Elizabeth is Missing
by Emma Healey
2014 / 320 pages
read by Davina Porter 11h 9m
rating A / literary crime
A very interesting tale in which our first person protagonist, Maud, an 82-year old woman who lives alone with the assistance of her daughter, Helen, is losing it – she has dementia. She doesn’t remember things – like why she’s digging a hole in the yard – what was she looking for? Or that her usefulness as a volunteer at the local thrift shop has ended so it’s not necessary when she appears there on her “usual” day. And she doesn’t know what has happened to Elizabeth, her good friend of many years whom she hasn’t seen in a long time. So one major thread is Maud’s search for Elizabeth.
What she does remember is when her older sister Suki went missing almost 70 years prior – 1946 – and that second plot thread is intertwined with Maud’s search for Elizabeth in both the chapters and Maud’s mind somehow.
I’ve categorized it as a kind of a crime novel because the disappearance of Suki could certainly be a criminal matter and the disappearance of Elizabeth might be. Also, Healey certainly knows how to create suspense. How “reliable” is Maud? – That’s a truly a tough call – it depends on what you’re wanting to know and how you define “reliable.” She is reporting what she’s thinking, much of it is present tense. and although it’s confused, it’s “reliable” as far as it goes but how far can an 82-year old woman with creeping dementia go?
Healey also knows exactly how to get the character of Maud exactly right and her 52-year old daughter Helen is perfectly drawn, doing her level best and getting quiet exasperated by her mother.
The plot threads alternate within chapters as Maud’s mind wanders from one missing person to the other. It’s beautifully done.