WINNER 2014 – Costa Book Awards—First Novel
An internationally heralded debut novel of extraordinary warmth, insight and humanity that will appeal to readers who loved The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry and Still Alice: Elizabeth Is Missing is at once a page-turning mystery that takes us from post-war Britain to the present day and a piercingly honest portrait of love and memory, families and aging through the lens of an unforgettable protagonist who will seize your heart--an elderly woman descending into forgetfulness, as she embarks alone on a quest to find the best friend she believes has disappeared.
Maud, an aging grandmother, is slowly losing her memory--and her grip on everyday life. Notes fill her pockets and dot the walls of her home, increasingly crucial reminders of the immediate world. Most crucial is the fact that she can't find her only friend--Elizabeth has disappeared: she isn't answering the phone and doesn't seem to be at her house. Maud, convinced Elizabeth is in terrible danger, refuses to forget her even if her frustrated daughter, Helen, her carer, Carla, and the police won't listen and won't help. Armed with an overwhelming feeling that Elizabeth desperately needs her help, Maud sets out to find her. And, unexpectedly, her search triggers an old and powerful memory of another unsolved disappearance--that of her sister, Sukey, who vanished more than 50 years ago, shortly after the Second World War.
As long-ago memories emerge, Maud begins to uncover forgotten clues to her sister's disappearance and to piece together the mystery that has haunted her family for decades, discovering new momentum in her search for her friend. Could the mystery of Sukey's disappearance hold the key to finding Elizabeth?
British author Healey draws on her own grandmothers' experiences to create the distinctive narrator of her first novel. Maud Horsham can no longer function safely in the present, and one of the unanswered questions of this sad, unsettling psychological mystery is why Maud lives alone in the south of England, with only a little part-time help and daily visits from Helen, her grown daughter. When Maud becomes obsessed with the apparent disappearance of Elizabeth, "the only friend I have left," her already erratic life becomes chaotic. All of her attempts to find Elizabeth, including visits to the police, are unsuccessful. Meanwhile, Maud's search for Elizabeth elicits memories of another disappearance that of her sister, Sukey, back in 1948. Few readers may want to journey through the mind of a person with dementia, but Healey demonstrates that an absorbing tale can indeed be written from such a perspective.
If you have ever wondered what dementia feels like or have lacked patience with an aging parent, this book will help you. Narrated by Maud whose faculties are failing, it is a compassionate tale of still feeling and knowing the ones you love through the thickening fog of forgetting. It is suspenseful and compelling, combining past memories with Maud's life with failing awareness.
A wonderful read.