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Elizabeth Is Missing

Elizabeth Is Missing

4.1 39
by Emma Healey

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In this darkly riveting debut novel, a sophisticated psychological mystery, one woman will stop at nothing to fiFInd her best friend, who seems to have gone missing. . . . 

Despite Maud's growing anxiety about Elizabeth's welfare, no one takes her concerns seriously—not her frustrated daughter, not her caretakers, not the police, and especially not


In this darkly riveting debut novel, a sophisticated psychological mystery, one woman will stop at nothing to fiFInd her best friend, who seems to have gone missing. . . . 

Despite Maud's growing anxiety about Elizabeth's welfare, no one takes her concerns seriously—not her frustrated daughter, not her caretakers, not the police, and especially not Elizabeth's mercurial son—because Maud suffers from dementia. But even as her memory disintegrates and she becomes increasingly dependent on the trail of handwritten notes she leaves for herself in her pockets and around her house, Maud cannot forget her best friend. Armed with only an overwhelming feeling that Elizabeth needs her help, Maud resolves to discover the truth—no matter what it takes.

As this singular obsession forms a cornerstone of Maud's rapidly dissolving present, the clues she uncovers lead her deeper into her past, to another unsolved disappearance: that of her sister, Sukey, who vanished shortly after World War II. As vivid memories of a tragedy that occurred more than fifty years ago come flooding back, Maud's search for Elizabeth develops a frantic momentum. Whom can she trust? Can she trust herself?

A page-turning novel of suspense, Elizabeth Is Missing also hauntingly reminds us that we are all at the mercy of our memory. Always compelling, often poignant, and at times even blackly witty, this is an absolutely unforgettable novel.

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
★ 04/15/2014
Maud's memory is going quickly. She doesn't always know who her daughter is and ends up buying cans of peaches at the store every time she shops because she can't figure out how to find the items on her list. One thing Maud is sure of though, her friend Elizabeth is missing. But she can't convince anyone else. So Maud leaves herself notes and attempts to visit Elizabeth, only to be turned away by her angry son, Peter. Maud's investigative attempts also awaken memories of an earlier disappearance, that of her sister Sukey many years ago. Where Maud has difficulty keeping track of her current life from moment to moment, the past becomes clearer and forms a disturbing picture—one that may connect to the missing Elizabeth. VERDICT Delving into the mind of a woman suffering from dementia, Healey uses her unreliable narrator to create realistic tension. Suspenseful and emotional in equal parts, the author's debut hits all the right notes. Fans of other books with questionable narrators like Alice LaPlante's Turn of Mind and S.J. Watson's Before I Go To Sleep will find much to love here. [See Prepub Alert, 1/6/14.]—Jane Jorgenson, Madison P.L., WI
Publishers Weekly
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. Agent: Karolina Sutton, Curtis Brown (U.K.). (June)
Booklist (starred review)
“Part mystery, part meditation on memory, part Dickensian revelation of how apparent charity may hurt its recipients, this is altogether brilliant.”
The Bookseller
“A gripping mystery…this bears comparison to A Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time and S. J. Watson’s Before I Go to Sleep.
The Observer
Elizabeth Is Missing is every bit as compelling as the...hype suggests.... The novel is both a gripping detective yarn and a haunting depiction of mental illness, but also more poignant and blackly comic than you might expect.”
Kimberly McCreight
“Ingeniously structured and remarkably poignant…. A riveting story of friendship and loss that will have you compulsively puzzling fact from fiction as you race to the last page.”
Jonathan Coe
“This novel genuinely is one of those semi-mythical beasts, the book you cannot put down.”
Deborah Moggach
“A thrillingly assured, haunting and unsettling novel, I read it at a gulp.”
Emma Donoghue
Elizabeth is Missing will stir and shake you: an investigation into a seventy-year-old crime, through the eyes of the most likeably unreliable of narrators. But the real mystery at its compassionate core is the fragmentation of the human mind.”
Sunday Times (London)
“This is no conventional crime novel but a compelling work that crosses literary genres.… The result is bold, touching and hugely memorable.”
Wall Street Journal
“[A] knockout debut…. Ms. Healey’s audacious conception and formidable talent combine in a bravura performance that sustains its momentum and pathos to the last.”
The Independent
“It is a gripping thriller, but it’s also about life and love: the love of an exasperated daughter for her mother; the love of sisters and of friends and the love I felt for Maud.”
“Healey is able to imagine and empathize on such a level because she’s simply a brilliant writer. Let’s hope we hear much more from her over the years.”
New York Journal of Books
“A compelling read, Elizabeth is Missing offers added depth of mystery and suspense along with aptly portraying a family trying to cope with illness.”
New York Times Book Review
“Maud Horsham, the narrator of Emma Healey’s spellbinding first novel…is aware that she’s slipping into dementia…. It’s a sad and lonely business watching your identity slowly slip away. But even at the end, Maud insists on making herself heard and understood.”
Kirkus Reviews
Maud's memory is failing, slipping further away each day. So how can she convince anyone that her best friend is truly missing?In her debut novel, Healey deftly evokes the frustrations of Maud and her daughter, both annoyed by Maud's inability to remember that she bought peach slices yesterday (not to mention the day before), or her own address or the fact that she's already alerted the police to Elizabeth's absence four times. Large and small notes blanket the house and fill Maud's purse with reminders (no more peaches; Elizabeth's son says she's OK), but Maud disregards or mistrusts them, questioning her daughter's authority and Elizabeth's son's truthfulness. Healey also compassionately draws the landscape of Maud's mind, layering the past over the present, blurring the lines between reality and memory. Just as she's worried about Elizabeth in the present, she's troubled by events from her childhood in post-World War II London. Then, she and her parents had a lodger, Douglas. Her sister, Sukey, lived with her husband, Frank, in a big house crammed with odds and ends collected through his furniture-moving business. But Sukey disappeared, too. Both Douglas and Frank were briefly considered suspects. Certainly, Douglas' close friendship with Sukey and Frank's mysterious business dealings raised some hackles. But a lack of evidence prompted officials to determine that Sukey likely just ran away. But Maud never believed that her beloved sister would have left of her own accord without saying goodbye. Could the two mysteries be connected? With little to no assistance from the police, then or now, the family must band together to discover the truth. At first, Maud's disintegrating memory stymies her progress, but soon enough, the elision of boundaries becomes an asset.A poignant novel of loss.

