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June 10, 2014 / Leslie

Review: Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey

ElizabethIsMissingElizabeth is Missing
by Emma Healey

Genre: Mystery
Publisher: Harper Collins
Publish Date: June 10, 2014
Rating: 5 of 5

Publisher’s Synopsis:

In this darkly riveting debut novel – a sophisticated psychological mystery that is also an 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.

My Thoughts:

Maud is losing her memory and her ability to live on her own. She has a caretaker to help her out, her daughter checks on her everyday plus she writes notes to help her remember things. But she forgets what the notes mean. She writes a note reminding herself not to buy more canned peaches and doesn’t remember why. So she buys them anyway when she already has plenty in her cupboard.

A note Maud has written reminds her that her friend Elizabeth is missing. She must find Elizabeth. She tells others her concern for Elizabeth, but no one takes her seriously. She knows there is something important about Elizabeth’s garden, but what is it? Maud’s thoughts about Elizabeth trigger memories of her sister, Sukey, who mysteriously disappeared more than fifty years ago.

The story is told in the first person, from Maud’s point of view. The narrative moves back and forth between the present and years ago when Maud was a young girl. As the two mysteries unfold, the connection between the past and the present becomes clear.

The author has painted a strikingly accurate and poignant portrait of a woman sinking into dementia. Maud’s memories of the past are detailed and vivid, while in the present, we feel her frustration as she struggles to remember what happened moments ago. As Maud’s account in the present becomes more and more unreliable, we begin to wonder if there is really any mystery at all about Elizabeth’s whereabouts. The reader is left to decide what’s real and what isn’t.

More than just a mystery, this is also a novel about aging, memory loss, and the pain and frustration it causes to all involved. Insightful, often heartbreaking and at times humorous, a great debut from a promising new author.

Source: Review copy provided by HarperCollins.
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Leave a Comment
  1. laurelrainsnow / Jun 10 2014 11:25 am

    I loved this book, and the author did a great job of making me feel the panic and anxiety that Maud obviously experiences. So many interesting little twists and turns, too. Thanks for sharing. Great review!


    • Leslie / Jun 10 2014 12:12 pm

      The contrast between the unreliable narrator in the present and the clarity of the past was nicely done. Also, Maud’s panic and anxiety felt very real. I have experienced it first-hand with several family members who have dementia and no amount of note writing can fix it.


  2. Carol / Jun 10 2014 12:27 pm

    Sounds like a difficult book to read, a little too heavy for me. I enjoy mysteries, but light ones that don’t deal with the big issues, like ageing.


  3. Suko / Jun 10 2014 1:04 pm

    This sounds very touching and profound. Wonderful review, Leslie!


  4. BermudaOnion / Jun 10 2014 4:40 pm

    This sounds sad but good!


  5. S Stull / Jun 10 2014 11:37 pm

    Great review – I’m going to check this one out!


  6. Jess resides here (@frellathon) / Jun 12 2014 5:29 am

    As I’ve worked in aged care with people with dementia I find this fascinating. Added to the TBR as this would be an interesting perspective get a story from.


  7. stacybuckeye / Jun 21 2014 12:05 am

    I must get this one!


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