Elizabeth is Missing

Elizabeth is Missing book cover

elizabeth-is-missingElizabeth is Missing
Emma Healey
HarperCollins, 2014
320 pages (hardcover)

Buy: Amazon | Better World Books
Borrow: Worldcat

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 note 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 than 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?

— Description from Amazon


A sad, readable tale. From the first page it’s very apparent that Maud’s memory is not what it used to be. The sudden disappearance of her best friend mingles with memories of her sister’s disappearance following World War II. The interweaving of the two time periods is sometimes confusing, but that’s more the nature of Maud’s mind rather than the writing style.

This is probably the first (only?) book I’ve read from the perspective of an Alzheimer’s sufferer, and it’s certainly eye opening. My grandmother is into the habit of telling me “It’s hell getting old,” and, to my regret, it’s been easy to ignore. It certainly opened my eyes to the realities of memory problems. Parts of the story were foreseeable, and I have to disagree with the description that refers to this as a thriller, but overall it was an interesting read.

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