‘Elizabeth is Missing’ by Emma Healey is a poignant tale of mystery, family and dementia. As someone who both studies psychology and lives with someone who is very involved with Dementia (raising awareness and running events designed for those with dementia and their carers), I found this story to be particularly effective.
There will be slight spoilers.
Maud is a woman with Dementia. She had carers come into look after her, as well as her daughter, and she is constantly forgetting things. Except for the fact that ‘Elizabeth is Missing’, words that are written on a note in Maud’s pocket. No-one believe Maud when she tries to report it, to find out what has happened to her friend, so Maud determines to solve the mystery herself. Unfortunately, with memory deficiencies, this is not an easy task.
I felt the portrayal of Dementia to be chilling and incredibly well done. It adds to Maud’s character rather than defining it and becomes particularly scary as it gradually increases in severity as the book goes on. I also really loved how Healey combined the present day events, that Maud struggles to remember, with those from her childhood, which she remembers with far greater clarity. This is beautifully done and, while it can be confusing (so enhancing our sympathy with Maud), it also highlights how Dementia works, with the more recent memories fading sooner.
The story is sweet and thrilling at the same time. At no point do you fully know the resolution until the end, when it all suddenly becomes clear. While some parts are easy to guess, you don’t quite know if you’ve guesses correctly, so it is not a disappointment when all is revealed. The ending itself is a mix of emotions. While it was so nice for everything to be rounded off, the last line is particularly tragic.
I absolutely loved this book and I felt Healey’s treatment of the characters was very well done – it was informed, sympathetic and the majority of the characters felt real. There were a couple that I did have a bit of trouble believing, both of which were the two more prominent male characters, so it would be interesting so see how well Healey can write a book written from a male perspective, as ‘Elizabeth is Missing’ gives the sense that her strengths lie in creating believable, well-rounded females.
All in all, I really enjoyed this book and I give it a rating of 4.5/5 stars