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Elizabeth Is Missing (2014)

by Emma Healey

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1,6871418,068 (3.84)183
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'… (more)
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English (129)  Dutch (4)  German (3)  French (1)  Norwegian (Bokmål) (1)  Latvian (1)  Catalan (1)  All languages (140)
Showing 1-5 of 129 (next | show all)
"Elizabeth is Missing" is an extraordinary book in concept but at times is a frustrating book to read. It is frustrating because the main character, Elizabeth has dementia. It is evident at the beginning of the book and progresses to where she can no longer live alone and sometimes does not recognize her daughter at the end of the book. The idea two mysteries are good. For a while, I thought they were intertwining. As one mystery is solved and soon after the other, Elizabeth remembers neither one.

I chose the book because my mom is getting worse, not even nearing Elizabeth's state at the beginning of this book. However, after talking with caregivers about those with dementia, the book only beat us over the head with a wet noodle. I recommend this book for anyone who wants a more gentle easing into what to expect from dementia. ( )
  nab6215 | Jan 18, 2022 |
I really liked this book. It was hard to read at times because my father died with Alzheimer's and I couldn't help but wonder if he experienced a similar thought process. I loved the way Ms Healey blended the present and past and how she worked in the mystery. Would highly recommend this book and look forward to the author's next book. ( )
  NagathaChristie | Jan 7, 2022 |
A beautiful, touching story that really displays the heartbreak of dementia and its effects on everyone. Maude can't exactly remember what she's looking for, and she gets things wrong, and confuses the facts and which events they go with, but she's still a feisty, wonderful woman.

While it wasn't too much of a mystery where Elizabeth was, it makes sense that Maude would fixate on her absence, since it constantly reminds her of Sukey's disappearance but is more recent. The frustration and anger and fear that Maude feels when she isn't understood or believed is palpable and heartbreaking - while I've read books dealing with dementia, this is the first I've read from the point of view of someone who has it, and it just reinforces how terrible it is. ( )
  Elna_McIntosh | Sep 29, 2021 |
3.5 stars

A lot can be said about this book and I think it deserves the praise it has. Reading from the perspective of an old woman with amnesia/Alzheimers who progressively loses more of her short term memories is interesting, albeit scary because we never know if it'll happen to us.
The book is very well structured with present Maud's thoughts as a segway to past Maud in what I believe is her brain trying to make connections so she can find Elizabeth/Sukey.
The ending was unexpected and I wish there was a more lengthy explanation to how things happened. ( )
  _Marcia_94_ | Sep 21, 2021 |
Intriguing concept - a present day mystery and a decades old one told simultaneously by Maud as she slowly descends into dementia. Initially, the crossing between the present and the past memories of Maud annoyed me but the more I worked my way through this book, the more I came to emphasise with Maud and also want to know more about what happened in the past. The Elizabeth of the title is Maud's friend in the present day who seems to be absent from her house. Maud is determined to find out where she is and in her lucid moments, goes around and investigates the empty home, puts adverts in the newspaper, contacts the police and other sorts of things as she tries to work out what has happened. The reader sees all the signs that Elizabeth has either died or been put in palliative care by her son, by Maud's addled brain seems unable to grasp this concept.

Maud's musings on Elizabeth cause he to re-think her past with much more clarity than she lives her everyday life. She remembers her sister Sukey going missing and we are presented with two likely suspects of foul play - her "bad boy" husband Frank, or the infatuated lodger Doug, as well as the possibility that Sukey has actually just run away from her life But something in the present day has triggered Maud's memories. Can she unravel what has happened then, when she can't even remember 5 minutes ago in the present?

I liked how the author didn't play Maud as a "holier-than-thou" little old woman and shows how her dementia makes her often violent because she is so confused and frustrated. Healey's portrayal of life as a patient suffering senility seems spot on to me, as I have witnessed many similar behaviours and conversations when my grandmother started degenerating mentally, after her many strokes.

The conclusion to the novel is quite satisfying which surprised me as I felt sure that the author would leave the reader still waiting for an answer. For adults who like their murder mysteries with a bit of a refreshing twist . ( )
  nicsreads | Aug 25, 2021 |
Showing 1-5 of 129 (next | show all)
It's a very good novel and highly impressive for a debut. It's a rare imagining of a character pushing 90 years of age who has either severe Alzheimer's or just everyday senility (we never quite know) ... this book is an interesting exercise in genre, comparable to Kate Atkinson's Case Histories, not quite crime, not quite literary fiction, a "hybrid" work.... There's a lot here to praise, admire and enjoy. But ultimately this is a novel for readers who love unreliable narrators instead of being infuriated by them.
added by KayCliff | editThe Guardian, Viv Groskop (Jun 8, 2014)
 
Normally a well-observed, literary novel that accurately shows us ourselves by deepening our knowledge of what it is to be human cannot manage, as well, to be both a comedy and a thriller. Elizabeth is Missing, however, encompasses these genres and deserves prizes in all categories.... Not only have we several genres in the one novel, we have two main themes. How it feels to experience dementia, and a page-turner of a detective story. If I had to describe it in one word, it would be beautiful. It is a gripping thriller, but it's also about life and love: the love of an exasperated daughter for her mother; the love of sisters and of friends and the love I felt for Maud.
 
British author Emma Healey’s debut novel, Elizabeth is Missing, is an engaging and beautifully written description of a mystery-within-a mystery.... Elizabeth is Missing is hard to put down, and Maud is an utterly likeable narrator. The novel launched a rare and justified bidding war among publishers after 29-year-old Healey submitted sections of the book as her MA thesis, which was then nominated for an award that a literary agent judged. Publishers were captivated by Healey’s light touch and lively phrases, married to her heart-breaking and accurate portrayal of what it must be like to feel your mind slipping away....
 
The story eagerly tugs the reader from chapter to chapter, but the book succeeds more on the strength of its main character than the intrigues of its plot....But Healey resists turning her into a tragic figure, instead showcasing Maud’s pluck and wicked sense of humour. .... But by design, the reader cares. It’s vital to the reader – it’s the whole point. Like Ian McEwan’s Atonement, Elizabeth is Missing is a redeeming force for its main character, even if she’ll never know it.
 
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To my grandmothers,
Vera Healey and Nancy Rowand,
for inspiring this book.
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Maud? Was I boring you so much that you'd rather stand outside in the dark?
Chapter 1

You know there was an old woman mugged around here?" Carla says, letting her long, black ponytail snake over one shoulder. "Well, actually, it was Weymouth, but it could have been here, So you see, you can't be too careful. They found her with half her face smashed in."
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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'

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Haiku summary
The maze of Maud's mind
holds the answer to a long-
forgotten puzzle.
(passion4reading)

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