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.
For some other perspectives, check out the other stops on the tour, Amazon, or Goodreads.
Karen @ One More Page...
Great review! I agree that Healey did (to my limited knowledge as well) a great job showing a balanced perspective in regards to dementia. She wrote it in a way that I sympathized both Maud and her caretakers, and the exploration of memory (eg. what she can remember vs. what she can’t) was fascinating.
Exactly! I think that was one of the great strengths of this book and something that would have been much harder to do if the story hadn’t been told for Maud’s perspective. I was very impressed by the way the author made me feel for all of the characters.
C.J. @ ebookclassics
Thanks for the review! I’ve heard so much about this book. It sounds funny and sad. I can’t imagine what it would be like to lose your ability to hold onto reality.
I can’t imagine it either! Although the author managed to inject some humor and happiness into this story, the main character’s situation is both heartbreaking and terrifying.
I thought this book was so well done. There seemed to have just he right balance of everything. Because of the way she wrote it, it wasn’t even as sad as it might have been. Maud was such a great character. And, yes, it reminds us to remember that there is more going on inside the minds of the elderly or people suffering from dementia that we know. Great review!
I really liked that the author wrote this in such a way that it wasn’t just sad, because it’s true, it very easily could have been. I wish the ending had been a tiny bit more uplifting, but I think it was more realistic as is.
The dementia part sounds rough! My husband’s grandfather had Alzheimer’s and whenever we’d visit him, he’d ask where his wife was and would say he didn’t understand why she left him. In reality she had died recently, which is when he got really bad. It was hard to visit him because the only times he truly remembered were years before us and the fact that his wife was currently gone.
When Maud started forgetting her family, the author did a really good job showing how hard the situation was on both Maud and her family but I don’t think I can even imagine what a hard situation that must be to actually find yourself in. Thank you for sharing your personal connection to such a tough topic!
You’re comments about it being a light read are echoed by S. Krishna’s Books. The publisher is doing it no favors by billing it as a quick read or psychological thriller. From what I hear, it is a great book, but it is neither of these things.
I agree! I find calling a book about dementia a light read silly and maybe even a bit insulting. It’s an easy read – big writing, fast-paced plot – but it is most certainly not a light read. It’s just too tough a topic!
I enjoyed this book too, but I also felt it was mislabeled as a thriller. It was very well done, and Maud is an amazing character study of aging and dementia. I’m not sure it’s being marketed to the right audience.
I think that’s a good point! I could maybe see describing it as a psychological thriller, because it was at times a very tense read. However, I mostly didn’t feel like Maud was in any danger and I think I’d find this pretty tame if I was someone who read a lot of thrillers and picked this up because it was marketed that way.
Dementia/Alzheimer’s books always make me so sad, I just can’t read them. This was a lovely review that made me wish I could, though!
I completely understand! I thought this author did a good job making the book occasionally humorous or heartwarming as well as sad, but it was still very, very sad at times.
I have Elizabeth is Missing on my to-read list for a while, and I’ve been reluctant to pick it up now that it’s out because I’m afraid that it would be too heartbreakingly sad… but at the same time, I’m really drawn the mystery part, especially the “is Elizabeth even missing?” idea, haha. It definitely sounds like a thought-provoking book – thanks for the review!
It was definitely sad sometimes, but overall I enjoyed reading it, so hopefully that will be the case for you too 🙂
Joy Weese Moll (@joyweesemoll)
I read a review of this yesterday because Becca of I’m Lost in Books linked hers up to British Isles Friday. You’re welcome to add yours as well — always good to have multiple perspectives!
Thanks Joy! I’ve added my review 🙂
Heather J @ TLC Book Tours
This sounds like such a touching, heart-breaking story. Thanks for being a part of the tour. I’m featuring your review on TLC’s Facebook page today.
It was so good! Thanks for featuring my review 🙂
I’ve had my eye on this for a while and I’m so glad to see you enjoyed it. Its definitely going in my TBR now.
Oh good! I hope you enjoy it as much as I did 🙂
Melinda @ The Book Musings
Great review! I loved this book. You’re right, it was really hard to put down and Maud was such a special character. I really did sympathize with her. There were some parts that were quite humorous – like when she called the doctor, called her daughter a liar and especially where her granddaughter told her to ask Helen again where to grow summer squash 😀
It’s true! I adored her interaction with her granddaughter. Given how frustrating some of Maud’s interactions were, it was nice to have someone be so good with her.
Katie @ Words for Worms
I don’t know if I could handle this one- my grandma had dementia and reading Still Alice just about broke me. Still, it sounds fascinating!
I thought it was heartbreaking despite having very little personal experience with the topic. My grandmother is beginning to experience some memory loss, but only short term and not to the extent where she doesn’t know me, which I think would be the hardest part. I couldn’t imagine reading this if it hit closer to home!