Author: Michelle Richmond
Book Name: The Year of Fog
Genre: Women’s Fiction/Family Life
Overall SPA: 2.8 Stars
Blurb: 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.
Cover: 4 Stars
This did fit the story sets a good tone for what is inside.
Blurb: 3 Stars
The blurb for this is absolutely what convinced me to read this. Sadly, while it is factually accurate, I feel like it is somewhat misleading in that it makes this seem like a much more intense, adventure kind of a book and this really isn’t.
Characters: 2 Stars
I am really kind of on the fence with the characters in this. Abby is a struggle to identify with as, for me, she really does not come across as being emotionally connected, just more obsessive. I struggle to feel grief or loss from her. Jake is there as a character, as what should really be a more important character, but you honestly do not get enough of him on the page to really get a sense of him. All the remaining characters come across as slightly odd and weird in ways I struggle to pinpoint, but they all behave in ways that make them slightly distasteful.
Plot/Themes: 3 Stars
I obviously really liked the concept that this story was based on, but there were several things that kept pulling me out of the story. The first was the random time jumping that went on, either between chapters or even within the same chapter. It felt really disorienting as a reader to constantly try and figure out where in the timeline the story was at. Then there were all of these random bits of side stories dealing with various pieces of history and facts about memory or photography, some ranging into scientific information. In the end, they really weren’t needed and came across more of a distraction. If there had only been one or two of these, I don’t think it would have been an issue, but you could very easily have cut every single one of those specifics and still had a completely cohesive story. I understand some of their purpose, but it was way over done and did not work well. If anything, it contributed to the lack of emotional connection.
Uniqueness Factor: 3 Stars
While I can’t say that I’ve read a lot of books with this theme exactly, it isn’t unique. The one really unique factor was the perspective of a future step-parent being the central figure. That was part of what drew me to this story because it was a different take and a different perspective, but I think there were a lot of opportunities to go places with this emotionally that this book never did.
Problem Free/Editing: 4 Stars
I didn’t run into any problems in this area. At least nothing that jumped out and yanked me out of the story.
World Building: 2 Stars
You get an inordinate amount of geographic references to both the San Fransisco area and Costa Rica. After a while, it just became too much, especially when all throughout this book I was really looking for a much deeper emotional impact, something that I don’t feel I ever got.
Believably: 2 Stars
The lack of that emotional impact made this whole thing so much harder to believe in the story. When you are talking about a book surrounding a missing child, I cannot see how you can manage to avoid those really strong, extreme emotions. The idea that any parent reacts in a set of scripted rules when their child goes missing is ridiculous, so it really should have been easier for me to fall into this story, but I just never completely bought the actions, or thoughts in Abby’s case, of the characters. Abby really felt like she was going through the motions and doing what she thought was expected more so than because she was compelled. There were some issues with feelings of guilt, but most of that is what the reader is told rather than what is actually demonstrated.
Peeve Factor: 3 Stars
The timeline jumpiness throughout this isn’t a major peeve of mine, but it is an annoyance. The purpose of a book is to compel a reader to follow along, not jerk them from one point to another in an effort to get them lost along the way.
Personal Opinion: 2 Stars
I was just overall disappointed in this. I was expecting a much more emotionally charged book with a lot going on. Instead, this came across as something more along the lines of a person’s extremely dry philosophical debate with themselves that dragged on and on. All the pieces of this story that I would have thought should have been front and center felt kind of as if they were shunted to the sidelines of the bigger story of Abby’s personal search for Emma, which really did feel like it was something done more out of guilt and the need to fix something rather than true loss.
More time was spent on the many, random outside issues that really had no impact on the story overall than on the parts I really expected to see. The impact of Emma going missing on the relationship between Abby and Jake is not really addressed directly on the page. You only see small glimpses along the edges of the story when that really should have been one of the focuses. The other important parts, such as the initial investigation into her disappearance is handled only with small snippets of actual events followed by vague acknowledgements that it was going on in the background.
Instead, you get too many listings of the locations where Abby was, went, or was going at all times. The bits of her personal history and childhood, which didn’t have any relationship to the events in the rest of the story. And, no matter how different loss and grief may work for different individuals, I just could not connect to the characters because I just couldn’t find any of those expected emotions or reactions.