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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