Book Review: ELIZABETH IS MISSING by Emma Healey

Publisher: Harper
Released: June 10, 2014
Source: Borrowed from the library
Rating: ★★★★½

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.

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?

After seeing some great reviews for ELIZABETH IS MISSING, I bumped it to the top of my reading list. I’m glad I did, because it was an excellent read. The story is told from the first person point-of-view of Maud, an elderly woman with dementia. It was an eye-opening experience to view the world as Maud did, her memories fading in and out. This book reminded me of the movie Memento, because Maud would experience something, and then a few minutes later not remember it happened.

At the core of this book, there are two intriguing mysteries – the disappearance of Maud’s sister, Sukey, just after World War II, and the disappearance of Maud’s friend, Elizabeth, in present day. I could really feel her frustration and sense of hopelessness as she searched for Elizabeth, and no one would take her seriously. During the search, her mind would drift back in time to the 1940s, and she would relive the days when her sister went missing.

ELIZABETH IS MISSING was a page-turner for sure. I was very curious to find out what happen to the two women, and how, if in any way, they were connected. This book also made me more understanding of those struggling with memory loss. Maud’s caregivers, including her daughter, weren’t the most sympathetic people, though I can certainly see the frustration from both sides. Readers who enjoy psychological mysteries and WWII historical fiction set in England should give this book a try. It’s an impressive debut novel from Emma Healey, and I’m looking forward to her next release.