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Editorial Reviews

Editors Select, June 2014 - Elizabeth Is Missing is a captivating and original debut novel from author Emma Healey. It’s told from the perspective of Maud, a lovable but forgetful 82-year-old woman whose grip on reality is slowly slipping away. She’s convinced herself that her friend Elizabeth has gone missing, and sets out on a scattered crusade to uncover the truth behind the disappearance. As Maud’s memory of the present fades, her past becomes more vivid and soon her efforts to find Elizabeth uncover clues to the mystery of her sister Sukey’s disappearance more than half a century earlier. The story comes together in the form of a methodically crafted jigsaw puzzle – sporadically transitioning from past to present and fully immersing the listener into the fragmented and terrifying experience of dementia. —Regina, Audible Editor

Publisher's Summary

In this darkly riveting debut novel - a sophisticated psychological mystery that is also a heartbreakingly honest meditation on memory, identity, and aging - an elderly woman descending into dementia embarks on a desperate quest to find the best friend she believes has disappeared, and her search for the truth will go back decades and have shattering consequences.

Maud, an aging grandmother, is slowly losing her memory - and her grip on everyday life. Yet she refuses to forget her best friend, Elizabeth, whom she is convinced is missing and in terrible danger.

But no one will listen to Maud - not her frustrated daughter, Helen, not her caretakers, not the police, and especially not Elizabeth’s mercurial son, Peter. Armed with handwritten notes she leaves for herself and an overwhelming feeling that Elizabeth needs her help, Maud resolves to discover the truth and save her beloved friend.

This singular obsession forms a cornerstone of Maud’s rapidly dissolving present. But the clues she discovers seem only to lead her deeper into her past, to another unsolved disappearance: her sister, Sukey, who vanished shortly after World War II.

As vivid memories of a tragedy that occurred more 50 years ago come flooding back, Maud discovers new momentum in her search for her friend. Could the mystery of Sukey’s disappearance hold the key to finding Elizabeth?

©2014 Emma Healey (P)2014 HarperCollinsPublishers

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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Disturbing

As a woman rapidly approaching 70, I did find this novel compelling and also disturbing as a very accurate look into the decline of an elderly person's ability to even control his own thought processes. The "mystery" is the least important part of this story. The story of the gradual breakdown in the character's personality is far more interesting. Having been responsible for the care of my childless aunt who was stricken with Altzheimer's, I can now better appreciate why she acted the way she did and why nothing I did made any difference at all.
Highly recommended.

11 of 11 people found this review helpful

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Can't wait to see what she does next!

What a debut! And though this book is very well-written and beautifully narrated, I did not find it an easy listen. The author goes out on a limb in order to put us inside the mind of an elderly woman with serious dementia, most likely Alzheimer's. And the limb bears the weight of this construct. It's very well done, to the extent of being genuinely frightening, along the lines of "that poor woman" and "please don't let this happen to me." The book unravels two mysteries: that of the title, and a much, much older one from the narrator's past. It's gripping and absorbing, and at times so intense that I had to take a break.

Not the least of the author's accomplishments is to increase our understanding of what it might be like inside the mind of those with dementia.

Highly recommended.

8 of 8 people found this review helpful

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A contemporary mystery for non-mystery lovers.

