Book Review: Elizabeth Is Missing by Emma Healey

Elizabeth Is Missing CoverBook: Elizabeth Is Missing by Emma Healey

Published June 2014 by HarperCollins|231 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the e-book from the library

Series: None

Genre: Adult Literary/Mystery

What It’s About: 

In this darkly riveting debut novel — a sophisticated psychological mystery that is also a heartbreakingly honest meditation on memory, identity, and aging — an elderly woman descending into dementia embarks on a desperate quest to find the best friend she believes has disappeared, and her search for the truth will go back decades and have shattering consequences.

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?

What I Thought:

Is it weird that I think I liked Elizabeth Is Missing, but that I’m not sure if I do?  Because I’m having trouble deciding if I liked it or not.

I’m going to try to talk about it with no spoilers, but I don’t know how well that will work, so I’ll let you know if I can’t avoid it.

It is an interesting look at memory and how we remember things, and in this book, how the present and past get mixed together.  I wasn’t sure of the connection between what happened to Sukey and to Elizabeth, and I really expected there to be more of a connection between the two.  I was sort of let down by how things really played out.

That’s it?  That’s my reaction to how things were resolved with Sukey’s disappearance years earlier, and Elizabeth’s disappearance.  And oddly enough, it wasn’t as compelling as I thought it would be, although it was compelling enough up to that point.  It wasn’t the mystery I thought it would be, and I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that Maud has dementia, because it really does kind of explain away a lot of things.

Elizabeth Is Missing was frustrating at times, because Maud seemed to need to more care than what she was getting from her daughter and the carer.  She wrote a lot of notes to help her remember, but later on, she’d forget why she wrote them.  She wasn’t supposed to use the oven, and she’d go to the store to get something, only to forget why she was there, so she’d get peaches.  I know it can be hard to care for someone, and maybe Helen (Maud’s daughter) thought she could do it herself (or didn’t want to or even realize) that Maud needed more care.  I did feel for Helen, because making sure Maud is okay can’t be easy, and it is heartbreaking to see Maud go through it.  I can’t imagine having a relative with dementia, especially a parent, and Healey does show that really well.

My Rating: 

3 stars.  I’m not sure if I liked it, and the mystery of what happened to Sukey and Elizabeth didn’t quite work for me, but I did feel for Helen.  And it did make me think a little about memory and how we remember things, and the connection between past and present.

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