Title: Elizabeth Is Missing
Author: Emma Healey
Source: from publisher via TLC Book Tours
Review Summary: As promised by the book jacket, parts of this book were darkly humorous, but mostly it was a poignant, emotional story about family and growing old.
“Despite Maud’s growing anxiety about Elizabeth’s welfare, no one takes her concerns seriously—not her frustrated daughter, not her caretakers, not the police, and especially not Elizabeth’s mercurial son—because Maud suffers from dementia. But even as her memory disintegrates and she becomes increasingly dependent on the trail of handwritten notes she leaves for herself in her pockets and around her house, Maud cannot forget her best friend. Armed with only an overwhelming feeling that Elizabeth needs her help, Maud resolves to discover the truth—no matter what it takes.” (Source)
Since I would never describe Elizabeth Is Missing as a light book, I’m surprised to say that it was a very quick read. The mystery of what happened to Maud’s friend Elizabeth brings back memories of her sister’s disappearance years ago. Both mysteries proceed in parallel. Both fired up my curiosity and made this book hard to put down. The two stories connected naturally, with present day events inspiring Maud to remember the past. This made it easy for me to transition between stories and made the book a pleasure to read. I’ve never been sure if I’d like dealing with an unreliable narrator, but I think it was perfect for this book. It added another layer to the mystery (is Elizabeth even missing?) and made me empathize with Maud, even with the trouble and confusion she sometimes causes her caretakers.
Despite having the high tension of a mystery, Maud’s perspective also made the book philosophical and thought-provoking. Although I’ve never been in Maud’s position, from my limited perspective it seems as though the author did a great job identifying the many ways memory loss would make daily life more difficult. On occasion, the situations Maud gets herself into and the misunderstandings she has with others are bleakly humorous. They’re also always sad though, especially since they often lead to Maud feeling embarrassed or confused. I hope I’ve always been considerate of older people, but this book served as a stark reminder that an older person struggling to do something that seems mundane may be dealing with much tougher problems than we realize. I would recommend this to anyone who loves psychological thrillers or mysteries without too much danger. For someone with aging relatives, this story might be too heart-breakingly sad, but could also provide a perspective that would be valuable for understanding a loved one.