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HarperCollins Publishers
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Read an Excerpt


‘Maud? Was I boring you so much that you’d rather stand outside in the dark?’

A woman calls to me from the warm light of a cluttered dining room. My breath curls towards her, wet and ghostly, but no words follow. The snow, sparse but bright on the ground, reflects the light on to her face, which is drawn tight in an attempt to see. I know, though, that she can’t see very well, even in the daylight.

‘Come inside,’ she says. ‘It’s freezing. I promise I won’t say another word about frogs and snails and majolica ware.’

‘I wasn’t bored,’ I say, realizing too late that she’s joking. ‘I’ll be there in a minute. I’m just looking for something.’ In my hand is the thing I’ve already found, still clotted with mud. A small thing, easily missed. The broken lid of an old compact, its silver tarnished, its navy-blue enamel no longer glassy but scratched and dull. The mildewed mirror is like a window on a faded world, like a porthole looking out under the ocean. It makes me squirm with memories.

‘What have you lost?’ The woman steps, precarious and trembling, out on to the patio. ‘Can I help? I might not be able to see it, but I can probably manage to trip over it if it’s not too
well hidden.’

I smile, but I don’t move from the grass. Snow has collected on the ridges of a shoeprint and it looks like a tiny dinosaur fossil freshly uncovered. I clutch at the compact lid in my hand, soil tightening my skin as it dries. I’ve missed this tiny thing for nearly seventy years. And now the earth, made sludgy and chewable with the melting snow, has spat out a relic. Spat it
into my hand. But where from? That’s what I can’t discover. Where did it lie before it became the gristle in the earth’s meal?

An ancient noise, like a fox bark, makes an attempt at the edges of my brain. ‘Elizabeth?’ I ask. ‘Did you ever grow marrows?’

Meet the Author

Emma Healey holds a degree in bookbinding and an MA in creative writing. Elizabeth Is Missing is her first novel. She lives in the UK.

