All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

The Year Of Fog – Michelle Richmond

“Here is the the truth, this is what I know: there is a girl, her name is Emma. We were walking on the beach, it was cold and very foggy. She let go of my hand; I looked away to take a photograph. Seconds passed. When I looked back, Emma was gone.”

It is every parents worst nightmare. To look away from your child for mere seconds only to look back and find that they have vanished. On Sunday we took our 2yo son Hunter to the Melbourne Zoo. Being an independent (and stubborn) child, he wasn’t happy to sit in his pram, he wanted to walk. The zoo was busy, particularly in some areas and it was so easy to glance away from him because of a hundred reasons: you were going to bump into someone and had to change your path, you heard a noise or saw something out of the corner of your eye. Thankfully, every time my eyes returned to him, he was still there. Ambling along, in his own little world.

Abby Mason isn’t so lucky. On a cold, foggy San Francisco beach she is walking with the daughter of her fiancé Jake, 6yo Emma. Abby is a photographer and she’s brought her camera along today to take some shots. She finds a dead seal pup on the beach and she glances away from Emma, who is searching for sand dollars. She frames the shot, takes it. Is briefly distracted by a memory from her childhood. When she glances back towards where Emma was, the little girl is gone. Disappeared without a trace.

Abby searches the beach frantically but Emma is gone. The police are called and the search starts, by ground, sea and air. The general consensus seems to be that she slipped into the water and drowned. But Abby isn’t convinced – she knew Emma was frightened of water and wouldn’t even swim in the backyard pool at a friends party. She is focused on a couple she saw – a surfer type and a woman, who both waved and winked at Emma as she and Abby wandered past. They had vanished around the same time as Emma and Abby thinks that if she could just find them, they might’ve seen something. They might be able to help. Or – if they find them, they just might find Emma.

Days, weeks, and months pass. Abby’s life is a never-ending search for Emma. She spends her days in different parts of the city distributing flyers, talking to people, trying to find out something about the cars and people she remembers seeing on the beach that fateful day. She is tireless, desperately trying to right the wrong she feels responsible for. If she can just get Emma back, things will go back to normal. Her and Jake will be back on track, it will be just like before. Jake however, is ready to give up. To accept the idea that Emma has drowned. After all this time, if someone knew something they would’ve come forward by now. There have been hundreds of radio interviews, dozens of TV interviews and still, nothing. He wants to move on, lay Emma to rest and try and attain some peace and acceptance in his life. He also thinks that they should get married, having postponed the wedding when Emma disappeared.

Abby cannot. She can’t accept that Emma may have drowned, or may have been murdered, or may not ever be coming back. She is driven, obsessed with finding her, even when this causes problems in her already fractured relationship with Jake. She tries to break into the local surfing community, trying hard to find out more information about the couple she saw on the beach that day. She attends a session of hypnotherapy which helps her remember something about the board the guy had with him. From there she asks around and finds out that apparently, surfers go to Costa Rica. And that’s where she decides to go.

It’s about now that I stopped really being invested in this novel. Until now, I thought the author had done a good job of portraying Abby’s guilt, her despair at having been the person that ‘lost’ Emma, even if the book was a bit slow for my liking. But with this trip to Costa Rica, for me, the book starts to fall apart a little bit. Abby, a photographer, has worked no more than a couple of jobs in the 6+ months that Emma has been missing. Her sister has been sending her money to cover her rent. But she can afford to go to Costa Rica and stay there for a couple of months. Is her sister still paying the rent on her SF flat in her absence? Who is paying her other bills? Several months is a long time to be away, especially when you haven’t been earning, and aren’t earning currently. Costa Rica might be cheap and you can live on $2 a day but by now Abby has barely worked in almost a year. All she has done is stuff envelopes and beat the streets looking for Emma. Now she can dash off to Costa Rica because one of the local surfers told her to look for the guy with the longboard there. And she just happens to know someone who can not only fix her up with good accommodation where she is going in Costa Rica, but also give her a contact at the Embassy. Just in case she needs it.

{{from here on be ***SPOILERS***}}

So she goes to Costa Rica and travels around, checking out the surfing spots, looking for the guy with the longboard who was on the beach the day Emma went missing. She meets locals who are, naturally, American’s who are happy to try and help her get an in with ‘closed’ surfing set. She looks for two months, finding nothing. No leads, nothing. Until one day, when she is nearly ready to go home as her sister is having a baby in 2 weeks and she promised she would be home for that. She is walking along a beach and she sees Emma. Sitting on a beach, on a towel, alone. By herself. Just sitting on a beach in freaking Costa Rica!

I’m sorry, but what the hell? After all the statistics the book gave me on how many kids are never found, Abby just found this one chilling on a towel waiting for her kidnappers to finish catching some waves. Abby is all hey Emma, do you remember me? You do? Excellent, let’s go! And then she just walks away with Emma! Turns out kidnappers get a bit lax after 333 days! Then it transpires that the surfer from the beach the day Emma disappeared just happens to be the cousin of Emma’s mother and that Emma’s mother paid him $10,000 to carry out the snatching. Reasons for this are never really explored – Emma’s mother Lisbeth left Jake and Emma and had some problems with drugs. She reappears after Jake was on TV issuing a plea for her to come forward, as Jake was actually hoping it had been Lisbeth that had taken her. And not a random crazy stranger. Lisbeth, clean now, claims to know nothing about the kidnapping. She spent quite a bit of time with Jake after re-emerging and the book states she agreed to take a polygraph (as Jake and Abby do) but it is never mentioned again. It seems Abby has just been with her cousin and his girlfriend in Costa Rica nearly the whole time, having seen her mother only occasionally since being taken. Um, what? WHY did Lisbeth arrange to have her taken if she didn’t want to actually SEE her? I’m sure she would’ve had to hang around Jake while the search for Emma was such big news, but it had wound down quite a while before Abby went down to Costa Rica. I just don’t understand the  whole thing.

The book is also very repetitive. I know it deals with memory and Abby relives the memory of Emma’s disappearance over and over again and tries new techniques to further unlock her memories from that day. The same scenes, almost down word-for-word are repeated over and over and there are several lengthy lectures on different parts of the brain dealing with memory and the different forms of memory loss or retention. The pace is slow, often too slow – the book crawls along and the characters do the same thing over and over again, reinforcing the repetition. I expected a much faster paced book, a tense read that had me on the edge of my seat, frantically turning pages to find out what happened to Emma. Instead, there’s no real mystery feel of what did happen to Emma. The focus is on the surfer guy from the start and rarely ever wavers.

A good idea, well done at the start but tapers off. Snail pace and a weak ending don’t do it much favours

4/10

(Book #59 of my 75 Book Challenge)

Leave a comment »