Elizabeth is Missing, Emma Healey
Published June 10th 2014 by Harper
Hardcover, 320 pages
Maud, an aging grandmother, is slowly losing her memory—and her grip on everyday life. Yet she refuses to forget her best friend Elizabeth, whom she is convinced is missing and in terrible danger.
But no one will listen to Maud—not her frustrated daughter, Helen, not her caretakers, not the police, and especially not Elizabeth’s mercurial son, Peter. Armed with handwritten notes she leaves for herself and an overwhelming feeling that Elizabeth needs her help, Maud resolves to discover the truth and save her beloved friend.
This singular obsession forms a cornerstone of Maud’s rapidly dissolving present. But the clues she discovers seem only to lead her deeper into her past, to another unsolved disappearance: her sister, Sukey, who vanished shortly after World War II.
As vivid memories of a tragedy that occurred more fifty years ago come flooding back, Maud discovers new momentum in her search for her friend. Could the mystery of Sukey’s disappearance hold the key to finding Elizabeth?
This book was really stressful to read! Poor Maud is living alone with dementia. She has a loving daughter and a pretty good support system to help her, but it’s not a perfect situation. She cooks when she should not and she keeps leaving her home unaccompanied. Maud knows her friend Elizabeth is missing and she is the only one concerned about this. She is trying her best to keep track of her thoughts well enough to try to find Elizabeth or to find someone who will listen to her. I thought this was an excellent look into the mind of someone with dementia. Maud knows that her mind is not reliable. She knows to look for her notes when trying to remember something, but her notes can only help her so far.
As Maud ponders how to help Elizabeth she also finds herself lost in the memories of her childhood at the end of WWII. Maud relives experiences leading up to the disappearance of her sister Sukey and the aftermath. I loved going back and forth between these two stories. Though Maud’s mind is no longer functioning in what might be a logical way to you or to me, we can see how she jumps from past to present based on what’s happening around her. I became more and more concerned for Maud as I read. Would she stay safe? Would she have closure before she slipped completely into her dementia? Most importantly, would I get closure on what happened to these missing women?
Read it and find out! I think I’ve personally read too many books in the last few years with unreliable memory as a narrative device to have this be a 5 star read. Maybe I just need a break from this type of story for a bit? I think Healey really did an excellent job making Maud relatable and engaging, despite her illness and this book will keep you invested until the end.
Thank you Harper Collins and edelweiss for this advance copy in exchange for an honest review.