Elizabeth is Missing
by Emma Healey
Rating: *** ½
Maud Horsham is falling into a confused world of memories and suspicions and these thoughts are further muddled into her present day surroundings. Her grip on reality is loose, but she’s certain that her friend Elizabeth is missing.
And so begins a tender look into the meandering mind of an eighty-two-year-old woman who has trouble remembering a recent thought and has pockets full of scribbled and crumpled reminders. While she can’t remember where she’s going or what someone’s just said, she never forgets about Elizabeth.
Written through Maud’s perspective, this story is both a sensitive view of the confusing descent into dementia and a somewhat suspenseful mystery surrounding Elizabeth’s whereabouts and, more importantly, the mystery of Maud’s older sister Sukey, who disappeared in 1946.
Maud’s memories are eventually tied into Sukey’s disappearance as the parallel story of Maud’s family in post-war England and her newly-married sister unfolds. Sukey’s husband, Frank is a smooth-talking business-man with lots of questionable contacts. Maud’s mother likes the extra rations Frank brings the family, but her father senses trouble. Douglas is the family border. He’s a sensitive young man with a crush on Sukey and has lost his mother after their house was bombed. There’s a crazy mad woman who wanders through town, adding to the mystery.
We learn about Sukey in bits and pieces, as these memories come and go in Maud’s mind. Maud’s family continuously puts off her concern about Elizabeth and you’re not completely sure if there’s a mystery here or if Maud simply can’t remember what she’s been told.
I enjoyed reading Elizabeth is Missing. It’s the kind of story you want to read straight through for two reasons. Right away, I became invested in Maud’s character and empathized with her plight. The author shows how frustrating it is to not be taken seriously or understood, just because some of the words are wrong. This perspective shows a sensitive look into the puzzle of dementia and makes you understand that Maud’s thoughts are not completely without logic. The mystery element of the story also carries the reader to the story’s resolution, and although some of the tie-ins were not as satisfying as I would have liked, they do explain the characters’ motives and actions.
I agree with The Perfectionist Pen that this story is more about Maud and her struggle with dementia than it is a mystery. Click here to read her review.
I enjoyed this original story structure and look forward to more from Emma Healey.
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