Monday, June 16, 2014
ELIZABETH IS MISSING by Emma Healey
With her debut novel Healey has given us a unique, compelling protagonist in Maud, an octogenarian who is suffering from dementia. In an attempt to capture what her mind can no longer grasp Maud leaves copious notes not only with what she wishes to remember, but instructions from her grown daughter, Helen, and care givers plus comments on the way she is treated. Healey describes Maud’s condition with heartbreaking accuracy and bits of black wit. Thus, we are able to take Maud’s journey with her, ache for her, and be reminded of how condescension may hurt. Elizabeth Is Missing is a brilliant story, part mystery, part psychological drama, always absorbing.
Maud has become obsessed with finding her best friend, Elizabeth, as she puts it the only friend she has left. She has gone to Elizabeth’s house, knocked on the door and no one answers. She has gone to the police several times to report Elizabeth’s absence but they patronize her by saying something like “Of course, the entire force is out looking for her.” Helen tells her Elizabeth is fine as does Elizabeth’s son, but Maud cannot believe either of them.
Maud remembers the good times she and Elizabeth once had and searches her mind (and her notes)for clues as to where Elizabeth might be. In doing this Maud is reminded of another disappearance, that of her older sister, Sukey, who vanished in 1948. She sees again the rupture this caused in her family as her mother and father searched for Sukey. The police eventually conclude that Sukey has simply run away but Maud cannot believe that her dear sister would ever do that.
This story of friendship, love and loss is not to be forgotten, and Maud is to be remembered. Emma Healey is an amazing talent and I eagerly await her next book.
- Gail Cooke