Elizabeth Is Missing

Patty Osborne

When your narrator has Alzheimer’s Disease, neither you nor she can be sure of the facts, which is what makes Elizabeth Is Missing by Emma Healey (Knopf Canada) such an intriguing story—it’s both a mystery and an empathetic look at the warped logic of an Alzheimer’s mind. The narrator, Maud, hasn’t seen her good friend Elizabeth for a while and she’s convinced that Elizabeth has disappeared and is in danger, but since Maud’s disease makes it impossible for her to piece together the clues to Elizabeth’s current whereabouts, she grows increasingly frustrated (that is, when she can even remember to worry about Elizabeth). Maud’s frustration is mirrored by that of her daughter, who, with the help of frequent visits and sticky notes, is trying to keep Maud safe and grounded and in her own home. For a while Maud had me convinced that this was going to be a standard, if somewhat quirky, mystery, but then memories of her sister, who vanished when both girls were in their twenties, start to muddy the waters. Is Elizabeth’s disappearance real, or is Maud just reliving her sister’s disappearance? Will Maud solve both mysteries, or neither of them? Added to the mix are the chaos of London after World War II, Elizabeth’s seemingly ill-tempered and perhaps guilty son, a suspicious boarder, an awkward husband and a madwoman. It’s enough to make a reader as muddle-headed as Maud, but not enough to make me want to put down this well-written, absorbing book.

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