A Thousand Steps

A Thousand Steps
A Thousand Steps by T. Jefferson Parker

Friday, December 15, 2017

FLASHBACK FRIDAY- Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healy- Feature and Review


‘Elizabeth is missing.’ Maud keeps finding notes in her pockets with this message scrawled on it, but she can’t remember writing it. That said, she can’t remember much these days: the time of day, whether she’s eaten lunch, if her daughter’s come to visit, how much toast she’s eaten. Still, the notes about Elizabeth nag at her. When was the last time she spoke with her best friend? It feels like ages ago...

Frustratingly, no one seems willing to help Maud find her: not the police nor Elizabeth’s son - not even Maud’s own daughter or granddaughter. It’s like they’re hiding something.

Maud resolves to take matters into her own hands, and begins digging for the truth. There are many clues, but unhelpfully, they all seem to point to another unsolved disappearance: that of Maud’s sister Sukey just after the war.

Could the mystery of Sukey’s disappearance lead Maud to the truth about Elizabeth? As Maud’s mind retreats into the past at a frightening pace, alienating her from her family and carers, vivid memories of what happened over fifty years ago come flooding back to give her quest new momentum.

Strange Companions is a debut novel about a mind in the grips of dementia. Simultaneously a fast-paced mystery and a moving meditation on memory and identity and told through Maud's unforgettable voice, it humanises a condition most of us find impenetrable and frustrating.



Elizabeth Is MissingElizabeth Is Missing by Emma Healey
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healy is a 2014 Harper Publication. I was provided a copy of this book by the publisher and Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

For me this was a stunning novel, not only as a mystery but one that gives an unique insight into the mind of someone dealing with dementia and the effects it has on them and their family.

When Maud who is 82 years old, realizes her friend Elizabeth is gone, she desperately tries to convey this to her daughter, Helen, who is her sole care taker. No one takes her seriously, which frustrates and agitates Maud even more. But, this turn of events has jarred loose a torrent of memories regarding the disappearance of Maud's sister “Sukey” when she was much younger. She tends to confuse the two events in her mind and of course is fighting so hard to keep things straight and communicate to those around her who are totally clueless about what is really going on in Maud's head

When her sister disappeared, Maud was driven nearly mad by it . Slowly, Maud's mind sketches together the events of the past with the present day vanishing of her friend Elizabeth. It's a slow moving realization and the saddest thing of all is Maud's inability to hold on to her train of thought long enough to enjoy some kind of peace of mind or obtain closure in any way for herself.

I found myself feeling intensely angry with Helen and the police and Elizabeth's son, Peter. While I know it is so difficult to deal with a parent suffering from dementia, and I am certainly not making light of that burden, I couldn't help but feel irritation at Helen's making faces at Maud behind her back or dismissing her symptoms with the doctor or a thousand other ways she was rather unkind to her mother. I mean, this was her mother!! She resented every single thing she had to do for her and blamed her brother for not helping out more, which of course I would have to agree with that, and realistically this happens more often than people realize among siblings. Helen performs her duties admirably, but it's seldom she shows any real empathy or tenderness for her mother.

The two mysteries, the cold case, if you will, and the current mystery of Elizabeth's disappearance is compelling, mostly because we know that there is something twisted up in Maud's mind and our frustration is as deep as hers. We know on one level that Elizabeth's disappearance is more of a catalyst for the deeply buried trauma of Maud's memories regarding her sister, but there is also a feeling of foreboding in regards to Elizabeth, mainly because Maude simply can not turn the idea loose. She is like a dog with a bone when it comes to her great concern over her friend's absence.

I think at times there are books placed in a rather generic genre classification, like mystery, suspense or psychological thriller, and that fits in this case, no doubt, BUT, it also leads people to draw a certain expectation of what to expect, and then perhaps, as could be the case with this book, the reader isn't quite sure what to think. The mystery is certainly understated, but I'm afraid many missed the poignancy of the story and the truly remarkable thing the mind really is.

While, Maud was mostly unaware of what she has ultimately revealed by insisting Elizabeth was missing, it is astounding what she has managed to accomplish here. No, this is not exactly a whodunit in the traditional sense. Yes, it is difficult to read, and is very emotional and yes, it is slow moving without many of the elements most mysteries employ.

 So, I suppose it might have been best to have added this one to the literary fiction or contemporary fiction category along with mystery/ suspense to give the potential buyer an idea of what lay ahead. I thought this was a well thought out novel that maybe went over the heads of some who perhaps are not in any way familiar with dementia other than what they see on television. If you know someone with this disease, I can think you would look at this book with a different perspective. If you are interested in reading the typical mystery novel, police procedural, detective, forensic, sort of thing, then keep going.

But, if you are looking for something that digs a little deeper into the human psyche and examines the long term emotional effects of loss, crime, guilt and in some ways even redemption, give this one a look.





Emma Healey grew up in London where she completed her first degree in bookbinding and was the third generation of women in her family to go to art college. She then worked for two libraries, two bookshops, two art galleries and two universities, and was busily pursuing a career in the art world before writing overtook everything. In 2008, after the death of one grandmother and the decline of the other, she began to explore the idea of dementia in fiction, and she moved to Norwich in 2010 to study for the MA in Creative Writing at UEA. Elizabeth is Missing is her first novel.

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