Maud is in her eighties and is slowly but surely losing her memory, her ability to live alone and to take care of herself. But the one thing she cannot forget is her friend Elizabeth. Maud is convinced she is missing, no matter what her daughter Helen, her carers and Elizabeth's son Peter says. She need to find her - Elizabeth is missing. Maud writes many notes to remind herself to continue to look for Elizabeth. And she does, putting herself in harm's way and her daughter at her wit's end.
But there is a second narrative as well, from Maud's past as a young girl in Britain, shortly after World II has ended. Maud is an unreliable narrator. As the past and the present become tangled in Maud's memory, the reader is not quite sure of what is truth, what is memory and what is what might have been. But as I read, I had suspicions creeping in......
It is difficult to watch Maud struggle with knowing she is losing her memory. She is determined to hang on to her pride, her dignity and independence. And desperate to know what has happened to Elizabeth. Healey's writing captures Maud's frustration, the lost time and the fear so well. But Healey does inject humour into Maud's life as well. She is a feisty soul. Her daughter Helen is just as well drawn and provides a real and touching look at the difficult, often painful role of being a child and/or a carer of someone with dementia or Alzheimer's. I thought Helen's granddaughter Katy was very well written as well. She jokes and laughs with her grandmother and loves her very much. I wonder if there's a bit of Healey written into Katy.
Elizabeth is missing is both a mystery and a story of lives, heartbreaking, yet life affirming. Above all, it is a brilliant read, guaranteed to grab you and not let you go, even after the last page is turned. (have a tissue handy) Part of what made this book so poignant was Healey adding in part of her life and memories, with a nod to her grandmothers, Nancy and Vera.
"It was a few months after she (Nancy) died, that I began to write Elizabeth is Missing in earnest, combining the exploration of dementia prompted by Nancy with some of the stories I'd collected from Vera."
As I read, I too thought often of my own grandmothers, now both passed away. And it made me love the book even more. Read an excerpt of Elizabeth is Missing.
"Emma Healey grew up in London where she completed her first degree in bookbinding (learning how to put books together but not how to write them). She graduated from the MA in Creative Writing: Prose at UEA in 2011. Elizabeth is Missing is her first novel." You can find Emma Healey on Twitter and on Facebook.
Loved it, loved it, loved it. Emma Healey is on my 'must read' list. Can't wait to see what the next book brings. See what others on the TLC Book tour thought. Full schedule can be found here.