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Elizabeth Is Missing 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 39 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
As a physician, I have cared for hundreds of Alzheimers patients from the time they were whole to the end of there disease. This book does not explain the disease, instead you live the illness with the protagonist as she slowly loses chunks of herself while finding chunks of a loss. It is mesmerizing to read as someone so smoothly morphs from today to 70 years ago. You care deeply about this woman and you feel her sorrow and confusion. The tender care of her daughter and the angst she must feel is skillfully expressed through the mother. At heart is a mystery, a whodunit but the most interesting take on that genre I have ever read.
Twink More than 1 year ago
One of the best things about my job is being asked "What have you read that's really good lately?" Well, Emma Healey's debut novel, Elizabeth is Missing, is one title I'll be recommending over and over again this summer. I really, really loved this book. Okay, you loved it Luanne, now what's it about? Maud is in her eighties and is slowly but surely losing her memory, her ability to live alone and to take care of herself. But the one thing she cannot forget is her friend Elizabeth. Maud is convinced she is missing, no matter what her daughter Helen, her carers and Elizabeth's son Peter says. She need to find her - Elizabeth is missing. Maud writes many notes to remind herself to continue to look for Elizabeth. And she does, putting herself in harm's way and her daughter at her wit's end. But there is a second narrative as well, from Maud's past as a young girl in Britain, shortly after World II has ended. Maud is an unreliable narrator. As the past and the present become tangled in Maud's memory, the reader is not quite sure of what is truth, what is memory and what is what might have been. But as I read, I had suspicions creeping in...... It is difficult to watch Maud struggle with knowing she is losing her memory. She is determined to hand on to her pride, her dignity and independence. And desperate to know what has happened to Elizabeth. Healey's writing captures Maud's frustration, the lost time and the fear so well. But Healey does inject humour into Maud's life as well. She is a feisty soul. Her daughter Helen is just as well drawn and provides a real and touching look at the difficult, often painful role of being a child and/or a carer of someone with dementia or Alzheimer's. I thought Helen's granddaughter Katy was very well written as well. She jokes and laughs with her grandmother and loves her very much. I wonder if there's a bit of Healey written into Katy. Elizabeth is missing is both a mystery and a story of lives, heartbreaking, yet life affirming. Above all, it is a brilliant read, guaranteed to grab you and not let you go, even after the last page is turned. (have a tissue handy) Part of what made this book so poignant was Healey adding in part of her life and memories, with a nod to her grandmothers, Nancy and Vera. "It was a few months after she (Nancy) died, that I began to write Elizabeth is Missing in earnest, combining the exploration of dementia prompted by Nancy with some of the stories I'd collected from Vera." As I read, I too thought often of my own grandmothers, now both passed away. And it made me love the book even more.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Unbelievably well done, especially considering that this is the author's first book. The description of Maud's descent into dementia was incredibly realistic. All the characters were fully fleshed out and the London setting was very believable and added immensely to the overall story. Would not hesitate to buy the author's next book or to recommend this book to others. Great! WOW!
Reader2FL More than 1 year ago
This is the first book that I have read by this author, and it proved to be a good choice. Topic is very interesting and one that most of us will face. I would highly recommend this book!!!
99Bokov More than 1 year ago
A mystery that gives you an insight into an aging mind. It is both funny and sad. A very good read.
cloggiedownunder More than 1 year ago
“…I remember the town being almost too bright to look at when I was a girl. I remember the deep blue of the sky and the dark green of the pines cutting through it, the bright red of the local brick houses and the orange carpet of pine needles under our feet. Nowadays – though I’m sure the sky is still occasionally blue and most houses are still there, and the trees still drop their needles – nowadays, the colours seem faded, as if I live in an old photograph.” Elizabeth Is Missing is the first novel by British author, Emma Healey. Eighty-two-year-old Maud Horsham is demented. She lives in her own home, has a carer coming daily to help out, and gets regular visits from her daughter Helen. And she is fairly certain that her best friend, Elizabeth is missing. Elizabeth is not at home (Maud has checked) and she feels that Elizabeth’s unfriendly son, Peter Markham is sure to be behind it. Maud finds it frustrating how unconcerned both Helen and the Police are about her disappearance. While she still has lucid moments, Maud’s mental state ensures that generally her narrative of the present-day is unreliable. But the people and things that fill her day remind her of a time, almost seventy years ago, when she was fourteen and her older, married sister, Susan went missing. After dinner with her family, Sukey disappeared almost without a trace. Did she just run off, as many people just after the war did? Or did her jealous husband, Frank, or the family’s lodger, Doug, have something to do with it? Or was she a victim of the Grosvenor Hotel murderer? Maud’s memories of this time are crystal clear.  While this is a mystery that builds quite gradually, and it is perhaps not the mystery that the reader first expects (Elizabeth’s location is no real surprise), patience is rewarded as the pieces fall into place. Healey expertly segues present triggers into memories of the past, and despite her youth, shows an amazing insight into the world of the elderly and the demented. As anyone with a demented relative or friend will agree, there are times when the best reaction is to laugh, the alternative being to cry, and Healey portrays these moments with consummate ease. This is not a book for everyone: some readers may find it strikes a little too close to home. Perceptive, blackly funny and often frighteningly realistic, this is a brilliant debut novel. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Healy nailed the voice of an Alzheimer's sufferer, but in doing so, the narrative was a bit hard to follow. For those of us who have watched our parents live through the confusing and frustrating maze of thinking and living with the disease, it brought both frightening anticipation of what we might experience in the future and pain of what we have witnessed in the day to day lives of our parents. The dual mysteries also made it more difficult to follow, as the character jumps back and forth from the two time periods in her life when the disappearances took place. This is one that you would profit from reading straight through with few breaks so the plot is fresh on your mind.