Monday, September 8, 2008

The Year of Fog

The Year of Fog The Year of Fog by Michelle Richmond

My review

rating: 5 of 5 stars
... this is what I know: There is a girl, her name is Emma, she is walking on the beach. I look away. Seconds pass. I look back, and she is gone.

These words are the chorus, the repeated motif of The Year of Fog, an intense exploration of every parent's nightmare come true. Except Abby isn't Emma's mom, but her father, Jake's, fiancee, which makes even worse for her. We live inside Abby's search for Emma, her obsession with finding Emma, driven by her guilt at having looked away at the critical moment. Abby's and Jake's lives are broken and reshaped over the coming year under the pressures of searching, not knowing, despair and hope.

It's a mystery story, related intimately from the inside, but it is also a deep look into the nature of memory; of forgetting and not being able to forget; of real memory and false memory; of how memory changes no matter how we wish to hold onto it; of how memory makes us who we are.

Abby is a photographer. She laces the story with insights into the nature and practice of photography, and how we try to preserve memory in photographs. She sees the world with a photographer's eye, layering it with texture and detail.
Here then is my error, my moment of greatest failure. ... a shape in the sand caught my eye. ... By instinct I brought my camera to my eye, because this is what I do —I take pictures for a living, I record the things I see.
There were times I didn't want to pick this book back up, when I needed to set it down and just breathe. But I also couldn't put it away. I needed to know the ending. When the climax came, suddenly and unexpectedly, I found my heart pounding and my hands shaking, as strongly as if I, myself, were Abby and not just the reader, not just the voyeur.

Read this book. Read it when life is smooth, when you can afford some fear and questioning. Read it at a time when you can look up and see your children safe and nearby. But read it.