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By: Emma Healey
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 6/10/2014
My Rating: 4 Stars
Emma Healey’s ELIZABETH IS MISSING, a riveting debut novel, offering readers firsthand insight into the intense thoughts and confusion, of an elderly woman with dementia, and her gradual loss of memory.
The author is quite clever in her writing, connecting the two story lines seamlessly; while being realistic, and sensitive of her main character—for a compelling read.
Maud, age 82 is at the beginning stages of dementia. She still lives at home with caretakers, coming in each day to help her with the single things; which become complicated as she begins to lose more of her memory.
She begins to think her best friend, Elizabeth is missing, and she is convinced she is in terrible danger. No one listens to her. Her daughter Helen, nor her caretakers, and definitely not the police or Elizabeth’s son, Peter. She is relentless and obsessed. She is heartbreaking; however, at times she can be humorous with her thoughts of others.
Two different sections, the first one, which I enjoyed the most—focus of Maud, the emotion, her raw thoughts and feelings, as she is acknowledging the fear of losing her memory, her age, the desperation that none of this can be happening, grasping for time to write things down while she can still remember.
Maud’s frustration is so intriguing yet realistic—as her mind jumps from one thing to another, as she pulls in the reader on an emotional level. She recalls things in her past, and as she is writing things down, she desperately does not want to forget—then she forgets the original meaning of the note, or what she is doing at any given time.
The second part—while looking for her friend, she thinks is missing; she recalls a situation with her own sister, Sukey, who disappeared after the end of the war in London. Though emotion, pain, and confusion---she manages to unravel a mystery surrounding her best friend and her sister. A number of dementia patients, cannot recall what they are doing at the moment; however, may recollect things from years past.
ELIZABETH IS MISSING tackles Maude's confusion— flawlessly. Maud is speaking in the first person and listened to the audiobook-- Davina Porter, performer—is ideal, with her elegant accent, she highlights every detail, word, phrase and captures the emotion in Maud’s voice, coming alive with her narrative style. This dynamic duo brings Maud to life in true form.
Healey grabs you from the first page to the last, as you feel as though you are listening to a story told by your grandmother sitting in front of you.
I have often wondered what goes on inside the mind of a person, such as Maude—especially of others around them; like eyes rolling, laughs, sighing when they ask the same things over and over. The confusion of not knowing where they are or what they are doing? We often are not really thinking about what they are really feeling, as most of the time, they do not share their inner thoughts, only asking when, why, or where?
Some of banter is quite humorous, as my sister is a caretaker of an elderly lady, age 90 with dementia. I have met her and she is a riot; however, sometimes the confusion is so sad. Her favorite line is, “Where in the hell am I? What in the hell are we doing here? When is Bill coming? She cannot sit still and in constant motion. She wants to leave the house and a few hours later, wants to return home.
As the author describes her inspiration for the book, it is apparent she has vast knowledge and insight into the possible thoughts of Maud in writing from her character’s perspective. It so mirrors everything my sister has mentioned in her experience caring for her similar patient.
I felt the author tacked this topic with clarity for a powerful novel. Considering many of us have aunts, mothers, or grandmothers with this condition, may relate--and each of us fear, it could happen to us one day--A rather scary thought!
Those of you who enjoyed Still Alice by Lisa Genova (Alzheimer's disease), will enjoy ELIZABETH IS MISSING.