New Fiction: Elizabeth is Missing – Emma Healey

Kimberly McCreight, author of last summer’s “it” suspense debut, Reconstructing Amelia calls this “[i]ngeniously 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.”

I sometimes wonder if the current vogue of “memory impairment suspense” is a function of the anxiety of aging baby boomers. Think recent hits like Before I Go to Sleep and Turn of Mind. I think we’ll see more of this kind of suspense where the protagonist’s compromised memory and perception adds a delicious, twisty layer to the mystery.

Debut writer Healey has the #1 LibraryReads pick for June.

“Your best friend doesn’t respond to calls or knocks on the door. A moving van is loaded with your friend’s possessions….Part of the wallop of this mystery is that a woman with declining memory and mental powers is placed in the position of detective. This adds to the urgency of her quest, since Maud is battling the condescension of her care-takers, the police, and her daughter as her faculties fade. Another part of the power of this debut novel is that Maud is the narrator; this choice of point of view gives readers a lens on the casual cruelties inflicted on the aging, especially those with dementia….Part mystery, part meditation on memory, part Dickensian revelation of how apparent charity may hurt its recipients, this is altogether brilliant.”
   — Booklist (starred review)

In her debut novel, Healey deftly evokes the frustrations of Maud and her daughter, both annoyed by Maud’s inability to remember…. 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… [when her sister] Sukey disappeared, too.… 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.”
Kirkus Reviews

“Although Maud’s octogenarian memory is clearly disintegrating…but her dear friend Elizabeth remains clear in Maud’s mind. So does her sister Sukey who disappeared nearly 70 years before. Gradually the two disappearances mingle as Maud slip-slides from past to present….This is an electrifying-and haunting-debut novel, and Maud is a remarkable creation.”
—  Betsy Burton, The King’s English Bookshop, Salt Lake City, UT

Elizabeth is Missing (9780062309662) by Emma Healey. $25.99 hardcover. 6/10/14 on sale.


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