'Year of Fog’ is intense, emotional 

It’s a good thing that Michelle Richmond’s book is titled "The Year of Fog," for it gives readers a hint that the anguish and frustration experienced by Abby, the appealing protagonist, may not last much longer than that.

Involving, heart-rending and immediately readable, "The Year of Fog" (Delacorte Press, $20), Richmond’s second novel — her first was "Dream of the Blue Room" — is a story about what happens when a 6-year-old girl literally disappears.

In the opening scene, little Emma Balfour, under the care of her dad’s fiancée, Abby Mason, is walking along San Francisco’s Ocean Beach. Abby, a photographer, spots a seal pup that has washed up on the beach and takes a moment to investigate. When she looks up, Emma is gone — seemingly forever.

The intense plot line in "The Year of Fog" follows Abby’s quest to find the girl, whom she believes was abducted. Not only does the experience turn her day-to-day routine upside down, it makes her ponder her past, extensively.

Here’s where Richmond’s book becomes much more than a tale of a woman looking for a child who’s lost. It’s also about the nature of passion, guilt, and most of all, memory.

"The Year of Fog" also serves as a real-life guidebook of sorts to some of San Francisco’s lesser known neighborhoods and sites. Locals will enjoy the descriptions of the places where Abby looks long and hard for Emma. Richmond, a resident of San Francisco who grew up in the South, captures the spirit of life in The City in "The Year of Fog."

Richmond appears at 7 p.m. today with Sheri Joseph, author of "Stray," at Bookshop West Portal, 80 W. Portal Ave., San Francisco. Call (415) 564-8080.

She’ll also read from and sign copies of "The Year of Fog" at 6:30 p.m. May 8 at the San Francisco Public Library Main Branch, 100 Larkin St. Call (415) 557-4400.

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Leslie Katz

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