Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey

EIM-US-coverI received this book from the publisher, HarperCollins, in exchange for an honest review.

Maud is an elderly woman suffering from dementia who believes her friend Elizabeth is missing.  She carries sticky notes in her bag to remember things, makes tea and forgets to drink it and even forgets who Helen, her daughter, is.  But one thing she doesn’t seem to forget is to say “Elizabeth is missing” and “Where is the best place to grow summer squash?”  – over and over again.

Is Elizabeth really missing and what is the deal about the summer squash? Are the two things related?  Maud’s sister, Sukey, disappeared in 1946 and was never found.  Is Maud maybe confusing her sister’s unsolved disappearance with that of Elizabeth? She is determined to find Elizabeth, as she says she doesn’t want to die “not knowing” like her mother had to. This frustrates Elizabeth’s son, the police and Helen and no-one believes her. She can’t understand why no-one wants to help her find Elizabeth.

Maud finds her own condition frustrating, as we learn when we read about her internal monologues.  It’s through these episodes that we get more insight into the mind of someone that is experiencing dementia and how frustrating that may be. As much as it’s insightful and make you feel very sympathetic towards Maud (as I did), it’s almost humorous too. Helen, who bears the brunt of Maud’s repetitive questions (much to the granddaughter’s delight) are continuously being accused of being a liar (“Why would she lie to me?”) . She also explores her past and the memories she has of Sukey in order to puzzle out what happened to her sister. Is she trying to find Sukey and/or Elizabeth?

This book was hard to put down.  The author did a good job with exploring the mind of someone suffering from memory loss and the frustrations that goes along with it. She also described the character, Maud, in such a way that it’s hard not to find her endearing. Elizabeth is Missing is a tale of mystery and family drama interwoven together beautifully to create a story that is unforgettable. Emma Healey’s debut novel was a good read that I really enjoyed reading. I passed the novel onto my mother to read, as her friend is in the early stages of dementia – I hope that Maud’s story will make her understand more of what is to come.

Do you know someone who is suffering from dementia? Can you imagine what is going on in their minds?

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  • Great review! I’ve heard so much of this book and your review made me really want to read it. I have never known anyone with dementia and I can’t imagine how scary it must be when you first become aware that your mind is slipping.

    • Thank you. You will definitely sympathize with Maud. Poor woman, I felt sorry for her, but it was funny too. Like how she would call the doctor multiple times and when he pays her a house visit she tells him he is lying she never called 😀 It was just funny to visualize how annoyed he got. So the book isn’t all sad.

  • The thing that Healey did really well, I think, is give both perspectives. She showed us how frustrating it can be living with dementia but also how frustrating it is to care for someone with dementia. I sympathized with almost every character at one point in the book and so I give her props for giving each of them real emotions and motives! Great review 🙂

    • Thank you. I agree with you on her giving both perspectives. It’s definitely frustrating for both, but I felt most sympathy for Maud. Of course, I understood Helen’s frustrations.

  • Many readers, especially those who are caretakers of relatives with dementia well can relate to the characters. I know I can.

    • Are you taking care of a person suffering memory loss, Marian?

  • I am both eager and nervous to read this. It’s always hard to read things that feel personal, but I’ve heard from you and others that the author handles the subject very well.

    • She does. You’ll love Maud!

  • What a tough topic! Just read a book that had a character with dementia and it was like piecing a puzzle from what she would say here and there.

    • Which book is that, Jennine?

  • I think this would be a hard kind of book to write, and agree that the author did a great job. I loved the interactions between Maud and her daughter and caregivers. And Maud herself was a wonderful character. Great review!

    • Thank you, Naomi. I can imagine it to be a hard book to write, especially since the author’s grandmother suffered from dementia.

  • I had an uncle who practically raised me suffer from dementia, and it broke my heart. I don’t know that I can read this book.

    • I’m sorry about that Ricki 🙁

  • This just might be the book of the summer. Everyone is talking about it and it’s all positive. Thanks for the review.

    • I’ve also only seen good reviews!

  • My grandma had dementia :/ Never knew who I was

    • That is so sad and must have been heartbreaking for you 🙁

  • I really enjoyed the book, there were moments I thought of my own father quite a bit. His dementia wasn’t quite as awful as Maud. I hope this book gets the attention it deserves.

    • I hope so too, Anita. I remember you mentioned that on twitter – very sad.

  • Have been having doubts if this would be a book for me but after reading your review I will give it a try! Thanks for sharing.

  • I found this really hard to put down too! Maud was very endearing and as Karen pointed out, I thought the other did a great job making you sympathize with both her and her family.

    • It really was hard to put down. Maud was really a special character.

  • I’ve seen this popping up often lately and it sounds GOOD. Lovely review 😀

    • Thanks Jen. It is a good read, really.

  • Isi

    It sounds really good, Mel, and you have me wondering what those questions the character asks means. I will definitely read it.
    Fortunately, none of my family members have suffered from dementia.

    • That’s a good sign! (that none of your family members have suffered)
      I do hope you get a chance to read this.

  • Elizabeth is Missing

    I found this book hard to put down! Probably my top read of 2014!