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healy Published June 10th 2014 by Harper 4 star review Emma Healey tells the poignant story of a woman in her 80's struggling with dementia and being unable to care for herself any longer. Healey uses the first person narrative of the main character, Maude, as she struggles with her reality and how to communicate with her family. The story alternates between Maude's life now as she is thinking her best friend is missing and Maude's life in 1946 when her sister actually went missing. Unable to differentiate between what is currently happening and what are her memories, Maude has difficulty communicating with her family in what she ultimately knows and what she doesn't understand. Most writers take on Alzheimer's and dementia from the caretaker's perspective. Miss Healey skillfully shows the devastating and heart-rendering effects of dealing with dementia from the first person perspective. This novel, at points, were difficult to read, because the main character and her struggle is written well. Miss Healey is able to show Maude deftly in both incoherent moments as well as in very lucid moments, showing her personality and her true reactions when people do not take her seriously or mock. Secondary characters were also smartly written, which helps keep the story moving and believable. Definitely a book worth reading.
love2readCD More than 1 year ago
I thought it was compelling that Emma Healey narrated as the voice of Maud as it so clearly defined for us the nature of dementia. I thought this story was lovely and touching. I was very impressed and would read another book by this author. Well done.
quaintinns More than 1 year ago
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 Maude, 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 Maud'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 Maude’s voice, coming alive with her narrative style. This dynamic duo brings Maude 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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Gives a real feel of the commings and goings of a mind as it slips into severe dementia.
osaka More than 1 year ago
Too slow I understand the author was trying to make us see what it would be like to have Alzheimers, however, the story didn't move along quickly enough. I was speed reading to try to get to the end which I normally don't like to do. This could have been just a short story. This is nothing compared to "Still Alice".
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Well written tale familiar to anyone who has dealt with loved ones having dimentia. Mystery is incidential. I did not have patience and jumped to end.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Enjoyed this book, there were times when I felt love Ike I stepped into the Enjoyed this book, there were times when I felt I had stepped into the main character's shoes. Maud unknowing solves mysteries. Good read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Not only is it a multi faceted mystery, but it takes Maud's dementia (or Alzheimers) and gives the reader a different viewpoint of a difficult disease.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Ms. Healey has written a book dealing with aging in a way that is both sensitive and sometimes humorous. She gives us a spunky main character negotiating her way through the huge changes and challenges of the elderly and their families as well as a bit of mystery and adventure. I cared about these characters. I wanted things to work out for them. This is a very well written book that is hard to put down. Well worth the read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Compassionate, sad, funny and dark , this novel is far more perceptive and original than most mysteries.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A different kind of mysyery where it takes patience and intelligence to find the answer.
TulaneGirl More than 1 year ago
So I loved, loved this book. I suppose this could be filed under suspense but it really is secondary to the exploration of dementia. There is so much respect and dignity to the condition. Maud is the most unreliable narrator I've read in a while. As she progresses in her dementia, she latches on to the thought that won't leave her - her friend, Elizabeth, is missing. We all know from the get go that Elizabeth isn't truly missing. That isn't part of the suspense. But Maud can't leave the obsessive thought that Elizabeth is missing. That thought brings back memories of her childhood - of a time when her sister, Sukey, went missing. As her present memory degenerates, she bounces back to post-war England, unraveling clues as to what happened to Sukey. The mystery itself is second rate with a lot of obvious red herrings, but the way it was done was amazing. The struggle between patience and love is apparent in every interaction between Maud and her daughter Helen and Katie, Maud's teenage granddaughter brings much needed levity in just the right places. Otherwise it could have been quite heavy and dreary. Ms. Healey gives us an amazing look into the thoughts of a woman losing pieces of herself day by day. She perfectly captures the fear, embarrassment, and confusion that comes with losing memories - the things that make us, well us. It's a hard book to read - particularly if someone you know or love suffers from dementia. But it's also deeply thoughtful book that forces us to remember to be sympathetic to the person suffering and remembering that behind the rambles lies a person, through and through.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Could not finish i am pround that i did not tteat my mom ths eay
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I borrowed this book from the library and I enjoyed it so much that I will purchase it for my nook. The author has a great grasp of character and I can't wait to read what she writes next!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It is one of the modt boring books i have ever read
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a book that will stay with me for quite a while.  It is narrated by Maud, an elderly woman who steadily slides further into dementia over the course of the story.  In the beginning I found it a little difficult to follow until I realized that Maud drifts between the present and the distant past confusing the disappearance of her sister 70 years ago with her inability to determine what has happened to Elizabeth, her elderly compatriot and friend.  This is such a vivid portrayal of a person caught up in the damages of Alzheimer's that I found it mesmerizing and heart-breaking at the same time.  I'm afraid my comments aren't doing the book justice so I will just conclude by saying that it is a different and unique type of book and I highly recommend that you read it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was an interesting and riveting story. Well written and good character development. I look forward to other books by Emma Healey.