedding…indefinitely.  And a month into Emma’s disappearance, when Jake’s ex-wife Lisbeth suddenly appears to hold a news conference and play the grieving mother, the tension between Jake and Abby only gets worse, if that’s possible.

A potential break comes when Abby is hypnotized by a therapist, and remembers a new detail about that morning on Ocean Beach.  Armed with a new clue, she takes off in a new direction, hoping against hope that she can find Emma for everyone’s sake.  Is she wasting her time, chasing a ghost through the fog?  Is she too late?  Or do miracles really happen?

This story is so compelling; it’s hard to put it down.  The author lets you feel Abby’s grief, her determination, her despair.  I kept putting myself in Abby’s shoes: what would I do in such an awful situation?  I also kept thinking, “This author better solve this mystery and tell me what happened to Emma!”  but then I realized that there are people whose children have disappeared that have to live with that uncertainty every day, who have to live with never knowing the end of the story.  I can’t imagine how hard that must be.  And so, I’m not going to say whether or not the author reveals Emma’s fate; you’ll just have to read the book to find out.



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One Response to “Fiction Review – The Year of Fog”

  1. Gail P. (TinkerPirate) Montara, CA says:

    Thanks! Looks like I need to move this up on Mt. TBR.

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