Monday, September 29, 2008

The Year of Fog by Michelle Richmond

The library book group will be meeting on Friday at 10:30 a.m. to discuss The Year of Fog by Michelle Richmond. The Year of Fog recounts a year in the life of Abby, a photographer who lets her fiance's daughter out of her sight for a moment on a foggy beach in San Francisco. Emma disappears, and the question of whether she drowned or whether she was kidnapped kept me glued to the book. Abby's convinced that if she can just remember the right detail, that single clue will lead her to Emma. So, the reader learns along with Abby the quirks and vagaries of memories, and how the memory works. (The information about memory theaters may sound familiar to you - we read about "memory mansions" in The Madonnas of Leningrad last September.)

Abby takes a photo of Emma with a Holga camera the day she loses her on the beach. They are cheap plastic cameras that let in a lot of light and therefore take distorted pictures, just like our memory distorts reality. The author points out that "the cover image of the novel shows the bright color-wash and blurry edges you can achieve with the Holga" in case you're wondering what the photos look like. Speaking of distorted memories, check out the Memory Painter exhibit that is mentioned in the book.

Abby wanders through all the neighborhoods of San Francisco looking for Emma. To see photos of the places mentioned in The Year of Fog, check out the Year of Fog Project on Flickr. Reviewers disagree as to whether Richmond “captures the spirit of life in The City" or whether she "was trying too hard to get all these spots [in San Francisco] into the book." Which reviewer do you agree with? What makes a setting important or real?

As you read the book, did you think Emma was alive or dead? What led you to guess one way or another?

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