This was an interesting mystery. It is interesting because the investigation is pursued by Maud, an 82-year-old British woman suffering from advanced dementia. Poor Maud. She is confused and sometimes she knows why, but mostly she is just confused. Maud insists to her daughter, Helen, and everyone around her that her friend, Elizabeth, is missing. As one could guess, Maud’s search runs her around in circles and involves many written notes to herself. It also finds her in precarious situations that are maybe a bit dangerous for her. At the same time, another story is being told of Maud’s older sister, Sukey, who goes missing when Maud is a girl. The book switches back and forth between Maud searching for Elizabeth and Maud recounting the story of the search for Sukey. There is entertainment and heartbreak to be had in watching Maud untangle the web of Elizabeth’s disappearance and in watching Sukey’s story unfold. It was quite interesting to see the author’s perspective on what may be going on in the mind of one who has severe memory loss. I don’t know if the author got it right, but what she delivered was very believable. As the book progresses, so does Maud’s memory loss and sometimes she was able to glimpse this decline. To me, those were interesting moments. As a reader, I felt the pain and frustration of Helen, Maud’s daughter, in dealing with the physical and emotional care of Maud. Maud could be a bit frustrating at times because she was always repeating herself, but I fell in love with her anyway because of her determination to find Elizabeth and because of her pain in losing Sukey and all those emotions that go along with that. I have to admit that I was more captivated in finding out what happened to Sukey than Elizabeth, but I was also second guessing myself on the “whodunit” and the “what happened” the whole way through the book. This is not a fast paced read. It is entertaining, but not action packed. I know this sounds weird, but I think this is a mystery that non-mystery fans will appreciate more than mystery fans themselves. The narrator was spot on for this role. She related a good young Maud and a good old Maud.

13 of 14 people found this review helpful

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A tour de force!

The story is told by Maude who is increasingly suffering from dementia. Talk about an unreliable narrator! But because we hear what is happening in her brain, we understand that everything makes a kind of sense, other people just don't see those connections. This book made me want to be more patient with and interested in my aging relatives.

The narration is brilliant. The great Davina Porter captures the many sudden mood changes and confusions while keeping the heroine relatable. Also there are parts of the story that are early memories, and Porter changes her voice enough so that she is still Maude but a younger one.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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A Captivating and Original Debut

Elizabeth Is Missing is a captivating and original debut novel from author Emma Healey. It’s told from the perspective of Maud, a lovable but forgetful 82-year-old woman whose grip on reality is slowly slipping away. She’s convinced herself that her friend Elizabeth has gone missing, and sets out on a scattered crusade to uncover the truth behind the disappearance. As Maud’s memory of the present fades, her past becomes more vivid and soon her efforts to find Elizabeth uncover clues to the mystery of her sister Sukey’s disappearance more than half a century earlier. The story comes together in the form of a methodically crafted jigsaw puzzle – sporadically transitioning from past to present and fully immersing the listener into the fragmented and terrifying experience of dementia.

12 of 14 people found this review helpful

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Sad and wonderful

That someone could capture the confusion of dementia with such insight and compassion is surprising and very moving. The added mystery made this more than a book about someone descending into madness.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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Fantastic

The best book I've read this year. Great story, well written and masterfully narrated. Simply phenomenal. Don't miss out on this one!

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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Brilliant

Loved the clever way Emma wove the two mysteries of the young and old Maud together. The mystery made it a page turner. Her narrative of Maud's muddled thinking was insightful. All in all highly recommend this.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Poignant mystery novel

Emma Healey has written a very unusual novel that is also a mystery story. Maud is an aging woman, whom we quickly realize is losing her memory (and to a slight degree, her identity). However, there are bits and pieces of memory that are intact--one being that she is seeking her friend Elizabeth. To attempt to keep herself focused, she writes endless notes, and when people (like her daughter) do notice she is not recalling things accurately, is quick to try to justify to herself, and cover up to others, for her lapses. As she is seeking Elizabeth, things begin to unroll in a unexpected way, and she starts to get in touch with memories of the disappearance of her sister Sukey, at the end of WWII.

This book is a clever way to have a protagonist who is solving mysteries--perhaps the most unique approach I've seen in a long while. But what is far more moving about the book is Healey's ability to convey the frightening and confusing experience of aging, lacking the ability to keep things in mind, desperate to get the attention of others who often don't believe her because of the confused way she presents her thoughts.

If you like mysteries, this is quite good. But if you are looking for a very compelling, emotionally gripping novel, this is excellent. Many people face a future like Maud's as part of aging, and boldly bringing this experience to the pages of this book was courageous, and evokes quite a sense of compassion for any of us who do or might someday struggle with these issues. Highly recommend.

14 of 18 people found this review helpful

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Just too slow for me

This story moved too slowly for me. I did not enjoy the mixed up point of view of the narrator. I felt sorry for her family and it was too reminiscent of my own mother's situation. The ending was not clear as to what really happened for me.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful