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VINE VOICEon June 16, 2007
This is a book about a parent's worst nightmare. Unlike similar books, such as Beth Gutcheon's Still Missing, this book goes beyond the facts of a girl who disappears. The father, Jake, sticks to a police-procedural approach in trying to locate his daughter, sending out flyers, offering a reward, setting up a web site, appearing on television and radio. But Abby, Jake's fiance, feels responsible for the girl's disappearance and takes a much more imaginative approach. The themes of the book are presented through Abby's eyes. One is memory, recall of details, hypnosis, looking for clues that might have been overlooked. Abby and her friend Nell study the workings of memory, amnesia, the inability to forget. Another is the passing of time and the artificiality of time. The police say the longer a child is missing, the less likely he/she will turn up alive. Jake accepts this, Abby studies what time may mean. Abby is a photographer and looks for clues in her pictures. Jake and Abby are in agony, and I feel the story is realistic, including what eventually happens. There are different possibilities when a child disappears. She may eventually be found alive, like Elizabeth Smart in Utah. That doesn't mean she's undamaged. She may be found dead, like the child of one of the characters in a support group in the book. A child may be dead, but it can turn out there was no abduction, like the case of two boys in Milwaukee, Wisconsin last year. After a nationwide search, the boys were found accidentally drowned in McGovern Park lagoon in their own neighborhood. And then there are the children who are never found and the family never knows what happened. Jake wants closure, Abby refuses to give up. Although some people think the book is slow moving, time could really drag for parents in this situation. I couldn't put the book down and found it interesting up to the end. I think this could turn out to be one of the best books of the year.
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on March 2, 2008
I picked this book up brand new at a bargain counter in a grocery store. I bought $50 worth of groceries that day. This book was the most nourishing item in the shopping basket.

Abby Mason [the narrator], a young photographer engaged to Jake, the father of charming 6-year-old Emma, 'loses' the child one foggy day at a San Francisco beach. One moment the girl is there-- the next moment she's gone.

The book is the story of everyone's search for the missing child-- especially Abby's search. (The search takes almost a year-- hence the book's title.) But while everyone else is looking in every possible physical nook and cranny of the area, Abby's search takes her into her own past, into the convoluted pathways of memory, into her knowledge of photography, into an exploration of psychology and philosophy worthy of the great literary artists of our time and of all time. [Why this writer isn't classed right alongside the likes of Amy Tan, Joyce Carol Oates, and Alice Walker is a total mystery to me-- she's that good.]

Some reviewers have classified Year of Fog as "Women's Lit," whatever that's supposed to be. I hasten to tell you, it's not just for women. Any halfway or better educated man who isn't addicted to Westerns or Tom Clancy to the exclusion of everything else will find this enthralling and even heart-pounding at times. I literally could not stop reading.

The solution to the 'mystery' is absolutely unpredictable, no matter what you think it's going to be. The characters, especially Abby, will stay with you forever. It's one of the best books I've ever read, and I've read thousands.
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on May 5, 2007
I thoroughly enjoyed this heartwrenching book about loss, memory and photography. I could relate well to the main characters and could identify with their emotions and choices. The plot moved at a quick clip and I found myself staying up way too late each night so I could read "one more chapter", fortunately the chapters were very short. Although the story is primarily about a lost child, I learned a lot of useful information about memory and photography along the way. I am a special education teacher and I was interested in many of the theories of memory that were interspersed throughout the entire novel. It's always a bonus when a book read for entertainment takes on an educational bent and provides me with new insights that may help in my profession. Overall, I gave this book 4 stars because it dragged on a tad too long and the ending, while moderately fulfilling, could have packed more of a punch.
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on November 5, 2008
This was an okay book, but it was too long and repetitive. I found myself skimming through the endless search scenes. And, in the end, I found the behavior of the main characters a little hard to believe. The protangonist was really a victim. This was no random kidnapping, yet the boyfriend didn't seem to understand that his messed up family stole a year from this poor woman's life. I wanted to smack him in the end.
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on August 12, 2008
Although I enjoyed the references to lovely San Francisco, I agree with other reviewers that the book is repetitive. It could have been shortened considerably, or better yet, the plot could have been enhanced and/or incorporated better character development. A few things:

Hard to believe that the uber-observant Abby could lose an adored child at Ocean Beach (even with fog and a dead seal).

Although the author clearly did her research on memory, photography and San Francisco, the book seemed more of a report on these subjects, kind of dumped into a loose plot about a lost child. It would have worked better if the research was more subtly interwoven into a deeper plot with more developed characters.

In particular, the relationship between Jake and Abby seemed very superficial. Although I get it that Jake is clean, logical, hairy-chested and paternal, I don't know who he is beyond that. The romantic relationship wasn't deeply established, and the intimacy seemed sit-commy.

The next door neighbor Nell seemed a tad too convenient, being a librarian and all, coming over with mounds of books and referrals to hypno-therapists. The relationship there seemed superficial as well, all one-way.

Although the character Abby seems a decent person, I hardly thought her worthy of all the adoration she gets simply by showing up. In particular, it was hard to imagine why Nick, the successful captain wonderful who flies around the world on mysterious (spy?) missions, would first of all be constantly single, and second, continuously on the hunt and in utter adoration of (a rather morose) Abby. Ditto for female strangers, like the surfer girl Goofy. Abby doesn't seem to give anything back to these people, but they still want more Abby.

The ending was a little anti-climatic, perhaps some more obstacles in the get-away would have been more exciting. In any event, I think that if the characters and relationships were more fleshed out and I had more connection to them, any ending would have been fine. As it was, I felt as if I was seeing them through the fog; they might have been together but I still don't understand why.
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on May 1, 2007
Like several of the other readers here, I could not put this book down. My book club is reading The Year of Fog for this month's meeting. Typically, I dip into our chosen book now and again, and rarely finish. Not so for The Year of Fog; I devoured it in a few short days--and loved it.

Michelle Richmond writes a beautiful, evocative story set in the San Francisco she clearly knows well and loves. She dances elegantly amongst themes of love and loss and interweaves them with compelling sections on memory and photography.

I highly recommend this book!
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on May 1, 2007
Love, landscape, desire, loss, fear, and San Francisco: Richmond binds these ingredients into a cake at once rich and finely-grained, sweet but never cloying.

What pulls you in first is the voice: "Here is the truth, this is what I know ..." But The Year of Fog is more than beautifully written; it is almost cruelly suspenseful. The night I buried myself in The Year of Fog, I had to skip ahead and read the ending (and what an ending--satisfying and surprising) in order to get some sleep.

Full disclosure: Richmond was my writing instructor several years ago. I was surprised to read an essay by her in the San Francisco Chronicle commenting that after her first novel she didn't think she would write another. I am already waiting for her next haunting story.
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on April 26, 2008
***SPOILER ALERT****

Overall, I'm not sorry I read this book, but I was saddened and disappointed by several elements of the story. Above all, I didn't really understand Jake's character, or his motivation.

First, I think it was a missed opportunity not to go into more of the conflict between the two of them due to the fact that Emma was with Abby when she was taken. There was some unexplored ground. In my opinion, it was unfortunate that Abby looked away when she did, but I don't think she was at fault - you can't watch your children every second of every day, and looking away for 45 seconds is not negligent for a 6-year old (maybe a 2-year old). Also, given that Abby remembered the woman (Jane?) from before, they were trailing Emma for a while, probably looking for the right time. But the way old fights and unresolved conflicts periodically resurface between couples - the story could have had more dialog and open conflict between Jake and Abby re: him blaming her, her blaming herself, both being unable to forgive...

Secondly, I also don't quite understand Jake at the end. How could he shut Abby out like that? Either Abby and Jake truly didn't have the close, intimate loving relationship they thought they had (which may have been what the author meant), or he couldn't come to terms with the additional guilt of believing Emma was dead while Abby went off to save her. I was left hanging; I didn't feel like the relationship was resolved - why didn't they talk this out more??? How must have Emma felt to have Abby rescue her, to have Abby around all the time before she disappeared, and then have Abby out of her life? It's good that the story wasn't happily-ever-after-one-happy-family, but still!

Finally, if Lisbeth was involved with the abduction, why didn't the police figure that out??? At the very least, they must have been able to figure out that she was flying back and forth to Costa Rica - wouldn't that be suspicious?? Given the fact that estranged parents are most often involved in missing children's cases, I would have thought they would have investigated more and put two and two together with her.

(add to all of that this Nick side story, how convenient for her to meet this wonderful man so losing Jake wasn't so awful??? Kind of spoiled the story for me - it's not about finding the "perfect man" - it's about working through all the problems that a loving relationship requires, and being honest with yourself and your partner, even when that's hard).
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on August 1, 2007
This book would have made a great short-story. As a novel, however, it's more like an exercise in tedium. I think the publisher has it right, The Year of Fog is a real "spare page-turner" (it has a lot of spare pages). Aside from the fact that there are at least 70 chapters wherein nothing happens bookended by two major events, the author seems to lack experience in writing authentic dialogue. I didn't believe any of the conversations that occurred and I felt too often like the author was trying too hard to impress her readers with all the research she did upon writing this book.
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on August 15, 2008
The Year of Fog seemed to have great potential...a soon-to-be stepmother, Abby, is left to care for her future stepdaughter while her fiance is away for the weekend. While at the beach, the young girl disappears without a trace. The entire book is devoted to the search for the young girl and Abby's efforts to recollect the events of that day.

Sounds like it could be good. But I found this to be too long and uneventful. I had read about 250 pages and two things had happened...the girl had disappeared and a shoe was found. I felt as though too much happened too early in the book, then nothing for hundreds of pages. I found myself skimming through most of it looking to pick up important parts. And the ending was disappointing, leaving you hanging as to what happens to Abby and with her relationships with the other characters.

This one had potential but was much too wordy, making me lose interest very quickly.
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