No One You Know by Michelle Richmond

Title: No One You Know
Author:  Michelle Richmond
Release date:  June 24, 2008
Publisher:  Delacorte Press
Pages:  320
Genre:  Fiction
Source:  Author


Ellie Enderlin is a professional coffee buyer who, generally speaking, has a pretty normal and good life.  Except for the fact that twenty years ago her older sister, Lila, was murdered.  Her beautiful, brilliant big sister, who she loved and respected more than anyone else in the world.  Ellie never stops thinking about her sister, but she also never truly expects to find out what happened to her.  Until one day, in a remote part of South America, she runs into someone from Lila’s past – and he gives Ellie her sister’s journal, something she thought had long ago disappeared.  Now it’s Ellie’s job to figure out if the journal, and this long-forgotten stranger from her sister’s life, can show her what really happened to Lila.

I read and loved Michelle Richmond’s The Year of Fog this time last year, so when I was offered the opportunity to review No One You Know I of course jumped at the chance.  I was definitely hoping to love this novel, and it really didn’t disappoint me, which is wonderful.  Ellie is a great character, and as she is the force that propels the novel, I’m very happy that I believed in her.  I didn’t particularly like her, especially since I thought so many of her decisions were both weird and/or stupid – but I believed her as a flawed, realistic person.  She was dealing with so much grief, for so many years, and had all these unanswered questions – so I could see why she would make some of the questionable decisions that she made.  I found Ellie to be a bit naive at times – especially dealing with Andrew Thorpe – but again, I believed that to be genuine because of how young she was when Lila died, and how profoundly her sister’s death impacted the rest of her life.

The mystery of how exactly Lila died, who killed her, and for what reason, was the undercurrent running throughout the entire book.  While the question of what happened to her was something I desperately wanted to find an answer to, I have to confess that I was more concerned with Ellie’s development and growth than the actual solving of the mystery.  This most likely had to do with the fact that the reader never really gets to know Lila – only through Ellie’s memories – so it’s easy to care about Ellie much more than about solving Lila’s murder.  But because Ellie is so invested in finding these answers, I did need to find out those answers along with her.  It was easy to see from the beginning that if Ellie just understood why her sister died, she would finally be able to move on and create a future of her own.  It was almost as if Ellie felt that since Lila never got a future, Ellie didn’t deserve happiness for her life either – even to the point of sabotaging the most serious and committed relationship she’d ever had over something silly.  So because I cared for Ellie, I truly was concerned about her getting a resolution to the questions she’d carried around with her for twenty years.

One more thing about No One You Know – as in The Year of Fog, Michelle Richmond’s writing is excellent.  This novel is also set in San Francisco, which is one of my favorite cities in the United States, and she truly brings the city to life through her writing.  I could see and smell aspects of the city that I’ve experienced and loved when I’ve visited in the past.  She also has quite a way with words when describing interactions between people – she can make the smallest conversation seem so important to the reader, which means that it’s nearly impossible to put the book down!

There were so many things to love about No One You Know.  It is an exciting novel with excellent characters and beautiful writing.  I am happy to say that Michelle Richmond is now two for two in my book. 🙂

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Review: The Year of Fog

The Year of Fog – Michelle Richmond

From the book jacket –

Life changes in an instant.  On a foggy beach.  In the seconds when Abby Mason – photographer, fiancee, soon-to-be-stepmother – looks into her camera and commits her greatest error.  Heartbreaking, uplifting, and beautifully told, here is the riveting tale of a family torn apart, of the search for the truth behind a child’s disappearance, and of one woman’s unwavering faith in the redemptive power of love – all made startlingly fresh through Michelle Richmond’s incandescent sensitivity and extraordinary insight.

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.  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, Abby will make the most astounding discovery of all – as the truth of Emma’s disappearance unravels with stunning force.

My thoughts –

The Year of Fog  is a pretty excellent novel.  It has everything I desire in a book – great characters, an intriguing plot, a decent amount of suspense, good writing – what more is there for a girl to want?  Michelle Richmond is a very talented author and I will definitely be looking for more from her in the future.  Basically, from the moment I picked up the book, I hated having to pause my reading of it for any length of time… it sucked me in from the beginning and I couldn’t wait to find out what would happen next.  One of the things that made this book so wonderful is how well the emotional rollercoaster of losing a child was written.  I cannot imagine going through something so terrifying (especially considering the fact that I don’t even have any children) but what I can imagine is that Richmond wrote the way it would feel pretty darn accurately. 

I also really loved the characters in this novel, especially Abby.  I just couldn’t help feeling empathetic toward her, she racked herself with guilt over this situation that honestly could have happened to anyone, made herself feel so terrible about it, and at the same time realized she loved this little girl WAY more than she had really thought before she went missing.  Her emotions were just so raw and real… I could really feel her pain with her as I was reading.  Oddly enough, i wasn’t too huge a fan of Jake, but then again, I don’t think Richmond wrote the character in such a way that the reader is supposed to feel as sympathetic toward him – he was very cold to Abby, and basically deserted their relationship when he should have stuck with her in solidarity, which made me SO mad.  But I guess different people react to these types of crazy situations differently, which Richmond captured very well.  

And the ending… my goodness what a great ending.  I mean, of course there are about a million ways an author could have ended a book like this, but I think that Richmond did an excellent job presenting us with a fulfilling conclusion that didn’t seem forced or fake.  I mean, I gotta admit that it was slightly unbelievable… but it is fiction after all, so I’ll take it. 🙂

Highly recommended.  Definitely read this book!

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